The Power of No

Article on how the word “no” is a powerful and positive sentence and rejecting everything you do not like is very good for your overall well being. Also talk a lot about how we tend to react to “no” in a negative manner and how that is very self-centered

Wanted to write down few thoughts around how “No” is both a complete sentence, a powerful sentence and an incredibly positive one. Those that view “no” as a negative word are looking at it from a very self-centered and selfish, if not outright narcissistic, point of view. Hold on and let me explain.

I need to start by defining couple of words, self-care and selfish. While self-care and selfish may seem remarkably similar words they are in fact quite different, if not actually opposite.

I am defining self-care as things you do to look after your mental and physical wellbeing. Some say this is spa days and pampering but I think that is a very narrow and, possible privileged, view of things, which is OK I guess for those privileged enough to be able to afford that. When I am talking about self-care, I am talking about getting enough sleep, getting the right amount of movement and exercise that is right for you, eating well (I’m leaving it up to the reader to define that as they see fit), and taking the time to do the things that you find relaxing and stress reducing. For some spa days and pampering is relaxing, for others it is stress inducing. The point here is that self-care is highly personal and is about ensuring you are doing things to maintain optimal physical and mental health. Since we are all different there is no one size fits all when it comes to self-care. One more point here, self-care is something you do for yourself. Others doing stuff for you maybe pampering, love language, care for you, and whole host of other positive words but I would not put that under self-care.

I would define selfish as a label used by others to criticize others for prioritizing self-care over what they want.

Let me give an example of the two, starting with setting the scene. Joan has had an incredibly stressful week and needs to de-stress and relax to maintain mental wellbeing. For Joan, the best way to de-stress and relax is to spend an evening soaking in the tub, then go to the couch and watch Netflix, all alone. It not only relaxes her but recharges her. It has been weeks if not months since she has taken the time for some “me time” as she typically spends her spare time taking care of others, hanging with her friends, etc. She always has fun spending time with her friends, but “peopling” as she calls spending time with other folks, is very draining for her.

Joan’s best friend is Reba, and they see each 2-3 times a week and have been doing that for 20 years since they first met. While Joan is very fond of Reba and loves spending time with her, they have different idea of what is relaxing and energizing. To Reba, going out clubbing is both fun, relaxing and energizing. While Joan always has a fun time hitting the clubs with Reba, she finds those outings draining and sometimes even stressful. Reba just called Joan to ask her to go clubbing with her just because it is Friday evening and Friday evenings are for clubbing.

Since Joan is in a desperate need of recharging, relaxing, and de-stressing, declining Reba’s invite would be self-care, as Reba’s plan is the opposite of what she needs. Postponing here relaxation night would be putting Reba’s wants/needs above her own which is something we are all toxicly trained to do. However neglecting our needs comes at a high long-term cost.

If Reba were a true and understanding friend, she would totally understand this and let Joan do what she needs to recharge. However, if Reba would interpret the decline as a rejection and become offended that would be a very selfish reaction from Reba as it is solely focused on what Reba wants and ignoring Joan’s needs.

Self-care is always about what you need to do for yourself, by definition it can not involve anyone else (hence the “self” part) unless it is their job such as massage therapist or a nail technician. Therefor it can never be argued that one person self-care is blocking another person self-care. You can argue that Reba going clubbing by herself, is her form of self-care, however you can not argue that Joan not going with her is inhibiting her self-care. Despite how great of friends they are or how long they have known each other, neither one owes the other anything. Now if Reba were having a really tough time and really needed a friend, that would be a totally different scenario. However that is not the scenario here. This scenario is just any other day.

Now that I have explained my view on selfish vs self-care lets dig into how “no” is a powerful, positive, and complete sentence.

First, I think we can all agree that maintaining optimal physical and mental wellbeing (however you define that) is a positive thing, and if we agree on my definition of self-care then we can agree that act of self-care is a positive thing.

The above scenario is around social friends. This concept of “no” being a positive thing is not limited to that scenario, it applies to every type of scenario. It includes but is not limited to the following:

  • Some person on the internet wants to pick your brain
  • Someone wants you to volunteer your time
  • Recruiter wanting to tell you about a great position
  • Salesperson wants to show you the latest whizzbang and invoking FOMO
  • Request for romantic date
  • Etc

You do not owe anyone anything in these situations, nothing wrong with saying yes to any of them as long as it does not compromise your ability to maintain your ideal mental and physical wellbeing.

We all have finite amount of time in each day, so it is critical that we safeguard it and prioritize how we spend our time. We can not do this if we are not willing to say “no.” We also do not owe anyone an explanation of how we are prioritizing our time. Therefor we do not need to say anything beyond just a simple “no.” Since we don’t need to say anything else, that makes “no” a complete sentence. It is powerful because by saying no, you are taking control of your time. It is a positive word because by saying “no” you are freeing yourself so you can take care of yourself, which is a powerful and positive thing.

This also extends well beyond just guarding your free time and into all other aspect of your life. For example setting boundaries and enforcing them, in terms of proximity to other folks, touch, etc. Keeping your distance from folks is self-care, so is not letting folks touch you that you do not want to touch. Therefore in each and every situation saying “no” to things you do not want is a powerful, wonderful, and positive thing. On the other hand, so is say “yes” to the things you DO want. Small tangent: never let anyone tell you or control what you do or do not want. Haters will hate, and shamers will shame, ignore them, and do your thing regardless of what that may be. See discussion later on about liking everyone for more on this.

