August 21, 2012

No is not a Bad Word, part 1


Growing up southern has given me many notions about life, one of them being that “no” is a bad word. For southern women, it seems saying no is downright out of the question. Whether we’re asked to join a committee, attend an event, help an acquaintance or give our time/efforts/money, it’s rare that we feel comfortable saying no. I’m not talking about being involved or staying busy. I’m referring to that feeling you get in your stomach after you agreed to do something you didn’t really want to do.

The problem that arises when we fail to say no is we then begin to resent the situation and people we’ve said yes to (which isn’t really fair to ourselves or to them). I love what Dr. Brene Brown says about this: It’s better to feel uncomfortable in the moment [of having to say no] than it is to feel resentment for the long-term.

But why do you think that saying no is so uncomfortable for us? I believe it has something to do with the idea that our no is going to let someone down. We put so much pressure on ourselves to be all things to all people. What if we say no to something/someone and it haunts us for the rest of our life? I don’t mean to overdramatize but I think most of us have been there.

I watched a Today show segment recently about a new condition currently affecting women called “fomo.” It stands for fear of missing out and apparently it’s something that is plaguing women everywhere. Just what are we so afraid of missing? The perfect                            (fill in your own blank). I’m learning there is no perfect anything. And many times the energy we spend chasing the illusion of that next perfect thing keeps us from enjoying the wonderfully imperfect thing that is right in front of us. To me, that would be missing out.

So, after spending much of my life feeling like “no” is a bad word, I’m learning that it isn’t. No is simply the opposite of yes. Either is an appropriate response, depending on what you feel in your heart at that moment. This also leads me to think about the implications that another person’s “no” can have in our lives. So stay tuned for part two and we’ll discuss!

{image via Wayne White his work!}


  1. I agree. As a southern woman I have a hard time saying no. But I've learned over extending myself only causes chaos.

  2. Southern Belles are able to say "no" in a way that makes the person happy to the core that they even asked!

    Just like store-bought fried chicken, it's all in the presentation!

  3. For me, saying "no" is not only liberating, but it is entirely necessary. Saying "no" frees me and opens up the "yeses" that would otherwise be blocked. As you point out, Kate, saying yes to things that we feel obligated to do only makes us bitter and resentful. It weakens our ability to do good work with a full spirit. Perhaps, saying no is really what the other person needs to hear. Maybe, like children, no is a good answer because it disciplines us.

  4. Really like your thoughts here, Kate. As a therapist, I see women everyday who are resentful of others in their history of life whom they were unable/unwilling to say "no" to. This has saddled them with a load of resentment toward others, and toward themselves. Healthy women know they can say "no" and experience the peace that comes from not over-extending themselves, and freedom from resentment that can rob so much joy from life.

  5. I have a hard time saying no. But I am learning to


Lay it on me y'all!