It took me thirty years to learn the ultimate power of saying (and not saying) no. Looking back at some of the decisions I’ve made in my life, I can honestly say that had I learned how to say no swiftly and firmly I would have saved myself from a lot of pain and heartache. Even today, I find myself in uncomfortable situations at work or with friends and family solely because i’m avoiding the word “no.”
The scary thing is the older I grow, the more finite my decisions become. In one incident that took place three years ago, I was put in a position where I really should have said no but being unable to do so, I ended up going along with a situation that has lasted over three years and led me to dig myself into a hole that to this day, isn’t so easy to get out of.
It’s not just the big things, I struggle with saying no even with the small things. If a friend recommends a place I don’t like for dinner i’ll still say yes, then fume about it for the rest of the evening. If a friend wants to see a movie I don’t like at an inconvenient time, I won’t say no, instead I ‘ll run around like a headless chicken trying to fit everything in so that I can make it to the movie (that I don’t want to see) on time. Afterwards I’ll feel all kinds of emotions including resentment, anger and overwhelming stress.
The inability to say no is linked to many things but include both low self esteem and fear of confrontation. If I’m being honest I definitely feel my issue is the latter; I hate all types of confrontation and can go into an anxious spiral for weeks because of even the mildest of forms.
One way to start saying no more confidently is by practice, which is why my personal challenge for the month is to try to say no as many times and as firmly as I can. I like to be able to measure my progress so i’m going to try to keep track of myself saying no 25 times.