I accomplished something this weekend that I never thought was possible…I told somebody “no”.
Anyone that knows me knows that I’m a people pleaser. No matter how busy I am or how much I don’t want to do it, I’ll probably end up doing whatever you ask…at least after I complain for a second or two. It’s gotten to the point where my best friend always tells me, “We both know you’re going to do it anyway.”
I don’t know why I put myself in this situation. You’d think after experiencing all the stress I have that I’d learn to say “no”, but I just can’t. Maybe it’s the fear of letting others down, maybe it’s the fact that I’d rather suffer than see a friend suffer, or maybe it’s because I don’t want to miss out on a chance.
Regardless, I think saying “yes” has had its positives and negatives. I’ve been blessed with a lot of amazing opportunities like traveling and research positions, but I’ve also spread myself too thin multiple times. Although I’m still learning to say “no”, being overcommitted has taught me a few things:
- While saying yes can open doors, many of those doors can lead to places I don’t want to go.
- Helping others too much can cause me to neglect my own needs and slow down my progress in life.
- I only have so much time and energy. While I believe the purpose of life is to serve others, I can’t do that if I’m too worn out.
- It’s better for me to say “no” than to overcommit. In this case, I often find myself spread too thin to give my full attention to the task at hand.
- Most importantly, life is too short to not spend it truly living.
Of course when I got an email on Saturday that I’d been scheduled to do summer research, I almost said “yes”, despite having told my director that I was taking the summer off. I started to convince myself that I could find the time, but sure enough God stopped me…
Sunday morning, the topic in my devotional was about scheduling, and the key message was exactly that. I came to the realization that I cannot neglect my future or myself just to make someone else happy. I need to study for the GRE. I need to look at graduate schools. I need to succeed in my summer classes and be fully present at work. Most of all, I need to take care of myself.
I think a lot of us struggle with this problem. Conversely, some of us might struggle with the opposite: saying “no” too much. This can lead to a lack of personal growth and a plethora of missed opportunities. I know because I used to be that way when I was younger. I never took advantage of chances I was given because I didn’t want to put in the work. But no matter the situation, I found one directive that has helped me…
Instead of saying “yes” or “no” immediately, simply ask if you can get back to them.
Sometimes our initial reaction isn’t the best one. Within a matter of seconds, we might spread ourselves too thin or miss a chance to better ourselves. Taking a few minutes, hours, or days (depending on the situation) to really think about what either answer entails might be exactly what we need to do in order to make the next right decision. For example, I didn’t tell my research director “no” immediately. I slept on it and was able to make the decision that was right for me.
To close, I want to share one more tip, and that is to choose our words wisely. How we respond in any life scenario plays a large role in its outcome, especially when we say “no”.
Think about how you feel when you ask someone to do something, and you get a blunt “No.”, “No, I’m sorry.” or “No, I can’t.” It leaves a bad taste in your mouth. I find myself becoming bitter in those situations and am less likely to ask that person for help in the future.
Instead, try to be polite. In my case, I responded to my director’s email with this…“I’m sorry, but I will not be able to participate in research this summer due to my schedule. Nonetheless, I am open to future opportunities in the fall.” See the difference? I’m justifying why I can’t commit, politely saying “no”, and leaving the possibility for future roles open.
I hope this helps some of you that are struggling with the same issue. If you are, feel free to comment below with a way you’re working on it! As always, don’t forget to like and share, and I hope you all had a great Mother’s Day weekend 🙂
“You can be a good person with a kind heart and still say no.”