Yes, you read that correctly. Pun intended. This is a tough pill to swallow, but it would have saved me so much time had it come earlier. I recently was in a job where we were encouraged to say “yes” to everything. Granted, in order to be successful in this job, you must put yourself out there for new experiences.
However, I was so quick to place the needs and wants of others above my own self-care. My mental health was in a downward spiral so fast that I didn’t even recognize myself. I traded time with people I loved, hesitated to report the dangerous things I’d been through, and sacrificed doing what I enjoy in the name of success. And I so wish I hadn’t. Here’s why.
It is logically impossible to say “yes” to everything.
This is the economics major in me, but the more time you spend doing one thing, the less you have for anything else. If you’re saying “yes” to one thing, then you’re automatically saying “no” to another. So that means, if you’re saying “yes” to extra hours in the office, watching your sister’s kids on a weekend night, or taking on the work of your colleagues in order to reach a deadline, then you just said “no” to a day off, self-care time, or doing what you enjoy that is 100% for you.
When I was in college, when I volunteered in different places, and when I started my career, I didn’t see it that way. But it’s the truth. I drank the Kool Aid. I said “yes” to everyone except for myself, because I thought I was supposed to. You do not owe anyone your precious personal time that is set aside for your mental health. Please soak that in, because I wish I had a long time ago.
You cannot assume that others will reciprocate.
Just because I was working my butt off in many areas of my life, through different phases of my life experiences, doesn’t mean others were. What I mean is this: I was naïve to assume that other people were sacrificing their personal time like I was.
The truth is, regardless of how hard you work or your contribution to a group project, the office, or volunteer work, you cannot expect others to put in the same. Sure, they very well may. But they also may not. There are so many times looking back that I overworked myself for little to no purpose. I could have taken that time for myself, doing yoga or reading, but I didn’t. And it’s time I’ll never get back.
Sometimes, you need to say “yes” to yourself.
I did not say “yes” to myself nearly enough until recent months. As an introvert, alone time is vital for my self-care. In college, I always figured I’d just have some alone time later. As I’m sure you’ve already guessed, later never came. There was always another assignment, another babysitting gig, another club meeting. And then after graduation, there was always another volunteer opportunity, another coffee date with friends, another errand to run.
I never took that time to say “yes” to myself until my career plans screeched to a halt and I was forced to through therapy. Now that I freelance, I’m discovering some semblance of balance with work, family, and giving myself what I need.
Burnout is real, and it’s closer than you may think.
As I mentioned above, I was very good at saying “yes” to everything. But I was hollow inside, because for every “yes” to someone else, I said “no” to myself. By the time my burnout came, I was a shell of the person I used to be. I desperately needed to be poured into. It’s honestly a miracle I didn’t experience it earlier. It was inevitable.
I don’t want that for you. It was one of my most difficult experiences, and my old habits have been so hard to break. But I’m in a better place now, and I’m more ready than ever for a day where I feel zero guilt at picking myself every once in a while.
If you’re anything like me, then you get it. I know it’s hard, but you deserve to factor your needs into your decision-making process. Let’s lift each other up, and give the people in our lives the space and encouragement they need to make their mental health a priority. I know I will.