By Jerrica Ching
I recently had a conversation with a coworker on the difficulties that I have with uttering the two-letter word of “no.” Beginning in my undergraduate years, I struggled with not associating this word with lack of competence or confidence, and found myself feeling guilty and second-guessing my decisions when I use it. Why is a tiny two-letter word so hard to say sometimes?
Through my work as a mental health therapist I often share with clients that some behaviors are motivated by fear. The anxious person refuses to go outside out of fear that something awful will happen. I also stress with clients that even though our mind can rationalize that nothing awful has ever happened or will happen, sometimes going out of one’s comfort zone can elicit a brand new sense of fear. The anxious person has become accustomed to staying inside because the fear of something new is scarier than the fear of something awful. Taking a page out of my own book, I believe that sometimes I have difficulty with saying “no” because I have been accustomed for so long to be a “yes” person. The “yes” person will always take on any new challenge — whether it is at work, with family, friends, personal errands, etc. even if they have 10 other unfinished tasks to complete. The “yes” person is reliable, dependable, and a go-getter. Why would I choose to be anything but a “yes” person?
To answer that, I need to first look at who I believe a “no” person is. During my quest for perfectionism in college (and somewhat still today), I associated a “no” person with someone who is afraid of challenges and who is incapable. The “no” person was someone who was not respectable, not responsible, and lazy. The “no” person would not be asked to be in charge of new projects and would not earn the esteem and recognition of colleagues.
After going through years of self-reflection in graduate school and working in the helping profession, I have learned that it is okay to be a “no” person. A “no” person is someone who recognizes the boundaries in place to prevent work life from spilling into personal life, and to prevent concerns within friendships from permeating into time with one’s family. A “no” person is someone who understands that the amount of tasks completed do not reflect one’s value or one’s worth. A “no” person is someone who knows that saying “no” will not cause the world to end, will not cause anybody to doubt one’s potential or capabilities, and will not diminish one’s significance.
It was also important for me to realize that I don’t have to choose between being the “yes” person or the “no” person. It isn’t an all or nothing decision, but rather a harmonious balance between the two. I can be the “yes” person when I want to be, and I can also be the “no” person when I want to be. God does not keep track of how many times we say yes, nor does He keep track of how many times we say no. Let’s not let our fears of familiarity or our fears of something novel prevent us from living a balanced life that uses our God-given gifts that honor His glory. Let’s learn to say “yes” to saying “no.”
Jerrica KF Ching lives in the beautiful state of Washington and works as a Mental Health Primary Care Provider serving children, adolescents, and their families at Columbia Wellness. She graduated with an MA in Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling from George Fox University and is working towards becoming a licensed marriage and family therapist.