Girl Talk: Learning To Say No

by The Frisky

Girl TalkLast week I found myself alone in my room on a Sunday afternoon trying to write a few pages of my book. Nothing was happening. I stared out the window, almost unable to move. It was the most beautiful day out, probably the last warm one of the year.

Shouldn’t I be outside?

I was interrupted by four consecutive text messages. I had accidentally double booked plans that evening. Another friend wanted to have coffee with me. I had six unreturned voice mails. I needed to return them. Then I needed to do my laundry and go grocery shopping. I didn’t have the energy to do any of it. I hid my phone under my pillow. I slammed my computer closed. And I cried.

Not because I was sad. I cried because I was exhausted. I cried because I felt guilty about not returning phone calls anymore. Felt disappointed that I couldn’t write any pages to present at writing group. Felt like a loser for being unable to move from my bed on a sunny Sunday afternoon. I was overwhelmed by the fear that I was failing in some way. I knew it was irrational, but I couldn’t stop the thought from coming.

I’m not doing enough. I’m not good enough.

As an (almost) 33-year-old woman, the Universe was forcing me to come to terms with a fact I had been avoiding: I could no longer do everything. I needed to learn how to say NO before I destroyed myself.

Around the age of 23, my little-achiever- that -could engine revved up. Since then, I have been on a decade-long dash to live, love, and accomplish as much as humanly possible. Get a career I love, be a valuable employee, have meaningful, romantic relationships, keep up an active social life, maintain close friendships, be a good daughter, be a mentor to young people, work out five days a week, eat healthy, pay every bill on time, get my crap sorted out in therapy, read every noteworthy book, see every movie, listen to every new band, write a book, return every email, phone call, text message, be kind to people, be considerate of their feelings. This list continues ad nauseum.

My drive to “do” has helped me carve out a nice little niche in the world. I landed the dream job,have had a number of meaningful romances, am the steady and helpful employee, the friend everyone can count on to show up at their birthday party, the mentor a few young women rely on, the creative dynamo who shows up at writing group with new pages every week, the yogi who braves a snow storm to show up for class, the person you can always depend on. But this comes at a price.

When my mother was just a couple years older than me, she was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. For a period of time, I would come home after school and find her sitting in her bed unable to move, much the same position I found myself in last week.

I understood for the first time how she got to that way. My mom goes, goes, goes until there is no gas in the tank. I learned how to do it from her. I come from a family of people that do it. I believe they refer to us as “people pleasers.” While I’m not as concerned with what people think of me as some of my other family members are, I am concerned about pleasing. The way I do that is by trying to do more than I am humanly capable of. I am driven to say YES to everything!

I can’t do it anymore, I thought, wiping tears off my face.

While my intentions come from a good place. I realize that they are part of my perfectionist complex, an antidote to my fear of failure. I don’t need to be afraid to fail anymore. I am already a success.

Saying yes to everything isn’t serving me anymore. This year, my New Year’s resolution is to learn how to get comfortable with saying NO. NO to social engagements every night of the week, NO to yoga class in a snowstorm, NO to booking my life so full that there’s no room left for me. NO, NO, NO. I want to learn to say it without guilt. I need to say NO, so I can say YES to myself, so I have fuel to create the things I want for the next decade of my life. So I can regain my sparkle. So I can replenish my energy.

This year, I am letting go of “doing.” I want to be secure in the knowledge that my best is good enough. That people will accept me as I am. That who I am, without effort, is good enough.


This post originally appeared on The Frisky. Republished with permission.

  • Cocochanel31

    YES AMEN SISTA! I totally feel the same way! I don’t know if it has to do with turning 30 and just not giving a “fugg” but I am now more in tune with my body’s need to do NOTHING SOMETIMES! I am constantly on the go, running here, running there, and have little time to recharge my batteries. As i become a little older and wiser, I am realizing I don’t have to attend every invitation extended to me, it is quite alright to say thanks but no thanks!

  • Guess

    OMG! I couldve written this story myself. As the daughter of a wel-educated single mother who could be considered a zealot Christian and avid people pleaser, fear of failure, perfectionism & guilt have been driving forces for the majority of my adult life. Fortunately, I’ve finally come to a healthy place where I’m able to maintain boundaries & actually enjoy Me. I’ve accomplished a great deal & am very educated with a lot of accolades being thrust in my direction. But, this came at a very substantial cost. I’m in my late 30s now & still struggle with experiencing very sad moments when I think of the losses & humiliating moments… Fabulous article.

  • Millie

    I can so relate to this article. I was Ms. Busy Body and People pleaser. I always had a full calendar and event to attend. Always there for my friends and especially my family through thick and thin. Then one day, my luck turned for the worst I lost my job. I learned quickly who were my true friends and which family members really have/had my back. It was a tough life lesson but I am truly grateful the Lord taught me this in my late twenties. Now I make myself a priority. I take pleasure in staying in lounging around on my new BFF my couch. I know have found the words to say NO!!!!!! NO you can’t borrow some money! No I will not be attending so and so’s party! No I dont feel like driving this girl’s trip to DC. I have taken back my power and I love it!

  • onegirl

    I think most women can relate to this article. It’s wonderfully written and so true. I wish you the best with your new resolution. It’s time do what YOU want to do, and it’s ok to say ‘no’ without having an excuse as to why.

  • Crystal Spraggins

    I’m in my forties and still struggle with this, although I’m getting better. For women, I don’t think it ever goes away completely, because we are the primary caretakers and as black women, often the primary breadwinners, too. So, there are a lot of people counting on us to do stuff. But, nobody can be in two places at once. That’s what I tell myself when I get overextended. Also, I’m introverted, so if I don’t get my quiet time there will be hell to pay! Talk about evil. So, I have to keep relearning that I can’t do it all, and it’s okay. It’s okay.

  • amak

    As usual, Clutch seems to always publish articles that I need to hear! I’ve been struggling with this too. I graduated undergrad in May and since then have been trying to establish a life for myself–socially, professionally, financially, emotionally–that I have control over, that I shape, but I’ve found myself falling into that “people pleaser” habit of saying yes when I don’t have enough money, saying yes when I am too tired/uninterested, saying yes when I had plans to do something for me-and for what? At the end of the day, the dedication you spend on people, is not always something that people are going to do for you when you need it most. We have to learn to invest in what’s really important ( I guess that’s what I’ve been telling myself)–and one of those things/people is yourself.

    “NO to booking my life so full that there’s no room left for me. “

Latest Stories

Black Excellence: DC Area Triplets Debate Over Which Ivy League School To Attend


Michael Rapaport Says Brooklyn Got Better After Gentrification


Don’t Date This Man, He May Steal Your Dog & Television


Why Oiling Your Scalp May Not Be Such A Bad Idea

More in Life, the frisky
5 Ridiculously Simple Ways To Increase The Love In Your Life

9 Reasons I Love My Period