Why is it so Hard to say “No”?

Remember the movie Yes, Man? The one with Jim Carey, where his character “Carl” makes a covenant to say “Yes” to everything life presents. We see Carl say yes over and over again, and good luck ensues for him. He meets Zooey Deschanel’s character “Allison,” because he said yes to a homeless man’s plea and they fall in love (with Allison, not the homeless man). But, as the plot twists and turns and Carl says yes to too many things, his good fortune begins to fade, and by the end of the movie, Carl learns that it’s okay to say, “No.”

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Carl went from always saying no (at the beginning of the movie), to always saying yes, to finding the happy medium of yes and no.

Sounds simple, right? We make decisions each and every day and don’t bat an eye. We say “yes,” “no,” “maybe,” “I’ll think about it.”

But, for some people saying no is quite a feat.

Why is that? Why is it so hard to say no?  As human beings, we have an innate desire for closeness with others. By saying no we may close ourselves away from that connection we yearn for. Or, so we believe.

But, not being able to say no can, after a while, become a burden in and of itself. Always saying yes means you do not set any boundaries for yourself. Thus, allowing everything – the good and the bad – to enter your life.

I recently read an article on Psychology Today about The Power of No. The author, Judith Sills, states that saying “yes” carries an optimistic connotation. While, saying “no” is generally surrounded with negativity. And, come on, who wants to be the negative one?

However, saying no can be just as empowering as saying yes. Why?

Sills says:

“The No that is an affirmation of self implicitly acknowledges personal responsibility. It says that while each of us interacts with others, and loves, respects, and values those relationships, we do not and cannot allow ourselves always to be influenced by them. The strength we draw from saying No is that it underscores this hard truth of maturity: The buck stops here.

Basically, saying no allows us to define what we will and will not tolerate. It can help create a sense of self, just as saying yes can. Saying no allows us to create a barrier around ourselves – shield us from negativity.

“No, I will not tolerate being treated this way.”

“No, I cannot take on another project.”

“No, I do not agree.”

You get the point.

I used to be a “Yes, man” too. I would accept every invite and take on way too much in both my personal life and my professional life. Ultimately, I felt stressed (to the max), worn out, and like a failure, because I couldn’t get everything done. I couldn’t please everyone, and to me that meant I had failed.

But, I’ve recently learned the power in saying “no.” I know what I can and cannot handle. What I will and will not tolerate. And I’m not scared anymore of what I’ll lose if I say “no.” It probably wasn’t meant to be in my life anyways.

So, let’s try saying “no” a little more. And, if you can’t do it for yourself, do it for others. Do it so you’ll be less stressed, surrounded by less negativity, and so you can devote your time to what truly matters.

Though, I will never say “no” to Mexican food and margaritas… just sayin’.

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I overcame an eating disorder, anxiety, and depression with the help of this wonderfully amazing thing called running. And that's why I'm here - to share my story and to help those who are going through what I've already gone through. On this blog you'll find running tips, mental health tips, and lots of joy. Join me as we piece life together one run at a time.

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