Can’t say no? This is your permission.
It’s the beginning of a new term, and slowly, my diary is already filling up with social events, deadlines, work commitments and family-get-togethers. Right now – things are great; I am successfully managing an optimal work/life balance, but if I’m being honest with myself, I’m deeply aware of my pressure points – when life gets too busy, I feel overwhelmed. Even though I can predict a potential melt down on the horizon, and the pressure of saying yes all the time bubbling just below the surface, I still cannot find it within myself to simply say no.
Society tells us to be more yes people – to achieve more, to get out there and experience life in all of its fullness. With the right frame of mind, this is a great way to live. But, if we go about life with always raising our hands to absolutely every passing opportunity and never learning to give ourselves the permission to say no, then our yeses will prevent us from doing and being the best that we could be. A diary full of dates – good intentions – penciled in by guilt, a sense of duty or unreasonable optimism, will result in a life full of mediocrity – never able to give our best to anyone or anything.
Maybe it stems from a desire to be liked, or seeming polite, or from the fear of missing out. But if we continue in this vein, situations or people you truly don’t want to see or places you don’t want to be can leave us feeling angry, burnt out and bitter – questioning why am I even here.
Maybe the beginning of saying no is reflecting on our first reactions. What is truly going through your mind when you’re asked to go out again for the fourth night in a row that week, when all you want is to snuggle up into your PJS and binge watch a series on Netflix? If you’re able to connect with the underlying feelings and the hesitancy you feel inside, you’ll be able to deconstruct your underlying motives, and begin to understand yourself more.
We also need to realise that life comes in seasons. At the moment, I’m in the thick of my MA – cramming hours into the library and reading journals and books beyond my knowledge and understanding at any given moment. But a few weeks ago, I was enjoying a spectacular lengthy Christmas break, whilst most of my other friends, who are in full time work had just a few days off for Christmas to enjoy. Sometimes life is busy and sometimes it gives us a little more wiggle room, and it’s okay to be okay with where you’re at. Sometimes you’ll have to lay down some things, to make room for others. It’s not that you don’t care, or it makes you a bad person – it’s simply prioritising what you need to do.
With deadlines pressing last November, I regretfully had to give up my beloved weekly ballet classes, but at the beginning of this term – with a little more air to breathe – I’ve committed myself to a block of ballet classes again. We need to stop seeing things in permanent or fixed states.
You can always pick up where you left off.
We also need to realise that our mental health is just as important as our social health. We need to take time to recuperate our energies, so we can be the greatest friend, family member, student or team member that we can be and be fully present in the moment. There’s no value in cramming every second of the day with seeing people, and doing things if we’re only half-heartedly there. To give out love, we first need to show ourselves self-love.
Empowerment is experiencing choice and being at peace with your decisions. Whatever you choose, yes or no, for yourself or for others make sure it aligns with who you are and how you want to authentically live your life. Be brave – say no.