I am a self-professed people-pleaser. I avoid conflict, despise disappointment, and eschew tension. I’m not a rabble-rouser, a pot-stirrer or a scallywag. (Full disclosure: I’m not 100% sure what a “scallywag” is, but it sounds fun.) I want people to like me, dammit! I am polite as fuck and just want everyone to be happy, which means that I also have a really hard time saying no. And by “really hard time,” I mean avoid it like the plague.
What would happen if I did say no? Would people be mad at me? Would they think I was weak or lazy? Would I seem bitchy or asshole-ish? Would they be disappointed or not like me?
The stress and anxiety of dealing with the potential fallout of saying no is more than I can handle, so I say yes — a lot.
I say yes to things I don’t want to do, and to things that I shouldn’t do, and to things that don’t really matter, and before I know it, I feel like I’m drowning and have no control over my own damn life. Pretty soon, I’m losing my shit, snapping at my kids, and freaking the fuck out on my husband about stupid stuff like socks on the floor. Then I feel like a failure at just about everything, and all because I couldn’t say no when someone asked if I could help at the bake sale or go to an MLM sales party masquerading as moms’ night out.
A few weeks ago, I had a little bit of an epiphany — and by “epiphany,” I mean a total emotional meltdown — when I realized that I simply can’t do it all or make everyone happy. Try as I might, not everyone will like me. Enough was enough, and I decided to be a bit more judicious with my yesses and a little more generous with my nopes.
I’m not gonna pretend that I was confident and chill about it — not in the slightest. In fact, I was terrified that people would be pissed and disappointed, or god forbid, they might not like me. I didn’t want to be rude, for fuck’s sake.
But I was suffocating under the weight of shit I didn’t want or need to do — and even things that I wanted to do but just couldn’t manage to squeeze in without making myself and my family crazy — and something had to give. Fuck it, I thought, and I decided to get a little more liberal with my nopes.
Could I be room mom for my son’s class? Nope.
Could I come to your second cousin’s neighbor’s daughter’s wedding? Nope.
Could I make it to your moms’ night out/sales pitch? Nope.
Could I go to that big football game that everyone from college was going to? Nope (even though I really wanted to go).
Could I cook dinner? Nope. (Grab Thai on the way home? That’s a hell yes!)
And a funny thing started to happen once I became more liberal with my fuck-its and my nopes — absolutely nothing. The world didn’t come crashing down. People weren’t mad at me (and if they were, they hid it pretty damn well). I didn’t seem like a bitch or an asshole because I’m not a bitch or an asshole. I’m just more protective of my time and aware of my limits. In fact, I was still polite as fuck with my nopes. I even said “no, thank you” and “probably not” and “thanks, but no thanks” quite a bit. Sometimes I offered an explanation for my nope, and other times I didn’t, because guess what, “Nope” is a complete sentence.
There is something liberating about taking back control of my life, and something profoundly satisfying about saving my yesses for the people and things that really matter to me. Sure, it’s hard, and I sometimes get a case of FOMO, but instead of trying to please all the people all the time, I’m giving more of my time and energy to the people I respect, appreciate, and care about, and who respect, appreciate, and care about me too.
And do you know what else? Not everyone will like me even if I am a slut with my yesses. I could make it rain up in here with yesses and people-pleasing bullshit, and that still won’t change anything. The simple truth is that I can’t make every motherfucker happy all the motherfucking time. I am not a cat video, for fuck’s sake. Not everyone is going to like me anyway, so why should I kill myself with all the yesses?
Nope. Can’t do it. Not anymore.
But while I might be less of a people-pleaser and more of a rabble-rouser these days, I’m still kind, gentle, and polite AF. This means that sometimes my nopes sound an awful lot like “I’m sorry, but no fucking thank you.”