This past year, I’ve been reflecting on the importance of saying NO. Despite the fact that the word is one of the shortest in the English language, it carries with it great weight. As military spouses, husbands, wives, friends, mothers, fathers, members of the military community, and our local communities, we often find ourselves at a crossroads: when do I say no and when do I say yes? How often have we begrudgingly said yes when we really wanted to say no? And how long do we carry a burden of guilt when we finally admit that we’re overbooked, overtired, overworked, over it all?
For years, I carried with me a resentment, a perpetual ‘we can do it!, yes, we can!’ attitude when approaching projects, events, favors, and additional schoolwork. Instead of relishing the project at hand, I ended up muddling through with a wane smile on my face– never questioning whether I was enjoying myself because I was too busy saying, ‘OK’ to something else.
No is a powerful tool in our arsenal. It’s one we should all feel comfortable using. This year, I have learned that saying no is not an admission of failure, but rather, a gift to myself. None of us should go at it alone all the time; perhaps it isn’t until we can say no that we are able to discover the beauty in our relationships with others, and the beauty within ourselves.
Correspondingly, it was also during the year of no, that I learned the importance of yes. My mind cleared from superfluous obligations, I was better able to decipher what was and wasn’t worth the time-and when a weary OK should be replaced with a hearty YES! Here are nine of those instances:
9. Say yes to a new friendship.
Whether you’ve recently moved or there’s a new neighbor on the block, say yes to the possibility of friendship. Instead of playing into the taxing urge to perform or self-doubt, take the time to check your anxiety at the door and drop by theirs. I have met some of my best friends in the most roundabout ways, and many of them were when I dragged myself out of seclusion and put myself in a situation where I wasn’t entirely comfortable. And for all of them, I am a richer, more well rounded, happier person. Netflix and social media and the comfort of your house will still be waiting for you when you return.
8. If you have them, say yes to your children.
I have a three week old and a two and a half year old. Though I promised myself I wouldn’t be that parent, I’ve found myself saying my fair share of nos. Some of those (many of those) were warranted, but some weren’t. The other day when my daughter looked at me and asked me to play blocks with her, I took a deep breath, closed my computer, and took a thirty-minute break. Children grow up fast but there will always be another email emergency.
7. Say yes to your spouse
Say yes to genuine questions and conversation. It’s very easy to get caught up in the rote pleasantries of conversation. ‘How was your day, hon?’ Fine. ‘How was yours?’ ‘It was good, the kids were a little nuts and we’re out of milk and…’ Instead, say yes to at least five minutes of genuine, solid conversation. Don’t ask how their day was and move on, ask them to explain their favorite part of the day. Or, ask them about their most challenging moment and how they handled the situation. When we feel heard and respected, we feel healthier, happier, and go forth with stronger relationships. Apply this rule also to trusted parents, aunts, uncles, and siblings.
6. Say yes to forgiveness
This is a very difficult, perhaps the most difficult, item on the list. It is also a giant cliche. But it is a cliche for a reason. Forgiveness does not absolve anyone of their sins, but it does free your heart to trust those who might be the perfect elixir to heal past wounds. My mother, father, and my husband gave me great advice this year-to forgive and to move on-after all, there are really crummy people in this world, and chances are, someone that has the capability to hurt with ease has likely spent little time considering you or your feelings. Don’t give them the power to continue to hurt you. Forgive them, stay far away from them, and thank your lucky stars you have the capability to love and respect.
5. Say yes to hand-written notes
In today’s technology driven world, a hand-written note is like the golden ticket. When you take the time to write a hand-written note, you communicate gratitude, a sense of professionalism, and respect.
4. Say yes to a little extra work
I realize this sounds hypocritical when placed near my earlier message of saying no, but do find an aspect of your career or life that you enjoy, and say yes to going the extra mile. Ambition, guts, and hard work are the tenants of success and satisfaction.
3. But, drop the pride and ego of self-advancement, and say yes to teamwork.
Many of us have experienced situations where we’ve felt the need to reside on an island we’ve built on the backs of others before we’ll ever move up. But personal experience teaches me that the most rewarding and satisfying jobs and office environments are those in which the employees work together as a loyal team. Say no to stepping on others to get ahead, and say yes to pulling others up with you. You may get burned occasionally, but you will also likely (and with good reason) enjoy the respect of your colleagues. When you make it to that corner office, you’ll do so with a clear conscious and in a healthy environment of your creation.
2. Say yes to one volunteer opportunity or charity
Pick one, and focus on it: church activities, a local food-bank, visiting a nursing home, or spending a few hours helping at an animal shelter. Even if you can’t volunteer your time, say yes to donating a few dollars or household goods to a charity you respect. Serving others is one of life’s simplest, and most-rewarding therapies.
1. Say yes to yourself
Above all, say yes to yourself. There’s a reason the airlines tell you to put your mask on first and then on others. So often, it’s like we’re flying around in an airplane that is slowly depressurizing and we’re panicking trying to fit everyone else’s mask on but our own. Do say yes to treating yourself: with exercise, with kindness, with a long bath or shower, by standing up for yourself, with TIME. Say yes to who you are instead of trying to mask your feelings and opinions in order to please others. Say yes to discovering what makes you happy, instead of looking towards others to outline your own happiness. Say yes to your needs: you won’t get what you want out of life unless you have the courage to ask for it, and that includes your personal wellness.