It’s a pretty dramatic title but every time you say “yes” to doing something you don’t want to do, you’re killing off a part of yourself. You’re telling yourself that you’re not important, that you won’t listen to your wants and needs, and that you don’t value your own opinion.
Take note of how many times you’re asked to do things over the course of one day. It’s mind-boggling. Please come to my party. Will you do my fake tan for me? Could you collect me from the airport? I need you to work late tonight. Would you mind covering my shift on Saturday? Could you baby sit on Friday night? Would you like to go to London this weekend? Do you wanna go for coffee/lunch/dinner/drinks???? You’d gladly do most of these things because you want to help/be nice/have fun. But you simply cannot do all of them, unless you have endless reserves of time, money, energy, and patience.
You must train yourself to pick and choose what you say “yes” to. And, even more importantly, learn how to say “no”. At first, this will be alien to you, so you may have to employ the white lie tactic. You’ll worry that your friends and family will hate or disown you. Realistically, they probably won’t like the new you very much. They certainly won’t recognise this strange creature who puts herself first. Who does she think she is?! But they’ll soon get used to the fact that you have a life and that you’re not willing to drop everything at a moment’s notice.
Learning to say “no” (without feeling guilty) will soon start coming naturally to you because you respect yourself and value your health and happiness. And you’ll find that the less you do of the things you “should”, and the more you do of the things you actually want to, the more present you’ll be and the more you’ll enjoy things. And when you decide to help out your nearest and dearest, you’ll be doing it because you want to, and not just out of guilt. Your loved ones will sense a change in you. You’ll be less tired and cranky, your eyes will sparkle, and you’ll laugh more. As a result, people will appreciate your company even more.
Peer pressure is one of the darker sides of not being able to say “no”. Many’s the teenager who starts smoking, drinking, taking drugs, mitching off school, and even bullying other kids because of peer pressure, and because they feel they have to say “yes” to be accepted.
I had the awful habit of saying “yes” to everyone and everything. I wanted to be liked, to be nice, to be cool, and I had (and still do, to a certain extent) the reckless (now more carefree) mentality of Ah sure, why not?! This was particularly evident in my interactions with the opposite sex. I agreed to dates with guys I wasn’t sure I fancied. And things went further than I was ready for on more than one occasion.
Once, I was so drunk that I kissed a guy, then spent the rest of the night hugging the toilet bowl. The persistent fella managed to obtain my phone number from a mutual friend and proceeded to ask me out the following day. I could hardly remember what he looked like and I didn’t even know if I liked him, but I felt bad for ditching him. So I agreed to a date. And then to another and another and another. A few months later, I’d convinced myself that I liked him, even though he was bitter and negative and we fought constantly. Thankfully, it didn’t work out.
Now, I only say “yes” to the things I think I’d enjoy, or to the things I have the energy for. I do what feels right for me. Last summer, I thought long and hard about the type of break I wanted. I decided that a relaxing sun holiday in my father’s homeland, with my mother and my sister, was just what I needed.
Read on for some strategies for getting out of the clutches of Yes:
1) Ask yourself some serious questions
If you find yourself agreeing to help your second cousin twice removed move house, even though you’d packed the car for a trip to the sea-side, and you haven’t seen the woman in 15 years, and she has the largest couch ever known to man, and you put your back out just last week, you need to ask yourself why you’re such a “yes man”. Is it because you desperately need everyone to like you? Is being seen to be nice that important? Are you afraid of becoming a bad person? If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, your self-esteem is need of a serious makeover.
2) Let go
If you’re the one who can always be counted upon to say “yes” to every request, plea, and invitation, you’re pretty much guaranteed pain and discomfort. You may observe a tight ball forming in your middle, which is the hurt and disappointment, anger and resentment that’s been building up over the years. You may not even be aware of this but you’re furious that your friends and family are constantly making demands on your time and energy. I’m always running rings around myself for them. And the one time I ask for something, they can’t even bother themselves to help me! They are so selfish! If this sounds familiar, you’ve been a “yes man” for way too long. Just because you don’t think enough of yourself to say “no” once in a while, doesn’t mean that everyone else is such a doormat. Luckily for them. We usually get angriest at people for the behaviour that’s most unlike our own. I’d never act that way! Surprisingly, this could be the behaviour you’re most resisting in yourself. You’d probably love to be able to tell your second cousin twice removed to go eff herself. And you can. In slightly more PC terms. And maybe take some time to chill out first. Acupuncture is great for relieving stress and releasing negative emotions. Alternatively, get a massage. Take a bath. Have a good, long sleep. Relax and let go…
3) Listen to your body
You’ve been asked on a wild girls’ night out. You’re ridiculously hung over and you have to finish a 10,000 word thesis in the morning. But it’s the only night Steph can get a baby sitter and Rebecca needs some cheering up after the break-up and Lorna’s desperate to meet a man. You have to go out! There will always be a million and three excuses as to why you simply have to do something. So, you usually suck it up and say “yes”, even though your body’s crying with exhaustion. Listen to it before you collapse. That should be good enough reason to say “no”.
4) Listen to your gut
Every answer you need to know is within yourself. So, don’t be afraid to ask. And don’t forget to listen. The moment I realised I had put my “yes” days behind me was a few months after graduation when I received an important email from my supervisor. He was wondering if I’d be interested in trying to get my dissertation published as a journal article. He added that it would require more research. I was honoured to have been asked. My work was obviously pretty good. I drooled at the potential prestige and was about to type “yes” when I paused and really thought about it. I hadn’t even been passionate about the subject matter. I had just done it because it had to be done and was relieved when it was all over. Did I really want to do more work on it? The answer was “no”. If I’d listened to my initial gut reaction, I would have immediately known that this definitely wasn’t for me. I struggled momentarily with what others would think. She’s some eejit passing up an opportunity like this! But I ignored my doubts and listened to my gut, and for the first time in my life, I didn’t automatically say “yes”. I was proud of myself.
5) Ban “yes” from your vocabulary for a while
If you say “yes” to absolutely everything, you’re going to get into some serious trouble. In the film Yes Man [SPOILER ALERT], Carl went from living a lack lustre life to becoming a “yes man”. Saying “yes” all the time pushed Carl to learn Korean, get promoted, and fall in love with a quirky musician. He was also robbed, arrested, and beat up. Great plot for a movie but dangerous in real life.
Inspired by Jim Carrey’s shenanigans, I toyed with the idea of saying “yes” to everything for an entire week. That night, I went to the local pub. After saying “yes” to several pints, shots of tequila, and cigarettes (even though I’d quit), a creepy older man, who’d been harassing me for the past two years, asked me to go home with him. I realised that saying “yes” to absolutely everything wasn’t exactly hilarious.
So, when someone asks if you want another drink, which would make it your seventh of the night, and you know if you drink it, you won’t remember the lock-in or the table-dancing or the messy journey home, and you’ll probably wake up some time in the late afternoon, still wearing your stilettos, just say “NO”.
6) What do you want?
Would you like to go for a two-hour walk with your extremely draining neighbour or would you rather take a power nap? Do you want to join the college gang on another trip to Ayia Napa or would you really like to save up for a flight to New Orleans or India? Are you just saying “yes” because it never occurred to you to suggest something of your own? Maybe you’ve been following others for so long that you don’t even know what you enjoy. Now is the time to start exploring your own tastes in food, music, and movies. It’s exciting to finally be able to explore and develop your own personality and passions.
Since I’ve started getting to know myself better, I’ve come to the gleeful conclusion that I like red wine, The Coronas, old man pubs and lemon cupcakes…