You're a Yes Woman
I got an email from a friend and (broad)ject self subscriber the other week, asking if I would consider writing about the pressure women feel to say “yes” all the time and how to say “no” to opportunities that aren’t quite right. I replied in the affirmative (so please do consider sending topic suggestions, I would love to hear them!) and then told her about the life philosophy that I started testing out this summer. I call it ‘Saying No to Life’.
I am certainly not the only person who spent her 20s with an acute case of FOMO (fear of missing out, for the acronym impaired). Whether it was staying at parties too late, jumping on any social opportunity presented, or agreeing to tasks at work that were not technically in my purview, I said yes to everything because I was afraid if I said no, people would stop asking. Being invited to social opportunities made me feel popular and being asked to do extra work made me feel indispensable. When you’re an overly empathetic, accommodating people-pleaser like I am, feeling popular and indispensable are like a drug.
It’s only in the last year that I really began to reconsider. Part of it was that the collision of the final year of my MBA, job-hunting, and the family toll of my father’s health issues had left me feeling burnt the eff out. There was no last straw, because I was completely lacking in straws. I had nothing left to give. Once I got my job, once my father’s recovery stabilized, once David started working, the straws started to pile up again. But suddenly, I felt possessive of my straws. I wanted to keep as many of them as possible. And this is where I had the first of my self-care revelations: self-care means saying no, both to other people and yourself.
It wasn’t easy. I had just cemented my Core Desired Feelings, thanks to Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map, so I was able to start basing my decisions on the way I wanted to feel. At ease. Connected. Useful. Intentional. Poised. Then I considered my pillars of self-care (sleep, hydration, dental hygiene, sunscreen, alone time). In particular, would a decision impact my ability to get enough sleep or spend time alone? Taking all of those things into consideration, saying no became easier, partly because it became a “no, but…”.
“Did you want to have a drink tonight, even though you haven’t had a quiet night at home all week?”
“No, but what about next Wednesday?”
“Would you be interested in taking on this extra time-consuming project that is cool but not actually aligned to your interests?”
“No, but I know that Mary was saying she was looking to take on an extra project.”
“Can you do this personal favour for me that you’ve said yes to in the past but is brutally inconvenient to you?”
“No, but I heard of this new service that does exactly that and I have a discount code I can send you.”
“Self, would you like to enjoy a Slurpee and a cupcake whilst lying on the couch watching reruns of The Big Bang Theory that you’ve legit seen 20 times?”
“No, but why don’t I watch TV while I do a Nike Training Club workout and then walk to Starbucks for an iced tea?”
It takes practice. It takes confidence. It takes knowing what your personal priorities are and what your time is worth. Alexandra Franzen wrote a great post about saying no, which I would encourage you to read every time you feel yourself wavering. Sometimes you will make the wrong call and sometimes you will miss out. But that’s ok, because that’s how we learn.
In that spirit, I’m declaring this month to be NO-vember. I’ll be writing on the blogevery day about the big and little things I’m saying no to, what was my rationale, and what the result was. As for your homework assignment this week? What is the one thing you’ve committed to recently that you wish you’d said no to? And if you had the chance, how would you say no next time? Email me with your answers firstname.lastname@example.org.