A Lesson on Pleasing People: It’s Okay To Say No

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by Lauren Chung, Associate Art Director

As the final months of my teenage years slowly creep up, I can’t help but fill the idle moments of downtime with personal reflection. When I was younger, I mistakenly thought my future twenty-year-old self would have it all figured out. I had a specific image of who I would be: perfectly put together, free of the trivial matters that kept my younger self awake at night. Although I am proud of who I am today, I am nowhere near where I thought I would be. I have improved aspects of my life in ways I didn’t think possible, but I still have areas labeled “works in progress.” Filed away in that cabinet is my inability to tell people ‘no.’

Perhaps it’s related to my shy personality, or possibly one too many toxic friendships, but I’ve always had trouble saying the two-letter word. Now, I am aware of the whole “saying yes!” movement. However, my current self disagrees with saying yes to everything. I’m referring to the frantic and utterly overwhelmed self that piled on too many jobs, tasks, and promises, and frankly, is in over her head. All because saying yes is much easier.

Somewhere along growing up, I obtained this inability to say no, to simply tell someone I can’t afford additions on my already overflowing plate. Maybe I’m afraid of letting people down, or people thinking I’m weak, incapable or unintelligent. Maybe it’s all of the above. What I do know is the alternative — being stressed, anxious and mistaken for a pushover — is something I don’t want in my life anymore. So, at a few months shy of twenty, this is what I’ve decided: it’s okay to say no.

Saying no to plans with friends, or to an aspect of a relationship that makes you uncomfortable is perfectly okay. You have the right to weigh what you can handle and what you can’t, and you certainly have the right to exercise it. Saying no doesn’t make you weak, nor does it make you less outgoing; saying no means you know what your limits are, and that you respect yourself enough to not blur that line.

If you’re torn between taking on one more favor for a friend, try to ask yourself if all of the sleep you will lose over stress will be worth it in the long run. Likewise, if you’re worried about the aftermath of saying no and the opinions of those you turned down, I invite you to consider this: you are the only person you cannot get rid of, so you might as well treat yourself right. That includes evaluating your health and not overloading your stress levels. You may not be able to shed the opinions of others, but you can turn a blind eye and choose yourself above all else. You deserve to acknowledge your own mental and physical well-being.

At the end of the day, we are all human. Remember that you’re doing your best, and that’s all we really can do. People-pleasers alike, let’s put ourselves first for once. Take care of yourself and treat your sanity right by not being afraid of saying that simple, two-letter word: no.

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