No. I love swilling the word ‘no’ around my mouth. I love the feel of it. It’s round. Weighty. Assertive. And so much more powerful than yes.
Don’t get me wrong. I like yes, too. I say yes to opportunities and the unknown all the time. I love jumping out of my comfort zone and freefalling into new possibilities, whether that’s starting a new job or moving to another country where I can’t speak the language and don’t know anyone. Taking risks doesn’t scare me, whereas living with regrets does.
But no is so much more than just the opposite of yes. Whether you roll it around in your mouth, say it quietly or shout it out, no is satisfying in a way that yes will never be because strange as it may sound, no doesn’t limit me. It’s actually the contrary. It frees me to do exactly what I want.
Because by saying no, I’m defining the terms and conditions by which I live by. So, it’s no to energy vampires who would like to suck life out of me. It’s no to casual cappuccino dates with people who think they’ll get a free English lesson that way. It’s no to big parties when I hate crowds and would much rather catch up with friends one-on-one. It’s no to the hairdressers who want to turn me into a fake blonde when I’m perfectly happy to embrace the silver strands sparkling in my hair. And it’s no to anything that isn’t necessary or doesn’t bring me joy.
After Matt died, my need to fix people to make amends for not being there for him meant my nos becames yeses and people took advantage of that. Boundaries were overstepped and the more I gave, the more expectation there was that I’d give. And at a time when my body was reaching breaking point from the emotional trauma it was carrying, that was simply wrong. But back then, I just couldn’t see it and wouldn’t object when people walked all over me and stole what little energy I had.
Now I’m back to don’t-mess-with-me me, I have no qualms about saying no. Sometimes I offer an explanation, sometimes I don’t. To some my refusal may sound rude but time is finite and none of us should have to account to those who don’t matter for the way we choose to use it.
By saying no, I’m looking after myself, avoiding burn out from taking on too much and prioritising my mental health. But more than that, I’m ultimately opening myself up to new opportunities and new experiences to which I can then say yes.