The Power of No

We all want to be good people. We want to help when we’re asked and for people to think well of us. So we often say yes to a request when we’d really rather say no. 

My life balance and my happiness increased exponentially when I learned to say no. It went up another few notches as I realized I didn’t need to manufacture an excuse for saying no. Putting myself first was good enough, although I was more likely to say I had something else already booked at that time. Even becoming a Big Sister all those years ago was partly an act of putting myself first. I wanted to have a child in my life to help, teach and watch grow. She was always a yes.

Any act of selflessness has an element of selfishness to it, no matter what Mother Teresa may have told you. (Notice how she allowed her name to be put on buildings??) There has to be some take as well as give, or it will just leave you feeling depleted. Even a compliment after a meal you made can be enough. The best example of the worst of this is in the movie Muriel’s Wedding. Muriel’s Mom works constantly and serves her whole, lazy family hand and foot without so much as a thank-you in return. She slowly retreats, grows sad, and it doesn’t end well for her.

I’ve long believed that a lack of self-confidence and self-worth are at the root of most of the world’s problems. We have to be nicer to each other, and to ourselves. We have to go out of our way to help someone when we can, and to say no when we need to. We have to operate like we care about ourselves, first, before we knock ourselves out for others. We have to act like we matter, even if we’re just faking it at first, until it becomes a habit. Because what’s deep inside us is what we radiate to the world. Every flight attendant in the world explains this before every flight: if the mask drops due to a loss of cabin pressure, put your own mask on first before helping anyone else. Because you’re no good to them until you’ve taken care of yourself.

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This is so poignant. I could write chapters about how many times I didn’t feel I had a “good enough” reason to say no. Worst story: a talent agency strong-armed me into talking to their modelling clientele. “Don’t you want to give back?” the jerk who ran the place said. In hindsight it was, I’m sure, a fly-by-night operation and I lent my name and reputation to it, for that night. I felt tawdry and ashamed when it was over but especially that I let them play on my feelings of guilt for having earned the place I was in. Never again!!! Thank you for your blog!

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Thank you Erin! That guilt trip people try to put on us is really something else. I visited a website the other day of a guy who does keynote speaking and has a bunch of books out. Above the contact form to reach him about doing a keynote it says, “I don’t work in exchange for the exposure or on a promise of future work.” I thought, good for you.

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