The Power of No

She traced her finger around the rim of her coffee cup over & over again. Her little nervous tick. I knew it well. See, a friend of mine was telling me all about this dinner she’d been invited to, & with each sentence, she sounded a little more panicked. I’ll spare the details, but the dynamic at dinner would have been strained at best. Social lives get complicated. You know the drill. With that in mind, she’d clearly rather spend Friday night at home in sweatpants than at this party. (Girl after my own heart.) So I sat across the table from her at our local coffee shop, waiting to ask one simple question.

“Why don’t you just say no?” My sweet friend looked up at me, bewildered. She’d never even thought of that.

We live in a world full of choices. From major decisions like moving to a new job or city all the way down to picking an ice cream flavor from Jeni’s (the obvious ice cream choice, every time), our plates are overflowing with options. The opportunities might be good. The events might be fun. But if we run around flinging “yes” indiscriminately into every choice we make, we will burn out on a soul level — and fast.

We were not wired to do everything, go everywhere, or be everything to everyone. A life of “yes” after “yes” is fast-paced & exciting, but it’s not fulfilling. Somewhere along the way, you may find that the “yes” isn’t even for you anymore. It’s to please people, to spice up your resumé, to earn recognition — but it’s not for you. Something in our minds tell us that “no” is mean & selfish. But what if “no” is a word that can create healthy space and set us free?

Behind the power of “no” is the freedom of “yes”. For my friend, it meant the freedom to say “yes” to a quiet night at home instead of painting on a smile for a party she didn’t need to attend. For you, it might be turning down a new job offer that you know isn’t right for you — even if the benefits are. It might be choosing not to serve on that committee, because you know your nights are already too full. It might be setting a boundary with a friend who’s being manipulative so that you can preserve the peace. It might be cutting up a credit card so that paying rent next month won’t be impossible. It might even be closing your browser before Netflix autoplays the next episode so that you can finally get that paper written.

“No” holds a lot of power, it’s true. But it’s not power meant to hurt others. It’s power meant to free ourselves. Practice healthy “no”s in your life today. You might be surprised at the incredible “yes” that’s right around the corner.

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