I woke up with two invites from friends on Saturday morning. My one friend invited me to drive to another state to grab waffles for breakfast, while another asked me to tag along to her midday errands which I knew would somehow end up at Starbucks and Bath and Body Works. I said no to both invitations because I wanted to work on artwork. But I didn’t tell them that. Instead, I told them I had already made plans for the day. I didn’t want to hurt their feelings.
That’s a problem.
I think a lot of us are conditioned to saying yes because there’s a negative connotation that comes with saying no. What if my friend needed to talk to me on the drive and this was their informal way of getting me to hear their side? What if they have their feelings hurt? What if they get angry? I don’t know about you, but I have a tendency to not want to hurt someone’s feelings so I’ve lived my entire life thinking that a simple, two-character word like “no” is enough to turn into an argument and dissolution of a relationship. It’s not. We have to stop treating it as such.
There’s a power that comes with saying no because it means you’re placing a priority on something that means more to you in that moment. This is not to be misconstrued with placing focus on something that’s more important, period. And I think that’s where the misunderstandings and the discrepancies that result in arguments and confrontations ultimately take place. They result from us not being honest with those around us. By saying that I was already busy instead of telling them the truth, the only person who’s feelings I hurt were my own because I failed to recognize that what I wanted to work on was important. I failed to treat it like it was important.
After a long week at work, there’s nothing wrong with telling your friend or relative that you aren’t up for a visit because you’re tired. Even if it wasn’t a long week at work, it’s still okay to turn down an invitation if it’s simply not something you’re up for. Sometimes, we’re just not in the mood to be social. That gets overlooked a lot.
It’s okay to tell someone that you really want to work on a household project this weekend or are looking forward to watching movies or decorating for the upcoming holiday. Even if you aren’t sure what you want to do for a weekend at the time of an invitation, it doesn’t mean you have to jump to the opportunity. Far too often, people jump to the conclusion that if someone answers “Nothing,” when asked what they’re doing, that it means they’re up for going out or leaving their house or project behind. And because we’ve been conditioned to think that saying no is responsible for hurting someone’s feelings, we say yes and victimize ourselves, ultimately coming to the same end result we initially tried to avoid.
When you say no to someone, it doesn’t mean they’re not an important or valuable part of your life. But you need to explain that. You need to believe that. When you say no to someone else, you have to remember that you’re saying yes to your own personal needs – needs which may benefit your career, relationship and mental health. There’s not a single person on this planet who doesn’t need to take a break, slow down and get reacquainted with themselves, especially when they focus the majority of their time on the wellbeing of those around them.
We have a habit of putting ourselves secondary in a society that preaches self-love. But self-love, as any article will tell you, doesn’t involve superficial items. They’re not decadent desserts and flowing wine. Self-care is taking the time needed to get in touch with your soul. It’s about spending time in nature to watch the leaves turn pigmented shades of tangerine. It’s about going to bed early, instead of trying to stay up late to finish a show or a movie or to make sure every last speck of dirt on the kitchen floor is picked up. It’s about turning on your favorite show for background noise while you write or paint or read. It’s about making the conscious choice to carve out whatever time you want to build upon the life you want and the things that make you happy. And yeah, sometimes that’s going to mean you turn down an invitation to drive out of state to eat waffles and splurge on peppermint-scented single wick candles.
So often, we preach about how necessary it is to say no to toxic people, workplaces and environments that we forget that saying no doesn’t always have to be taking a stand against something that’s draining. You have to remember that there is so much power in saying no, even when it is with your friends, your co-workers and your family. There will be times when the things you want to do and work on will barely inch out your desire to hang out with friends or go to dinner. But if you have a slight hesitation, if you wait to send the text message, if you change up the wording to make it sound less harsh, you’re saying yes for all the wrong reasons.