This Is Your Reminder That It’s Perfectly Okay To Say No

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Joanna Nix / Unsplash

Lately, I’ve been telling myself “I should” a lot. It’s usually a lot of mental chatter in the back of my mind that goes something like this: You should go to the gym after work tonight. You should think about stopping by that birthday party this weekend. You should “get back out there” and date again. 

You’ve probably heard these phrases – or some form of them – in your own head before. Maybe I’ve even got you listening to your inner voice right now, telling you to send that email, call your parents or check whatever else you should do off your own to-do list.

The truth is, the more I listen to the mental chatter telling me what I should do, the louder these words compulsively hum inside my head: I can’t.

I lie on the floor. Physical therapy is in a few hours, and I can’t seem to drag myself to get into the routine: get dressed, walk to the train, followed by an hour of poking, prodding and the same interrogation. It usually goes something like this:

PT: How do you feel after the last session?

Me: Honestly? Like crap.

PT: On a scale of 1 to 10, rate your pain.

Me: 10. Actually, can I say 11?

PT: Have you been keeping up with the stretches I gave you since last time?

Me: I could do them in my sleep. And, since we’re talking about sleep… I haven’t slept in days. Got anything you can give me for that?

So, this may not be an exact word-for-word conversation with my therapist. But, if I allowed my inner voice to do the talking, it’s spot on.

I try to imagine pulling myself together, moving through the thick haze of the day; to allow the city to swallow me like a pill. And then, the mental chatter grips me: I just can’t today.

I remember as a kid, the words “I can’t” were practically taboo. I grew up as a competitive swimmer. When coach told us our event and the time he wanted to see on the clock, we never echoed the words: “I can’t, coach.”

You’ve probably heard it, too: If there isn’t already a solution, then build it. Always say “yes.”

If I learned anything about my twenties, it’s that the word “yes” can completely change the course of your life. A single word can move mountains – or send things spiraling downward.

If I look back at the last few years, a lot were built around a choice: I formed a career path; I moved across the country and world; I learned a lot about love (and heartbreak) – all because I said “yes.”

It’s easy to say “yes.” It gives us opportunity, opening our eyes to new surroundings, people and excitement. When we become “yes” people, we get noticed and heard. It makes us feel important.

But when things get messy and chaotic, there’s another path we often don’t choose, that can be unexpected – and restorative.

There’s harmony in saying “no.”

It can be difficult to accept, but we grow from the depths of our despair. Our imperfections make us human, and some of those flaws come with falling apart and letting go. Some come with embracing the negative.

There’s a woman at work who keeps an inspirational quote at her desk that says: “Say yes more.” I walk by her desk all the time and lately I’ve been thinking to myself: Hell, I wish I could say yes more. But, I just can’t.

And friends, I’ve got news for you: That’s okay.

Vulnerability is terrifying. I’ve been in the situation before where I’ve been weak, I’ve had to say “no” to things, and I’ve felt the instant burden that I let others down. To feel anything less than whole is scary and defeating.

We need to start accepting the fact that we are not super humans.

I’m not saying we’re all built for the No Team. In fact, I know a lot of superheroes and they amaze me each and every day. They hold me up when I can’t find my strength.

They’re the heroes like my best friend who commits to driving me to work every day when I can’t handle the commute. They’re my team at work who steps in when I’m having a shit week. They are heroes like my sister who cancels her plans to watch movies all night with me when I need to settle my anxiety with medication. And, they are my parents who welcome me home with open arms because my pain has become too heavy to carry alone – ignoring the voices telling me you can’t go home again. These people are my superheroes.

So, yes. You could just show up; send that email after work that you’ve been over-analyzing and stressing about; go to that gym class; download that dating app (and actually go out on a date for a change).

You could say “yes” more.

But, if you choose to take the road less wandered, ride this bravery train with pride. Just because you said “no” to that party, or decided to hide for weekend because that’s what you needed to do to take care of your situation, your problem, yourself, that doesn’t mean you are inadequate.

It doesn’t mean you are alone. And on the days when you feel small and empty, know that you are fierce.

You are a warrior. TC mark

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