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.