Towards the beginning of the 2017, I was throwing around the idea of starting up a blog and was really struggling to come up with a name and concept. Yes + No was one I thought of for a minute before F-Perfection was born months later. Those two words have become really important to me over the last year.
Last year I went through some major self-realization and let me tell you it was a whirlwind of emotions. The first year out of college was not an easy time for me mentally and emotionally. I was confused, sad, anxious and depressed all of the time and I didn’t really ever know why. The first year out totally sucks so I’m sorry to any recent graduates who are reading this right now who I just scared. It gets so much better I promise you.
I cried too much for no reason and said no to every opportunity that came my way, whether that was a new job or a date. The only times I said yes were when it was to help someone in my life who needed it—never to help myself.
After way too much time spent feeling sorry for myself, I knew then that I had to do something about it. Through a lot of time spent thinking about what I wanted from my life, a lot of time talking to my friends (and my mom) about how I can be less anxious and a lot of time talking to my therapist who urged me to be kinder to myself and put myself first, I learned one of the most valuable lessons. That lesson is that there’s a time to say yes and a time to say no.
A friend said something to me that I’ll never forget last summer. She said:
“I love how much you say yes now. You stopped being like that for a while and I can just tell you’re in such a better place in your life because of it.”
She was right.
For a long time, I was hesitant to say yes to experiences. I was scared to say yes to anything that was scary. I was resistant to say yes to anything that wasn’t a part of my plan. Spontaneity wasn’t my forte and I didn’t want it to be.
If I didn’t plan to go out on a Friday night and just wanted to go home after work and lay in my bed, I would do that even if I was invited to do something totally fun instead. Going from my “say yes to senior year” mentality in college and never passing up on doing something fun with my friends to this was a pretty abrupt change in my behavior. It’s how I knew something wasn’t right with me at that time.
Once I learned that life is way more fun when you actually say yes to things that scare you or you’re unsure of, it was all gravy. That’s thanks to my mom who encouraged me to do whatever makes me happy. To my friends, who push me to have fun even when I don’t want to. To my roommates, who make it easy to say yes to going for a run to the bars in town after work. And to so many other people.
Towards the end of 2016 I said yes to moving out on my own with girls I didn’t know super well in a town I had never been to. I said yes to a new career opportunity that was a little scary to commit to. I said yes to this blog, to opening myself up to guys, to getting two tattoos (but actually though, who am I?).
Saying yes is awesome.
Which brings me to saying no.
While I had trouble saying yes a lot of the time, I had an equally (maybe even more) difficult time saying no. Saying yes, like I said, is crucial to your happiness. But it took me a long time to learn that I should only say yes to things that are going to bring me joy and not just bring joy to others.
I am a fixer, a helper and a listener. I put other people’s needs in front of my own and I always have. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of selfish moments just like every other human being.
As someone with a guilty conscience, I almost always said yes if someone needed something from me, a friend needed me to be there or a person in my life needed me to drop everything for them. This is one of the most unhealthy things I never realized I did.
I’ll probably never change my ways fully. I am who I am. But realizing that it’s okay for me to say no sometimes was one of the most important things I’ve ever done. Putting myself first still feels funny to me. I was never really that nice to myself to begin with. It’s taken me a long time to practice self-care.
If someone needs me, I’m there in a heartbeat in the way that I can be. But if something is going to make me feel sad, mad, annoyed, inconvenienced or anything other than feel good about what I’m doing, then I’ll say no the majority of the time.
When it comes down to it, it’s all about balance. Say yes to going to happy hour after work with your best friends. But say no if you have a pounding headache and all you want is your Kindle and a cup of tea. Say yes to going on a coffee date with the guy who lives down the street. But say no if you really wanted to go to the mall with your girlfriends instead and just feel bad turning him down.
Say yes whenever you can. Say no whenever you need to. When you do that, you’ll be happier and the people you care about will be happier, too.