Recently, I found myself at an event that I did not want to attend. I attempted to be cordial at the event, but in the middle of the event, I thought, “Hannah, why are you here? Why are you doing this to yourself?” And for the first time in my life, I answered the questions honestly. I was not there because I had to be or someone needed me to be. I was there because of what people would think about me. And immediately I thought, “Why do I care?” If I were to leave the event at that moment, the world would not stop spinning, the sun would not stop rising in the East and setting in the West, and for the most part, life would go on just fine. With that realization, I immediately jumped in my car, turned the key to my ignition and headed home. I realized I was needlessly torturing myself over an event I should have and could have easily said no to.
As I drove home, I instantly felt a sigh of relief. I was now free to spend my weekend how I wanted to. Admittedly, spending my weekend how I wanted amounted to nothing more than wine, comfortable clothes and Netflix but still, I was in control of my time. I was in control of me. And for a woman that is attempting to establish herself in the world, the first thing I knew was I must take ownership of was me.
I remember calling my friend before the event lamenting (which is just a fancy writer word for whining) about attending, and he asked me, “Why didn’t you just say no?” Just say no? Was he crazy?! What would they think? What would they say? How would they judge me on social media? I offered a million excuses, and his only response was, “All you had to say was no.” Was it really that easy? As I punched the gas pedal on my car and cruised down the highway feeling like Thelma and Louise, I realized, yes it was just that easy! Instead of saying yes, I could have easily just said no.
But I am a nice girl, aren’t I? I was raised to be a nice girl. A nice girl that is seen and not heard. That sits pretty and poised. And nice girls don’t say no. Nice girls work later than their male counterparts for less pay. Nice girls let people steal their ideas and don’t say anything about getting credit. Nice girls babysit your kids when they are tired. Nice girls attend all your events even when they would rather be home reading a book. Nice girls support your causes even when you don’t support theirs. Nice girls aren’t defiant. Nice girls don’t reject unwanted advances. Nice girls take your phone calls even when they don’t feel like talking. Nice girls tolerate your dick pics. Nice girls go along to get along. Nice girls don’t buck the system. Nice girls don’t say no.
But fuck all that. I AM a nice girl. And nice girls DO SAY NO!
On that drive home I realized that nice girls could and should say no because saying no is an act of self-preservation. I started going through a mental list in my mind of all the times I didn’t say no and how different my life would have been if I was not so consumed with being the nice girl, the nice employee, the nice friend in the group, the nice girlfriend. Saying no was not a curse, in fact, it was a blessing.
I realized that:
• No is a complete sentence.
• No does not require any further explanation.
• No does not need to offer an excuse.
• No does not mean you aren’t a team player.
• No does not mean you are not supportive.
• No does not mean feeling guilty.
• No does not require you to make up a white lie.
• No does not mean you do not like or love someone.
• No is not beholden to anyone.
• No does not mean everyone will understand.
• No allows you the space to say yes to what you really want to do.
• No does not require that you have extravagant plans.
• No is enough.
It is with these realizations that I am making a conscious decision to pause before I say yes. I am taking the time to ask myself, “Is this adding or subtracting from what you would like to do with your life?” “Are you saying yes out of guilt or obligation or is this something you really want to do?” “Are you only saying yes because of what people will think about you?” “Does saying yes to this mean this is a good use of your time?”
I am finally stepping into my own awareness. My own authority. My own purpose. It has taken me decades to get to this point in my life. I have said yes to so many things that I wish I had said no to. I have remained silent while people stole my ideas because I was a nice girl. I have worked hard building the dreams of others while putting mine on the back burner because I was a nice girl. I accepted payment for work that was lower than what I should have been paid because I was a nice girl. I slept with men that I did not want to sleep with, because I was a nice girl. I stayed in relationships I should have walked away from, because I was a nice girl. I chatted with people online that I didn’t want to speak with, because I was a nice girl. I attended events where I was miserable, because I was a nice girl. I devalued my time, because I was a nice girl.
I had no one to blame but myself.
So finally I realized, enough is enough. My no is enough and saying no allows me the freedom to say yes to things that I really want to do. It allows me to spend my time the way that I want to spend my time. Saying no gives me the time to accomplish my goals. And even if that means by saying no, I will be spending time in my king size bed, eating something deliciously decadent while watching The Office on Netflix, that is okay. My no is my power. I am taking a page out of the Book of Beyonce, “I’m grown woman! I can do whatever I want!” And what I want is to say no. And nice girls can always say no.