Freedom in No

Maybe you’re a person who always speaks and acts according to what you really feel, in alignment with who you really are. You are willing to say no when you don’t want to do something, you assertively confront any situation that feels like it is drawing you away from your truest self or from the type of life you have decided to live and pursue. You might be the kind of person who says what they mean; just as ready to say yes and follow through as you are to confidently say no. If you are this kind of person great, if not then know that you are part of the vast majority, the 97.6% of the population who is driven, influenced, and often enslaved by, the opinions, actions, and expectations of others.

 I have been one who says “yes” a lot in life even though I’m not a “yes man” per se. I enjoy being helpful to others and I am especially prone to say yes to requests related to things that I am good at or gifted in. Yes to teaching, yes to helping someone move, yes to brainstorming or helping out with a new project someone is launching, yes to… I could keep filling in the blank. There is nothing wrong with saying yes, this is of course, unless you really wanted to say no. I made a New Year’s resolution to myself this year to say no more often and to be more assertive (I’m already a fairly assertive fellow so stepping it up without seeming rude can be a challenge!). There is freedom in saying no.

We have been trained from an early age to say yes. While obedience, saying yes without questioning, is a desirable trait in young children who are being guided and taught the ways of life and the world, it is a stifling reality to adults who haven’t unlearned the practice. In order to keep from going crazy and avoid living under the burdens of external expectations we must learn to say no, as or more often then we say yes. When we say no to something we don’t want to do we are being consistent with our truest self. This doesn’t extend only to saying yes or no either. If someone plays music I don’t enjoy and I tell them, “No thanks, I’d rather listen to something else”, I am being honest with them and myself and there is liberation in honesty! Someone asks if I can help with their event in the park, “No”, I respond. They inquire about why not… do I have something else going on that weekend? “No, I just don’t want to do that.” It might seem a bit offensive, but being direct and honest with others is a trait that everyone can appreciate, even if it’s not what they wanted to hear in the moment.

It’s helpful when learning to say no or becoming more frank or assertive, to realize that obedience or compulsively saying yes is not love. Our deepest potential for love corresponds directly to living in accordance with our truest self. Expressing our actual thoughts, intentions or desires (even if they seem off-putting or self-centered) is more loving than veiling our actual internal reality in order to please others. Saying no or being direct with others is not unkind in any way; kindness and honesty are sisters.

I don’t know how much or how well I have communicated my thoughts on this subject in this brief writing. Hopefully at least one person who reading this who is feeling a bit overwhelmed by life will summon the courage to say no, realizing that their value and self-worth should not be and are not wrapped up in pleasing others. You can say no as freely as yes. You can confidently speak your mind when the moment calls for words knowing that variety, not conformity, facilitates beauty most effectively. Be true to yourself, don’t wear out under the weight of the expectations of others; say yes when you mean yes, and be willing to say no when you mean no.   

Peace, joy and boldness to you today.