This is not only applicable on a personal level; this also applies at the company level. For example when a company is hiring for a position, they say yes to the person they feel is the best fit for their need and no to everyone else. This is an incredibly positive thing for the company.

Now I know society tends to take an extremely negative view of the word “no.” Folks often go through all sorts of mental gymnastics in an attempt to find out if a request is likely to be denied so they do not have to hear the word “no” rather than just make the request directly. Sometimes folks go so far as to not making a requests based on the flawed assumption that the request will be denied.

Noticed I said flawed assumption, meaning they are assuming rejection based on nothing but a fear of the word “no.” Of course if you know for a fact that the request will be denied it is respectful to not make the request. If you are avoiding making a request because you are afraid of rejection that is sub-optimal.

For the record I am not excluding myself from this group of folks. I am absolutely guilty of fear of reject, multiple times for sure. I am however coming to realize that is a rather sub-optimal and self-centered approach and working to correct it. This blog is part of my way to work through that. The fear of rejection is a helluva a thing, I can attest to that, and extremely hard to ignore or work through. I guess I am using this post to help me work through my fear of rejection and attempt to convince myself just how illogical and self-centered it is. Do not know if it will work or not, but it is worth a shot. Hopefully, others will benefit from my rambling as well. Maybe you can not attack a feeling with logic but I figured it is worth a shot.

I am here to argue that this fear of rejection is based on a selfish, if not outright narcissistic, point of view. Society has trained us to take all forms of “no” as a personal assault, instead of teaching us to look at is a form of self-care from the other person.

Let us look at few examples and analyze them:

You did not get that job you applied for

  • Why do you presume that you should have gotten the job over all the other candidates?
    • Do you know what they need better than they do?
    • Why make their decision all about you?
    • Why do you deserve a “Yes” but the person they hired deserved to get a “No”?

Your crush declined your date invite

  • Why do you feel you deserved a “yes”?
  • Why do you feel their rejection is all about you?

Friend did not accept your invite

  • Why do you think the rejection is personal?

In these cases I suspect our deep-seated desire to be liked by everyone, is a key factor there along with disappointment and other such things. A rejection can easily be interpreted to indicate they do not like us, regardless of how illogical and silly such interpretation might be.

Let us examine this in more details, does our deep-seated need to be like by all make sense if we think about logically. I am saying it makes absolutely no sense, let us examine my thinking there.

Of course human being are social creatures and being liked by others is a fundamental need. In fact in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs it is the third basic need of a human being, right above “Physiological needs” and “Safety”. I might even argue it belongs in the “Physiological needs” base layer. There is no question that the need to be liked by SOME is critical. It is the idea of being liked by ALL which is what we are debating here.

In order for everyone to be able to like us, we need to like everyone. This post is about self-reflection so let us start there. Does it make sense for us to like everyone? I am going with a no here, it does not make sense. I am going to take it even step further and declare that anyone that claims to like everyone is either lying or emotionally unwell.

Here I feel I need to differentiate between having goodwill towards everyone and actually liking everyone. It is one thing wish everyone well, wanting good things to come to all, etc., and totally different thing to declare you actually like everyone.

It is a well-established fact that everyone is unique and different. So if we have what I would call a normal set of things we like, it stands to reason that we can not possible like everyone because we do not like everything. Anyone claiming they like everything are likely suffering from some sort of disorder making them incapable of making a decision on anything. Again I am not talking about tolerating everything or being OK with everything, I am talking about having no preferences.

The flip side is remarkably similar. Since we are unique individuals with our likes and dislikes as well as our specific character, it is neither logical nor possible for everyone to like us. There is meme floating around the net I find appropriate here that says “You Can’t Make Everyone Happy. You Are Not Pizza.” While pizza is immensely popular it comes in dozens of varieties, and no one can agree on what type of pizza will suite everyone. There is even war of words over if pineapple on a pizza is an abomination or best thing ever. Then there even folks that do not like pizza.

So if even pizza is not liked by everyone, why do we think that someone not liking us is such a disaster? And even better question is why do we automatically assume that someone declining an offer or invite means they do not like us. We should be happy they are prioritizing their wellbeing.

As I said rejection is really hard, there is no denying that. But I fail to understand the reason it is so hard and why we fear it so much. Same goes for disappointment. I believe a person’s true character is shown in how they manage rejection and disappointment. A toxic guy will throw a temper tantrum like an entitled toddler when they do not get what they want. Any decent human being accepts rejection with calm, grace, and appreciation.

Here is another quote I find very fitting here:

“The only fundamental rule for me is to just be yourself. Let your freak-flag fly, and if someone doesn’t get you, move on.” — Drew Barrymore

In closing I just want to say that desire to be liked by all is highly illogical and we need to allow for the possibility that some people will not like us, and we need to respect that without taking it personally. I also believe that if we are true to ourselves and boldly hold up who we truly are, rather than confirming to some image or box society tries to put us in, it will lead to a happier life and the people that are right for us will find us or we will find them. Trying to make everyone like us will just make us water down who we are and turn us into fakes, and no one likes a fake. Also everyone will like something different we will expand all our energy trying to be what they like and have no energy for ourselves.

Yeah I know, easier said that done.