Learning how to say No might be one of the most important lessons in life. It might even be one of those lessons you sometimes get right, and sometimes you fail at; the kind you have to learn over and over again. I certainly do. So many decisions are made in favour of the ‘easier’ choice, saying yes to something even though it’s not right, out of convenience. If we cannot say No, our lives might be run by everyone but ourselves.
“It is not selfish to do what is best for you.” – Mark Sutton
I used to be better at saying No. It feels weird to say that, because how can you get either good or bad at saying such a small word? I always had a strong will, and wasn’t afraid to listen to it. When it came to shaping my life after school, I knew what felt right to me. And even though all the world told me a bachelor’s in humanities isn’t worth much, I went after my passion anyway, and while it’s hard now that university is over, I have no regrets. My time was spent studying what genuinely interested me. My personality developed. My thesis is the work that I’m most proud of in my life. I did what was right for me at that time, and now I’m looking for what that can be again. It’s quite simple, if you think about it.
“If you must tell me your opinion, tell me what you believe in. I have plenty of doubts on my own.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Have you been told to settle for something you’re not really convinced by, just to be “on the safe side”? I get that a lot. People around me constantly tell me I should go for the first thing that presents itself as an opportunity, so I would get on the infamous “safe side” everyone seems to be so keen on reaching. “It’s your choice, of course, but you know how it is…” And I believed them, because when you reach that point of growing aware of how much living, no, simply surviving costs, that thought can be incredibly scary and obliterate everything else. This fear is in fact so powerful, so innately human, that it can drive you to forget everything else you wanted, cared and hoped for, just so you’d be safe. It’s hard to say No to that.
“He who fears being conquered is sure of defeat.” – Napoleon Hill
So, I listened to that fear, because for the first time my will kind of left me hanging. And I tried, and looked hard and close-up at that settling thing. But my personal “safe side” doesn’t seem very safe from here, because the fear just won’t go away. Instead, it feels more like lying to myself. Compromising who I am and therefore getting less in return. After months of pondering on this problem, my big conclusion is actually quite small: This world isn’t safe. It’s the very opposite, ever changing, shifting, surprising you, taking different forms. And when I think about it, I remember that here lies the wonder in living to me. It’s thrilling to try something, to set a new course, to not know for once. I forget that sometimes, and when I remember it, it is only for myself. I’m afraid to tell it to everyone else, because that would be crazy – wouldn’t it?
“We need to find the courage to say no to the things and people that are not serving us if we want to rediscover ourselves and live our lives with authenticity.” – Barbara De Angelis
Saying No to what everyone thinks you want is more than just speaking a small word. It’s not enough to say it in your head and go on living as usual. You have to break it to your family and friends, colleagues, acquaintances, society in general. Everyone has an expectation of the other, whether they mean well or not, and it’s hard for us to disappoint those expectations, to break the little bubble of the world they’ve built up, because we are responsible for changing the way they make sense of their lives, even if it’s only a detail.
“I cannot give you a sure-fire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everybody all the time.” – Herbert Bayard Swope
Lately, I tried way too hard to please everyone. To be a good daughter, a good friend, a good employee, a good member of society. I think too much of other people, because I know it’s easier when everything works like you hoped it would and others do what you counted them in for. I wanted to be that person for everyone else. Reliable. It took me way too long to admit that by doing this, I was doing everything but what I actually wanted. So, today, I decided to put an end to living for other people. I learned how to say No again.
“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. Just do it and the confidence will follow.” – Carrie Fisher
Now, I don’t know what to do. It certainly won’t be easy, the doubts won’t go away, the fear won’t just disappear, but I will consult them rather than let them overwhelm me. Yes, it’s scary – but the good kind. The thrilling kind. The one that feels like me for the first time in months. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it only has to feel right.
“We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.” – Jane Austen
Do you have something you would like to start or quit? What keeps you from doing that?
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