Saying, "yes" to saying, "no."

“No.” is a complete sentence.


Like any good group message, my #girlgang group chat is filled with delightfully inappropriate conversation, a plethora of comments that make me laugh out loud, adorable photos of babies (of the human and dog kind) unwavering bi-coastal love and incredible support for one another. 

So, thank you to my dear friend, Emi, for snapping this Instagram post, sharing with our group chat and inspiring this blog post. (Although, jury’s still out on getting kids to understand this complete sentence.)

I don’t know about you, but I’ve said “yes” to more asks, tasks, nights out, and events than I can count that caused me an insane amount of anxiety over the years. I felt like… I should go to the bar. I should be a good friend / partner. I should do as much as I possibly can. I should help in any way I can. I should go out and be in a good mood. I should say yes.

Don’t get me wrong, I love girl’s nights & date nights, I love helping others when I can and I do think it’s important to push past our comfort zones and say yes to new things.

However, saying “yes” to anything, everything and everyone, or saying “yes” because you feel like you “should” is sure to lead to burnout, anxiety, exhaustion, or [insert unpleasant term here]. At least, it has for me.

Logically, we all know that there is nothing wrong with saying “no”. So, why are we plagued with feeling like we have to say yes to everything?

I think – and feel this is especially true for a lot of women – it comes down to putting others’ needs before our own.

Side note: Let someone else feel good about being a good friend, a good family member, a good partner… stop telling yourself that you’re a burden and let someone else help you the way you’ve helped them, no matter how big or small

I feed off helping other people because it makes me feel like I have a sense of purpose. I genuinely enjoy doing things for others, as I think a lot of people do. We all want to be a good friend, a good daughter, a good partner.

I’ll be the first to say that I think the desire to help others is a great quality to possess. And I’ll also admit that I sometimes care so much about how others feel that I spent years putting everyone else’s needs before mine, repeatedly.

I once heard an analogy about putting yourself first that was brilliant.

You know how when you’re on an airplane, they tell you that should the oxygen masks drop in case of an emergency, you should always put your mask on first before helping others?

There’s a reason the flight attendants say this – because you can’t help others unless you help yourself. Because, if you are so worried about helping others that you don’t put your oxygen mask on, there’s a chance that you not only are unable to help yourself, but you’re now unable to help others. The same goes for taking care of yourself in real life!

You may feel like you “should” put others first, but if you’re doing that over and over again, you’re putting your needs second and eventually, you’re going to run out of oxygen. “Should” has become such a poisonous term in my own life that I’m constantly making an effort to remove it from my vocabulary. Why do we feel so many obligations towards others but so little towards ourselves?   

And, what does all of this have to do with saying, “no”? 

When you say “no” to something else, you’re saying “yes” to yourself. 

I repeat this to myself constantly because I need the reminder.

Self-care is not selfish.

Self-love is not selfish. 

Can you imagine the kind of world we’d live in if everyone loved themselves – not from the ego, but from the heart – truly and wholly down to their bones? There’d be a lot less hate, jealously, and rage, and a lot more compassion and empathy, for starters.

If you’re still having trouble saying no because you feel an untiring need to help others, remember that you can’t help others unless you help yourself.

It’s okay to say no and it’s okay to put yourself first sometimes. This has been one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in working through my anxiety, and I hope by sharing this that I can give at least one person the courage to say, “no”.