The Power of No

I grew up in a culture where it’s so hard to say no. A culture that taught us growing up that a ‘decent’ woman should abide by the rules set by her family and her ‘husband.’ As if our worth is defined by a man… *face palm* Being bold, answering back or speaking up always translated to being a disrespectful woman with no manners. We just have to say ‘yes’ as to what we’re allowed to wear according to our ‘parents’ and ‘husband,’ we have to say ‘yes’ to staying home or coming back before 10 pm and many more.

We aren’t even allowed to argue or answer back in my culture, but men are allowed to go clubbing, spend the night out, smoke, laugh out loud and date. Whereas women in my culture have to be calm, quiet, covered, have the ability to cook and clean, not date and the rest you can guess I’m sure – The Caveman Mentality. So I, more than anyone know how hard it can be to say ‘NO’ and to stand up for yourself.

I think one of the reasons why saying ‘No’ is looked at so negatively is because people confuse the difference between standing true to yourself vs being rebellious. Even being rebellious sometimes can be good – Sometimes you have to go against the social norms and cultural expectations to be who you really are and to pursue the dream you’ve been longing to have.

Step 1: How Do You Find The Courage To Speak Up?

The first thing to do is to understand what do you really want and why by asking yourself those three questions:

  1. What are your values? Why?
    Get a clear idea of why do you value a certain thing or hold a certain belief by digging deep, rather than just repeating what you’ve been force-fed from a young age.
  2. What are your priorities and how important are they?
    We ALL have an endless list of wants and desires, but what is really important to you and how does that impact your life? By asking yourself that question you will dig deeper to understand the value of each desire and which ones are actually important to you.
  3. Is It Really Worth It?
    Again, by understanding the worth of something, that fuels you to go after it and fight for it regardless of what others say. For instance, in my culture (again) you have to be a doctor, lawyer, engineer or a disgrace to the family. Personally, I did want to be a doctor for the longest time but my grades weren’t the best. So I pursued my other option, Business School, which a lot of people told me is ‘bullshit’ or ‘useless.’ Apparently everything is about prestige and reputation to them, to me it is all about MY passion.

Step 2: Balancing Between Giving & Receiving

More times than none I hear people complaining about always being the giver and receiving less than they deserve or nothing in return. Saying ‘no’ isn’t just standing up to your career goals. Saying ‘no’ is setting boundaries and standards in relationships as well (Relationships = Friendships, siblings, family and romantic partnerships).

  • Know When You’re Giving Too Much: If what you’re giving other people is DRAINING your energy, consuming too much of your time to do other things or is simply biting you in the ass almost every single time as a result, then you’re giving this person more than they deserve. We all have limited abilities and limited time, with that comes a lot of other commitments. So draw the line and understand the extent to which you can give. Being too selfless is NOT -always- good if it’s at the cost of your commitments, life, etc…
  • Understand When To Expect In Return: Now I get that this isn’t a trade and I do believe that we should give without being in the mind frame of getting something in return. Then again, a lot of times I hear stories of people who weren’t given the same amount of support, respect and affection from other people. Every relationship (friendship/romantic ones/family) is between TWO PEOPLE – so respect is a two way street… That person should treat you the same way you treat them. Stop settling and accepting to receive less than what you really deserve and want. Then again, you have to draw the line between your desires and being too needy..

Step 3: What’s Stopping You?

A lot of times we want to say ‘no,’ but we freeze. So ask yourself now, why are you saying ‘yes’ to things that don’t give you fulfilment? Is it because you’re afraid of hurting someone’s feelings? Fear of failure? Fear of judgement?
You have to be careful to the things that you say ‘yes’ to, because every single time you lock yourself in a responsibility for something/someone.
Yes= Settling for what’s familiar, fear wins and STAYS, doors that were open start to close.
NO= Courage and risk-taking, making use of opportunities, personal growth.

Step 4: Switch Roles – Be The Friend

I want you to take 5-10 minutes doing an exercise – Pretend in those 5-10 minutes that you’re the friend/advice giver. You, the advice giver, is listening to another YOU having the same problem or struggle. What advice would you give them? What would you tell them to do and why?

Step 5: Know When No is Good

  • Self-discipline: You know your weakness and area of improvement (personal or job-wise) and you want to work on that. You CHOOSE to demand more because where you’re currently at isn’t good enough FOR YOU.
  • Goal Aligning: Again, this can be personal goals, education, career, health, etc…
  • COMPROMISING: A lot of times I hear people talking about sacrifice like it’s something that should be done in a relationship. You do NOT sacrifice parts of yourself or your life for ANYONE, but you can COMPROMISE. Things happen sometimes and with that priorities can change sometimes, and that’s when you compromise NOT sacrifice.

Step 6: Where Are You Now?

Ask Yourself These Questions:

  1. On a scale of 1-10, how fulfilled are you with your current circumstances and why/why not?
  2. Lets say on the scale you’re 4/10 fulfilled with your financial life and 6/10 with your friendships. How can you up to a 5/10 and a 7/10?

Doing this exercise will give you a better idea on what you really want/don’t want. Doing that you understand how you can do, get and give more.

Final Step: How Do You Literally Say ‘NO?’

  • Start small – If you lived your life being ‘yessy’ all the time, obviously saying no is not going to be easy. So start saying no to small things, lets say a day where you just want to be alone and not hangout (just an example). Start small and don’t be so hard on yourself – You’ll get there 🙂
  • Language – Mind the language you use when you communicate. If something doesn’t serve you right, maybe you should sit down with yourself first and think of the wording to tell someone smooth sails and God’s fucking speed in the most respectful way possible.
  • Reason – Now that you have done the previous steps and exercises, communicate your reason to the other person. Whether they accept it or not is their choice, you’ve said your piece. Move on afterwards.
  • Reminders:
    – You lock yourself in a responsibility you don’t want to hold every time you say yes to the things you want to say ‘no’ to.
    – The advice giver’s advice
    – Compromise vs sacrifice
    – YOU matter too <3
  • Demand/Persist – You mustered up the courage and energy to speak up, so stick to what you want. Unless someone gives you a logical, proper reason to change your mind and one that will serve you right, DO NOT GIVE IN!

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