It’s Okay To Say No

One of the few words I have trouble saying is, “No.”

Even as I write the word, it causes me anxiety and discomfort.

Why? Because it’s so ingrained in me both personally and professionally that saying “No,” is offensive, insulting, and rude.

On the outside I’m always saying Yes, but on the inside, I’m saying NO;

No to agreeing with others,

No to wanting to do what I was told,

No to just being able to say no because deep down, it didn’t feel uniquely me.

I’ve spent years pushing aside what I really want to make others happier, to avoid conflict, and because morally:

No meant I was being selfish instead of selfless.

The word itself is powerful, strong, and direct. When I say no, there’s nothing further to discuss and there’s an innate feeling that a sense of closure has been made, but fear seeps in and regret consumes me as I grapple with whether or not I made the right choice. In my book, “No,” is finite, and unchangeable.

I always loved staying at the cross section, eyes wide open, standing at the starting line trying to see how far I could predict and plan my odds at minimizing the risk I would encounter with the decision I had made. When I began one route and things started to go south, I could always turn around or cross over to the other side without much hesitation. But I never got anywhere, and I never moved forward enough to reach the finish line. I just zigzagged through life wasting energy and time until I could no longer identify what I wanted from what others had wanted from me. I lost my sense of self.

Decades of avoidance, denial and unhappiness chipped away at the lie I was feeding myself and forced me to come to terms with owning up to who I really am and what I really want out of life — To be me, to just be who I am without strings attached.

I have never been so scared and excited at the same time. Every day I make an active effort to say no and not beat myself up over my decision. When I’m faced with a choice, especially one that can affect others — I’m always walking on a tightrope, I can decide to move forward, stay where I’m at, or take a step back to readjust my footing. Some days are easier than others, but most days I grapple with the choice of receding back into the comfort of letting others make decisions for me.

Luckily, I’ve had the opportunity to be surrounded by positive experiences and people who have helped me be uniquely and unequivocally me without judgement and criticism. Respect is given, judgement is not made and I’ve got arms wide open when I need support.

Moving forward by choosing a path, regardless of the terrain ahead is no longer an option but a necessity. Readjusting my focus and definition of what “No,” means to me; allows me to define who I am, earn respect, and removes the burden of always saying yes all the time while gaining confidence, happiness, and a most importantly, a voice.