By: Lauren Kochanowski
My New Year’s resolutions have always been pretty typical: lose that extra five pounds, read more, watch Netflix less. But as I approached the beginning of 2017, I decided on just one seemingly simple resolution: to say “no” more often.
Why is it that “no” is always automatically interpreted as negative? It feels as though we’ve been taught that saying “yes” equates to a kind, generous, and nurturing person. But what if in saying “yes” all of the time, we’ve stopped being kind, generous, and nurturing to ourselves?
My decision to start saying “no” more was spurred by a number of things, most notably being the sudden death of my best friend’s father. She turned to me shortly after his passing and calmly said, “You know what? I’m sick of doing things that I really don’t want to do. If I’ve learned anything lately, it’s that life is just too damn short.” As simple as her words were, they really struck a chord in me.
I’ve always been the type of person who agrees to anything and everything because I’m so afraid of hurting people’s feelings. I want to please everyone, and this attitude has placed me in countless situations that I really don’t want to be in. And this isn’t because I’m scared of breaking out of my comfort zone. I would consider myself to be a fairly social person and enjoy doing new, adventurous things.
It’s those distant acquaintances, the ones who you were never really close with and know you never will be, that ask you to semi-annual lunches where you make small talk for an hour, pay your bills, and go home. Or when your co-workers want to do multiple group activities that require time and money outside of the workplace. No offense guys, but after 5:00 pm I’ve had enough of you all!
Now I know this may sound selfish, but I’ve learned that these meaningless, dreaded encounters really bring nothing positive to my life. And I’m almost certain that they don’t enrich the other participants’ lives in any way either. I’m constantly trying to save money (hell, who isn’t?), so these types of social situations fill me with stress and dread. In recent years, there has been many a time where I’m so exhausted, so broke, and so generally worn out from trying to please everyone all of the time.
And so, I’ve slowly started to say “no.” To those random acquaintances, my co-workers, and others. I can’t explain the sense of freedom I’ve gained from learning that I, and I alone, am in charge of my plans, the company I keep, and my life. Discovering how to say “no” has also taught me how to stand up for myself at work and speak out about problems – something I would’ve never thought I’d have the confidence to do.
Don’t get me wrong; I’ll never turn my back on someone who truly needs me, and I’ll always make a conscientious effort to spend time with my family and friends. But in saying “no,” I’ve also made an effort to spend more time with myself. And that’s something I think everyone can benefit from.