Hello. My name is Erika and I’m 43 (soon to be 44) years-old and I have a chronic case of Helium Hand.
Y’know — when someone needs something, the first thing I can think to do is raise my hand higher than any thought that’s ever come out of Stephen Hawking’s head and say, “OH! ME! ME! I’LL DO IT! ME!!!!!”
And yes. I wiggle my fingers and nearly dislocate my shoulder in the process. Every time.
Or, rather — that used to be me. Helium Hand never really goes away, but if you’re one of those people having a tough fucking time learning to say NO, here’s today’s hard truth:
You’re not an asshole for saying no.
In fact, you’re quite the opposite in most cases.
So let’s talk about this pesky little two-letter word and why it’s so fucking hard to say.
I mean, it’s TWO LETTERS, right?!
Two. Fucking. Letters. Long. YES takes longer to say and we say that all day long, right? So why is no so hard to say? Here’s my favorite list of reasons:
- Because I’ll get the attention of someone I’ve been needing to get the attention of if I say yes.
- Because someone will look down on me for saying no.
- Because gossipy little moms with nothing better to do with talk about me behind my back at the Starbucks while they’re planning yet another money-losing bake sale I don’t fucking have time for.
- Because I feel like I should.
- Because I want to even though I really don’t have time.
- Basically I’m saying yes because of what I think everyone else will think if I say no.
- Because it’s SHINY and I’m really distracted by shiny.
- Because it pays money and I need money even though I fucking hate doing this with every ounce of my being.
- Because <insert name> expects me to say yes.
- Because <insert name> is guilting me into saying yes, implying that I’ll get X if I give them Y.
- Because <insert name> will think I’m stuck on myself or that I think I’m too good for X. I mean, who’s too good for X?!
Did I cover everything? Fantastic.
Now, let’s get around to the beauty of the word NO and why you’re not an asshole for using it.
Here’s why you’re not an asshole for saying no.
Saying NO makes room in your life for the right yesses when they come along.
That’s pretty fucking important. Maybe you even want to tweet that shit.
I had to add the NSFW tag because fuck and shit and all that.
I still have days where I wake up and look at my calendar and think, “Who the hell scheduled all this stuff?” And the answer is me. And none of it makes me money. Little of it moves me forward along my path. And yeah, it’s stuff for other people and in many cases, people I care deeply about, but at the end of the day, I go to bed exhausted and wonder when the hell I’m going to have time to do what I want (and NEED) to do.
No is the shortest, most strategic, most powerful word in your vocabulary.
I know full well that it might be hard to say from time to time, but it feels really good five minutes later when you realize you haven’t added one more item to your pile of SHIT TO DEAL WITH THAT YOU DIDN’T WANT TO DEAL WITH IN THE FIRST PLACE.
Saying no is also a powerful way to save your fucks for things that deserve your fucks.
Saying no to work that pays (but you hate) means you can say yes to work from clients who pay you what your worth to do what you love.
Saying no to a job you hate means you can say yes to something that makes you happy every day. And it also gives you the time to do something you hate LESS while you’re looking for what will make you happy every day.
Saying no to a relationship that makes you feel less-than makes room in your life for a person to walk into it who will make you feel like you are all that and more (and super glad you dumped him/her/them).
Saying no to that fucking bake sale means you can write a check and spend all the time you’d have spent baking with your kids and all that money on a trip to a museum, a new book for each one, and a day together that you wouldn’t have had since you were stuck baking “your famous cookies.” (Fuck those cookies — make them when you want to, not because you have to.)
Saying no to SHINY means you’ll save yourself the gut-punching moment when the shiny thing looses its sheen and your curled in a corner, rocking back and forth, muttering, “Why the fuck did I do this? I always do this. No, no, no, not again…”
Saying no to something that you’re beyond doesn’t mean you’re too good to take that opportunity or stuck on yourself. It means that you’re tired of being busy for the sake of being busy and saving your fucks for something that will challenge you and help you rise instead of reaffirming your comfort in the status quo.
Saying no when you think others will judge you for saying no IS THE BEST FUCKING TIME FOR SAYING NO. Because here’s the thing — you’re not everyone else. You only have so many hours and so many fucks to give in those hours and if you spend your fucks on catty people who place a higher value on your Helium Hand than your quality of life, you’re going to perpetually be out of fucks.
It is okay that something that excites someone else does not interest you.
It is okay that you need some damn downtime.
It is okay to stay home tonight even though you could go to that thing since your evening is free.
It is okay to tell someone that it’s not your thing and NOPE.
It is okay.
It’s all okay.
And here’s the thing about saying no: We’re not going to get it right all of the time.
There are going to be times where you say, “Damn, I totally should have said yes to that.”
But think about all the times, to-date, where you have said, “Damn, I really wish I’d said no.”
And compare the two.
I’m bettin’ that your Wish-I’d Said-No column is waaaaaaaaaaaaay longer than your Wish-I’d-Said-Yes column.
That’s because you’re a good person and you want to make people happy. So you say yes.
But you’re saying yes ay the expense of your YOU.
I walked down an aisle and said, “I do” to a man back in 1995 because I was afraid of what people would think if I’d said no right then and there.
I’ve taken shiny projects that turned into nightmares because my gut said no but my bank account said yes.
I’ve said YES for a whole lot of wrong reasons.
But these days, I give it a lot more nos. Because nos are like little bulldozers for your soul, shoving all the unimportant shit to the side to make room for awesome and fuck yeah.
So baby, bulldoze your soul with NO. And this isn’t to say it’s not perfectly okay to say yes.
Because sometimes people we love need us.
Sometimes, we are so excited we can’t wait to say yes.
And sometimes, we need to dare ourselves to try, and we make the brave choice to say yes.
But if you don’t say no — you won’t have the time or energy for these needed, excited, and daring yesses.
And you deserve those yesses.
You’re not an asshole for saying no.
You’re an artisan — crafting your day, life, heart, and future, so you have the time and energy to give your fucks to the things most deserving.