By Chelsea Elkins, Program & Marketing Manager
I am a yes-man. Or, rather, I am a yes-man in recovery.
What can I say? I really thought I loved Yes. It is the great unifier, the unapologetic people pleaser, the limitless connector of any language. So you can imagine my discomfort when I found myself abruptly thrust into an alien world of No when I was diagnosed with a fatigue-inducing health condition earlier this year.
I have to admit I was a bit surprised by my own explosive reaction to having to say no more often than I could say yes (courtesy of my tired and protesting body). But when I thought about it, it made sense how I got there. The culture and mindset among my peers and social circle has largely been one of Yes (my generation coining the terms FOMO and YOLO into modern vernacular), so it seemed logical how Yes became so deeply saturated into my being.
My debut with No was not an easy one. My biggest challenge came with having to turn down things I genuinely wanted to do. Having to decline or cancel brunches and Star Wars-themed parties was amazingly difficult even when my body was begging for sleep.
The true trouble came from my over-active mind, imagining that whoever extended the invite would start questioning if I even wanted to be invited at all. Perhaps they felt I was making excuses or no longer shared their interest in French food or outdoor concerts. “They probably won’t be inviting you in the future!” my delirious brain cried.
And voilà, we reached the root of my problem with Yes. Why, for years, I over-extended and stretched myself thin as paper, both with things I wanted to do and things I did not.
For me, what it really boiled down to was fear. Fear that if I said no x amount of times, I’d stop being asked. Fear that if I’m not the one constantly organizing hang outs, I’d never hear from anyone. Fear that I’d offend. Fear that once I finally emerge on the other side, healthy and shiny and new, I’ll find that all my friends and friendly acquaintances have moved to Mallorca and failed to invite me.
Ultimately, fear that I am not enough.
Quite a pill to swallow.
The positive thing was I was not alone with this issue and could access an abundance of wisdom on the matter. Lena Dunham and Whitney Cummings both shared their intimate histories with No, and Shonda Rhimes started a beautiful and intentional relationship with Yes. I was inspired to start to restructure my own relationship with my decisions, and slowly I began to find strength and even delight in my no’s. Gradually, I found I was taking control of my life and health.
I still think Yes is great. Yes can lead to new connections and unforgettable experiences. The trick, as with everything, is to find balance. Saying yes enough to lead a wondrous, joyful existence but not so much that you feel like you’re drowning in a sea of commitments, whether desirable or not.
In this way I’m carrying on, bravely owning my answers, whatever they may be, and remembering that a resounding No will always be more beneficial to my relationships than a reluctant Yes.