Growing up as a child of the 80's and 90's I was taught this mantra from a very early age. If you really break it down, it appears to read, duh, "just say no", of course the concept is easy...."just say no". No thinking necessary, just say no. Heck, it is taught to children and appears to need no real follow-up or explanation. I know we had a D.A.R.E. program, but I also know the mantra, more than anything, is what has stuck with me.
As an adult, I can attest to the fact that it often isn't as easy as "just saying no" and that the mantra can be used in many facets of daily life. As you grow up you realize, it is not just about saying no to drugs, it is about saying no to others, it is about, sometimes more importantly, learning to say "no" to yourself. As you grow up, you realize many of life's decisions, big and small, require thinking, require more than just saying no.
It is almost taught as if, drugs and alcohol may be the only thing children need to "just say no," to. Looking back on my childhood, while I was always successful at just saying no, in the way in which it was marketed, there are many instances where I should have said "no" when I did not.
I understand why it is taught the way that it is. I think it is taught this way to try and empower children to say "no." I think children all go through that phase where they say "no" to everything. When they first realize their words have power and "no" or "yes" can be the key to the kingdom. It can get you a book, a snack or a hug from those you love the most. As children age and begin to hear "no" from everyone around them. As they begin to navigate life, learn the rules and the politics of the world, I think for many of them "no" can be tied closely together with hurting others, letting others down or a feeling of disappointment. Either you have said no to someone else, or someone else has said no to you. Either way, someone, likely, is unhappy with the words spoken. They were trying to make a very difficult thing, a challenging concept, simple. They were hoping by marketing it as simple, it would become simple.
Well, I am here to say, it is far from simple to "just say no."
Someone wants you to do something that either you do not want to do, or you are not comfortable doing and so you say "no." Or you have asked something of someone else and they have decided that is not what they want and they have responded with a deafening "no." You have taken a stand and made a decision that no, you do not want to do whatever was asked of you. The first time you see the reaction on the other person's face, may certainly have power on how you proceed in life. This all doesn't even bring in peer pressure, which I have no doubt is perhaps one of the biggest factors in this all.
So, children, all across American were taught that it was easy to say "no", and that they should have no problem in doing so.
Fast forward to adult Patty. I have such a difficult time saying no. I have a hard time saying no to people I know personally, as well as those I know professionally. Whether it be helping out in the office, or heading out to a movie I know I do not want to really go to, I often end up doing things I really do not have the time, or interest in participating in. Why do I have such a hard time saying no to others? Why am I so afraid of disappointing those I care about. I mean I guess when I say it like that, it is another duh' moment. Of course I don't want to let those I care about down. Of course I want to do the most I can every day to help the children of New York. Why do I have such a hard saying "no" to everyone, including myself?
I think I need to take a new class, a class called "Just, think about maybe trying to say no, if you want." Ha!! I need a lesson on just saying "no" to others. I also need to learn how to say it to myself, sometimes.
To be honest, sometimes I do say "no." But I think my reputation as a "yes-er" has doomed me for life. People have no doubt that if they push just a bit and guilt me just a bit (thanks Catholic guilt), I will often change my mind and go ahead and do it anyways. It can be frustrating to feel like my "no's" are never heard and are treated as rough draft responses, only to be updated when I am challenged. The most challenging part is that as an introvert, who has a instinct of "no"; if I was never pushed, I have no doubt I wouldn't be where I am today.
How do I find the balance of sticking to my guns when I really mean "no" and not being afraid of being challenged and changing my answer to "yes," when appropriate.
I can think of so many scenarios where I did things I didn't really want to do. Heck, I think I even ended up in a relationship in college because I didn't know how to say "no". I knew I was not interested in the person in that way, and in the end, ended up flipping my entire life upside down, all because I didn't know how to say "no". That, and I was so excited that someone liked me and it was impossible for me to say "no" to someone face to face.
I am always so afraid and so worried about hurting people's feelings. Always so afraid of someone being mad at me. Even though I continue to confess these things and even as I try and work through all of my nuances, I have no doubt they all still reside. I am afraid of the result of my saying "no." I know I need to try and practice, because I have no doubt it will not be as scary as I think. I also have no doubt that the more practice I get, the better I will feel saying "no."
Please know that I do understand that many of my statements are huge exaggerations. Clearly I say "no" to things.
At the same time, with me personally, lately I feel like I have no self control. With food it has all been, yes, keep eating, with being lazy, it has all been yes, laziness is for champs. I have not been very good about telling myself "no" recently, either. Even with my spending habits. I almost feel like Oprah, you get a car, you get a car, you get a car, no money for me, yes to everyone!! I am not crazy with my spending, by any stretch of the imagination, but lately, I haven't been very good at sticking within my own budget.
I need to start saying "no" Patty, you do not need to sleep for another 45 min, wake up and go to the gym, or go for a walk. "No" Patty, you do not need to eat all of that, take 1/2 of it and go from there. "No" Patty, you really do not have the budget for that, if you buy it, you need to use your debit card, not your credit card. I need to reign in my self control a bit and not worry so much about disappointing others, but perhaps focus a bit more on trying not to disappoint myself. I need to work on saying "no" to others and saying "no" a bit more to myself, as well.
So, what have I learned from all of this, that just saying no isn't as easy as it is all cracked up to be, or as easy as explained to 5th and 6th graders. Just saying "no" can be really hard. Just saying no, requires thinking. It can produce anxiety, it can make you feel bad and it can make you feel extremely uncomfortable, even when it isn't about just saying no to drugs. I think there needs to be a huge caveat with all of this, "Just say no.....but know it isn't easy."
I am envious of folks that can so "no"...well, those that can say it easier than I can. This all makes me feel so very indecisive and stereotypically "woman." I need to use my own instincts as I march forward. I have always looked to those around me as my compass. When I tell a story, I look at other people's faces to see if they found it funny, when others tell jokes, I look at other's faces to read if others find it funny. I need to stop relying so much on the sonar I receive from others and start to not be so fearful of trusting my own instincts.
Cheers to having my words match my true intentions, more often!
And that's all she wrote,