It’s Time to Start Saying No

When I was in middle school, I got a nice big patch of dry skin on my face. I made my mom drive me to the nearest Ulta so I could get lotion before the problem seriously affected my self-esteem. I asked one of the employees if he could recommend a moisturizer that I could use on my face. He presented me with a bottle of Benefit Triple Performing Facial Emulsion. It was $32.

That sum is a lot of money in middle school, especially when you want to buy nice things, such as Harajuku perfume or an Abercrombie shirt that will age very, very poorly. I bought the moisturizer anyway. When I went home, I told my dad I couldn’t believe I’d spent that on face lotion. 

“Why did you buy it, then?” he asked me.

I thought for a moment. “Well, the worker was nice. I didn’t want to be mean and say no.”

“You didn’t want to be mean, so you spent over $30 on some face lotion?” he asked me. “You know, you don’t always have to say yes.”

By the time I got to high school, I didn’t feel obligated to say yes to anyone. I turned five people down to Homecoming over the course of my freshman and sophomore year. When junior year rolled around, I’d more-or-less branded myself as un-askable to any school dance. But I hadn’t been rude in my rejections. I’d said things like, “No thank you, I’d rather go with my friends,” or, “Thanks, but I don’t know you very well and I’d rather go alone.” Despite this, some guy in my class still told me I was mean because I’d turned his friend down. I told him, “I’m not obligated to please anyone.” He could not conjure a response.

Image Source: Know Your Meme

The thing about “No” is that we find it too direct. Too blunt. Too harsh. When someone asks something of you, it’s easier to tell that person, “Sure,” “Maybe,” or “I’ll think about it,” because you don’t want to hurt that person’s feelings or seem mean. But that’s the exact problem. We’ve equated “No” with mean behavior when the two are not at all the same.

You can say no without being rude, and the way you phrase it and the intentions behind it have a lot to do with that. You can feel good about saying no when you’re doing it for the right reasons. How another person takes your answer isn’t really your problem if you’re being nice about it. You can’t control their emotions. But you can control how you respond to the circumstances you find yourself in.

“No” is a means to take control of your life, to allow only what you want in your life to be there. We often forget that we possess this power. Someone recommends that you buy $32 lotion (which, by the way, is an absolute rip-off)? No. Someone asks you if you have a moment to speak so they can recruit you to their club and make you late to class? No. Someone you like asks you do something you’re not comfortable with? No. Someone you call a friend always has something snide to say when something good happens to you? No.

It's not mean to value your money. It’s not mean to value your time. It’s not mean to stand up for yourself, to put yourself first sometimes, or to have your own best interests at heart. Stop being afraid of being mean and start realizing that often, by refusing to say no, the only person you’re hurting is yourself.

Image Source: Reddit​