It’s easy to say ‘YES’ to any and every thing. But as simple as it is to give the alternative — NO — it poses to us, ten times the challenge than it is with the former.
A year’s worth of keeping my digital mouth shut and sorting out my thoughts — while trying to amp up my career path — led me to jot down one of society’s most serious and recurring conundrum thus far: the tragedy of having to say ‘NO’.
Isn’t it funny though? If we think about it, a positive answer almost always demands a positive act to be done. More often than not, we don’t just say yes and forget all about the question. We need to act and sometimes to be a certain way, all because of those three little letters.
And so I ask myself, given the barrage of memes out there, both ingenious and those more annoying than anything, about being “too lazy to function”, with all those ‘ugh, Monday’ vibes proliferating in today’s generation, why is saying NO less appealing? Why do we shy away from expressing how we don’t want to do this or say that or agree with him or her (even when he or she is your everyday jerk)? Why is it hard for us to express distaste or dissatisfaction? How is it easier for us to feel the opposite of what we are feeling?
The answer? It’s NOT.
But society has taught us since time immemorial that it should be. Most of us alive today, and even some of our predecessors have already been mind-fucked to think that there is no other sure way for survival than doing what everyone else does. We even have famous adages for that like When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Realistically, it is nowhere near easier to say YES and be expected of something than it is to say no and leave that issue be. But it’s easier for us to choose our peace of mind over other people’s perception of us rather than face the grunt of disapproving stares and whispers.
But I want us to think about it.
Next time we’re in a crappy, abusive relationship, the penalty of saying yes to staying should be more repulsive than the consequence of saying no and losing out on whatever potential that relationship may or may not have. Why should we say yes to the unending demand of unnecessarily adjusting to the demands of a partner or a spouse, who will shy away if asked to do the same? Why should we accept behavior when we personally and clearly know it’s nowhere near decent or sincere? Why say yes to prolonging the agony of emotional, physical and/or psychological battering day in and day out when we can simply say NO and move on to better things?
Next time we get the opportunity to reevaluate our motivations for rising up early in the morning for work, we need to pause a bit and think. Why should we say yes to a career path that we clearly did not pave? Why is it an easier task to forget why we started in the first place and just simply play docile and uninterested? Why should we kill dreams in order to appease everybody and keep the peace? Why is there a bigger appeal to shelving our plans and just taking what’s being given?
For a lot of months I’ve mentally gone back and forth thinking about how many difficult life questions a simple YES or NO can either propel to greater heights or kill. Yes, KILL.
Because I do believe that in any time we choose to say YES to something which we wouldn’t have chosen had we been given express authority to (which we don’t even need, really), we kill a little part of ourselves. And every time we kill a little part of ourselves it hurts less. And every time we learn how less the hurt gets, we teach ourselves that it’s OK. That there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. That it wouldn’t matter if we were given the choice next time, because it had already become second nature for us to deny ourselves all for the sake of preserving the status quo that society had established.
And so, what I did the past couple of months is a cycle of rehearse-react-resume-repeat.
I rehearsed saying NO in my head — gently reminding myself every time I was uncomfortable that this is my birthright. That they invented TWO answers for a reason. And that it is not always necessarily bad. I reacted based on my perceived pros and cons. If I’m tired and sick, I can say no. If I don’t feel the matter matches my conscience, I can say no. I resumed whatever I was doing, trying as much as possible to minimize the “guilt” I felt in not being able to fulfill other people’s expectations. And I repeated this every single day that I woke up.
I must say that it’s one of the most uncomfortable challenge I’ve ever allowed myself to partake in. But it’s one of the most rewarding. There are lots of times when you’ll be tempted to go back and forth and ask yourself what if I just went with it and did it? It’s an obsessive-compulsive’s nightmare — which I happen to be. You’ll toss and turn at night trying to imagine scenarios which could or could not have happened had you given a different answer.
And the only way I cope with saying NO? I constantly and relentlessly — even shamelessly — reminded myself that I should take pride that whatever happens, the decision to decline was all mine. No one else’s. I acted based on what I thought at the moment was right for me and fair to everyone, and if it turned out to be not the best or wisest choice of them all, I was ready enough to bear the responsibility. And that made me sleep like a little baby.
At the end of the day we need to understand, it’s not in the realm of possibility to please everyone no matter the choice, the answer, the method we resort to. It’s an endless pursuit to aspire to strike a balance where everyone feels so zen about what we say, think and do. It’s one of the components of a healthy society’s bloodline — conflict. It is where bright minds and idiots spar — each having points in their journeys where they can be right or wrong.
So we need to evolve into a healthy mentality where NO is a valid and often a positive answer as much as yes is. Where no could mean choosing to love and value ourselves, our flaws, our eccentricities and how we feel rather than an outright negative decision. Saying no should be normalized and thought of as an avenue for growth and a testament to grit rather than a feeble attempt of evading responsibility. Because with all the heartaches that we welcome and allow ourselves to suffer through, sometimes no is that lifeline which can make a whole lot of difference in surviving and thriving in an otherwise cruel and exploitative world.