Friday, January 6, 2023

The Power of "No" in the New Year

It's that time again. You know the vibes: when the start of a new year finds us saying "yes" to darn near any and everything from book clubs to basket weaving courses to lion taming classes. We start (or restart) gym memberships, declare healthier eating habits, commit to increase our spirtual growth, and vow to connect more with family and friends. And there's no debate that many of these are noble, well-intentioned ideas that may encourage growth and benefit our lives. Yet if past behavior is any indicator of future behavior, somewhere around the end of the first quarter, we discover we've added too much to our plates and hit our burnout wall on our paths to becoming our best selves. 

Let's face it: In Western civilization, we are conditioned, encouraged, and even celebrated for what we can do and how much we can juggle. Be it on the job or even in our homes, terms like "superwoman" and "superman," "hustler," "go-getter," and the "strong black man/woman" trope become both our identities and the albatrosses around our necks we can't seem to free ourselves from. Feelings of not enough or not doing enough abound. And it's not long before our mental, emotional, and physical health are at stake. So, here's a radical idea for us all in 2023: just say "no." No to the parties and brunches we aren't excited to attend; no to staying in group chats and social circles that drain us more than they uplift us; no to chairing one more event or group; no to adding more hours to our work day (especially when not even asked to!); no to being the first to volunteer to bake the cupcakes for your child's class; no to coaching one more little league sport; no to any and everything that we discover we're doing more of for others than for what serves our highest purpose and brings us joy. Sorry, Nike, we're no longer "just doing it."

Ironically, saying "yes" isn't often a struggle folks wrestle with. Instead, it's the fear of the backlash one may receive to saying "no." The fear that a "no" or a "decline" will be interpreted as something more than all it really is: a vote for oneself. But if the many (and often humorous) TikTok stories and Instagram posts about saying "no" in exchange for self care; about the elation of canceled events; and even about women leaning more into their soft-feminine-get-somebody-else-to-do-it self are any indication of the fatigue many are feeling as the world demands more of our time and energy, setting boundaries is the one thing we all should be saying "yes" to in 2023. According to a 2021 article in Psychology Today, saying "no" can even increase your self-esteem and build confidence because, let's face it, doing so can be both scary and uncomfortable. But the more you do it; the more you exercise that muscle of prioritizing you, the easier it becomes to advocate for yourself and, at the same time, make room for those things you really want to say "yes" to: those things that bring you authentic joy and that only need to be defined by you. As a wise person once said, if you want more time, freedom, and energy, start saying "no."

And parents, that means you too! Take a break from those parental demands, lock those bathroom doors, and indulge in your candlelight, wine sipping bubble baths for an hour. Or hit up those ax throwing breweries and cut up with the crew for a few. But, again, only if you want to ;-). After all, we can't be our best for anyone else until we're our best to ourselves first. In the unfortunate wake of premature health-related deaths and the increase of suicides, it is imperative that we prioritize and protect our mental health, learn the power of eliminating that which does not fulfill us, and intentionally lean into those things that do. As author Paulo Coelho stated, "When you say 'yes' to others, make sure you are not saying 'no' to yourself." Remember, self-care is giving the world the best of you, instead of what’s left of you (cr: Katie Reed). So, practice those "no's," good people. Eliminate the excess, and instead say "yes" to only those things that will replenish and restore you in the new year. 

Happy New Year, Everyone! 

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