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The Power of Saying No

It’s the constant struggle of an overachiever—the struggle between saying yes or no to any opportunity thrown your way. Growing up in our fast-paced culture, we are raised to believe that ignoring opportunities gives way to failure. Saying ‘no’ means we are not wholeheartedly invested in our commitments, and it’s viewed as a weakness. After being consistently involved in extracurricular activities throughout both high school and the first two months of college, I want to reject this idea.

Personally, I struggle deeply with saying no to things. I have always thought that taking advantage of anything asked of me, I would be able to advance myself within the world and within my passions. However, I’ve come to learn that taking on so many responsibilities is not an example of your ability—it can become quite draining. By taking on too many things, you end up overworking yourself. There still has to be time to be you—a time for you to recharge, regroup, and honestly, just relax.

Saying no is empowering. It lets other people know your limitations, and it forces you to reconsider what you truly care about. Yes, some people thrive off of overloading themselves and staying busy—personally, I love a packed schedule. The only difference is that it shouldn’t drive you to the point of total distress. As college students, it’s hard for us to find a healthy balance. We’re told that we have to prioritize our work, but also make time for clubs, and visit our professor at office hours, and take that internship, and apply for that job—but, oh, wait, don’t forget to socialize! Our lives are getting pulled in thousands of intensely different directions, and in such a transitory time in our lives, it can be difficult to discover your genuine passions. Trying out new things is a good thing, but forcing yourself to be overly involved in activities that do not even interest or benefit you will add a negative aspect to an already hectic life.

Even pushing yourself in the activities you love requires a certain sacrifice that cannot always be maintained. Don’t be scared to decline a request—the first focus should always be your mental health and how much work you can handle. Though a promise should be kept, if you approach a stressful situation with an inability to handle it, and you communicate that, help is always available. Most importantly, saying no is a universal right, and it’s one that many people understand. Your club leader, mentor or friend is not going to be furious if you explain to them why you cannot complete a task immediately. People are looking to support you, and if they can’t handle one “no,” that’s their problem. Being understanding is a cornerstone of any good working relationship or friendship.

So, screw the mentality that saying yes to anything is the only way to get anywhere in this competitive world. Screw the mentality that your mental health can take a backseat to presented opportunities. Your future self will appreciate some R&R.

Maddie is a senior majoring in journalism and public relations in the College of Communication at Boston University. Hailing from suburban Philadelphia, Maddie is incredibly happy to be back in Boston for her fourth year. This year, she's looking forward to spending all of her money on brunch, downing lots of coffee, and of course, writing and editing at Her Campus. Outside of Her Campus, Maddie is involved with her sorority and exploring all of Boston.
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