The Power of ‘No’

One of the toughest things that life has taught me so far is learning to say “NO”!

For me, it was always an impulse that forced me to do things for people because refusing someone didn’t come easily to me. For as long as I can recall, I continued doing so, to my own detriment. For fear of hurting people or upsetting them. Not just that, somewhere hidden in the deepest recess of my young mind, it was also the fear of inviting their wrath. I did succumb to the “yes” word for all the wrong reasons and not the least, to please myself and every time I did so, I felt like a victim, myself. I wondered how I could ever change things. How could I refuse without feeling that I had wronged someone. Essentially, without the sense of guilt for uttering the word.

So, I guess, the Universe took it upon itself to teach me some bitter life lessons. It took me years and quite a few bruises to learn how to undo the damage I had been inflicting on myself, by giving in to the demands and requests from others. Being taken for granted wasn’t something that I was happy about. Being ‘used’, felt much worse so.

After a lot of self-loathing, when I decided to take the problem by the horns and utter what so far seemed the dreaded word, it came as a huge relief! It sure did! What a fantastic feeling it was and how liberating! I remember the first time when I’d uttered the word, it felt like I had unleashed something into the air, that was powerful and yet, irreversible; something that was going to circumnavigate the universe, its’ force reverberating through the ether, spreading into the vast canvas of life and impacting my very existence on the planet; almost like a storm that had been brewing for years, ready to bring down everything to rubble, in a matter of minutes! It was nothing short of high drama in my mind, while on the exterior, I felt a certain sense of bliss.

I must admit that the aftermath of uttering the two-letter word that day, wasn’t pleasing to those who I had meant it for, but it certainly was a boost to my own self-confidence—the fact that I had uttered it.

A small step, for mankind, but a giant one, for someone like me, that had paved the way for many more such refusals to come, be it for obligations, invitations, requests, things that others were doing all the time and expecting me to do as well, even though I’d have zilch inclination to follow suit. I felt that I was now able to be more authentic as a person. It was freeing. A small change became the catalyst for something very powerful that day.

The first step is tough, but that’s not where it ends. Saying “no” to people is one thing. The real challenges come later, when one learns to say “no” to powerful emotions that are time-consuming and more often than not, self-sabotaging—like anger, distractions, obsessions, negativity, envy, jealousy, and the list goes on. On their own, these feel like normal human impulses and we all experience them at some point in our lives, but often, we find that these impositions can overwhelm and consume our lives, when we let them take over the reigns of our minds, and dictate how we should react. It is in these moments when saying a loud and firm, “No” has brought me back to myself, countless number of times. I’m a work in progress, so these challenges continue to come. But, what’s important is that I’ve learnt the power of being ruthless to things that don’t matter anymore.

The bottom line is—life is short. So, the more things we learn to say “No” to, particularly, the things that are irrelevant and unimportant to who we are and what we stand for, the more we can say “Yes” to the things that do matter to us—things that add meaning to our lives, things that bring us happiness and make our lives worthwhile and happy.


Written as part of our #SoulfulSunday free writing exercise, along with my friends, Vinitha and Shilpa.

8 thoughts

  1. The art of saying No to the things that dont bring us joy so that we can say yes to the things that matter and make our lives fulfilled- its so essential. I have not struggled a lot with it, it comes easily to me. Perhaps due to the presence of my mom who keeps reminding me that I need to put myself first, the world be damned. It was humbling to read about your journey and so glad my dear you made that transition. Much love!

  2. Saying no is not easy. It takes time to learn to say no. It takes time to understand that it is essential to say no. Love this post, Esha. I have learned to say no over the years. But sometimes I relapse to the old habit of saying yes without realizing. We need reminders. Constant reminders to put ourselves first and stand up for our choice. Sometimes that means saying no to our impulse reaction of saying yes.

  3. You have given an important reminder through your post. Yes, it is important to draw the boundary by saying No whether it is rhe smaller stuff like other people or the biggger stuff like the negative emotions we tend to carry. Taking the cue from this post, I am going to exercise the power of saying No to making boondi raita from next week whenever I will not be feeling upto it 😊

  4. So very well said, Esha: Saying “no” to people is one thing. The real challenges come later, when one learns to say “no” to powerful emotions that are time-consuming and more often than not, self-sabotaging—like anger, distractions, obsessions, negativity, envy, jealousy, and the list goes on.

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