The Year Of No

It’s a hard-knock life for a people pleaser.

How could it not be, considering how much mental and physical efforts we put into satisfying everyone but ourselves?

‘No’ is a difficult thing for us to say, but with every ‘yes’ and ‘I will try’ we dig a deep hole that could eventually engulf our individuality and whatever sense of self-prioritisation we have.

People pleasers are afterthoughts in their own lives.

Last weekend, I spent a couple of hours on the phone with my family talking about the terribly exhausting cycle of doing things that we don’t necessarily have the time or capacity for just because we don’t want to offend people, then berating ourselves for agreeing to do them in the first place.

It’s a common thread in our lives, apparently.

During the conversation, we agreed pretty quickly that we’ve been pushovers for too long and to make up for this, we would need to say a definitive ‘no’ to anything we didn’t want and back it up with clear action.

I know it sounds really simple but it’s a tough thing to start when you’ve allowed people to have their way at your expense most of your life.

We were literally trading tactics for dealing with everyone including so-called friends who lean too hard just because we offer a shoulder and entitled persons who expect explanations for every decision we make independently.

No… more.

The cost of pleasing people gets high fast.

My life is dotted with moments in which a refusal would have been the right thing for me to do.

If I had just said no, I would have:

  • Saved me the weekends I spent working on work requests that could easily have waited till Monday without affecting anything.

(Listen, weekends seem to be getting shorter. Misuse them even slightly and you’ll be wondering where all the time went.)

  • Had more mental space to think about choosing to do things for me, not because someone else demanded them.

(The power of choice can be a burden but largely, I believe it feels good to know that we and only we get to decide what we commit to.)

  • Avoided the trap of self-criticism that comes with allowing myself to be coerced into doing shit I really have no interest in doing.

(Oftentimes, we’re our own loudest critics and very rarely is our self-judgement constructive. The negativity just gets reinforced.)

Our lives are only as good as the boundaries we set.

The year of no isn’t about not caring or having zero fucks to give.

No, it’s nothing like that.

Instead, think of it as caring with sense – a sense of (your) self.

I’m saying that caring begins with ourselves, and this means creating boundaries around the things that matter: time to rest, time for our hobbies, time for unhurried conversations with our friends and family, time to (sit down and ) eat, even time to do absolutely nothing!

The year of no is about taking control of our to-do lists.

We can’t keep living on someone else’s terms. It just doesn’t make sense in the short or long run.

Doing that is like giving a stranger a sheet of paper to write you your to-do list for the day.

What the hell do they know about what’s important, urgent or even necessary to you?

You get the point.

Guilt is the enemy. Ignore it.

When we first start setting boundaries, we will definitely feel guilty every time someone hits our wall of ‘no’ and they make a face or whine – “Oh, you’ve changed” or “Who will help me if you don’t?”

To hell with that.

Don’t stop enforcing your boundaries just because the world doesn’t embrace your positive lifestyle option.

Remember why you’re doing it and forget everything else.

This is for you. You deserve your peace.

Wrapping up now, here’s what a year of no looks like as a manifesto:

1. I will define my priorities and boundaries, and I will enforce them through practice even when that includes saying no to myself.

2. I will not be afraid to turn anyone down no matter who they are.

3. I will not explain or say I’m sorry for turning someone or something down.

I want to say ‘Happy New Year’ so much right now because this is like starting over for me, and I’m excited about all the personal time we could free up with every emphatic ‘no’ we say.

We have the power!