When was the last time you said yes to something to please others? Last week? Yesterday? Maybe even today? Well, this is something I do all the time.
I'm the colleague who will offer to take on that crappy work task that everyone not-so-subtlety said no to by avoiding all eye contact when it was pitched in a team meeting just because I feel bad that no one is offering. I'm the friend who will offer to drive 5 times further than anyone else when agreeing on a place to meet in fear of coming across too selfish by asking people to travel further up north, only to realise the next day that I have 5 times further to go to get home. Not ideal when you're accompanied by an unwanted stinking hangover and an overwhelming need for sleep.
I am fully aware that my inability to say no has a detrimental effect on my self esteem, yet I continue to do it. WHY?! By putting other people's needs above my own, I was telling myself my needs are less important. I was telling myself that I was less important. This week, I channeled my inner Karamo Brown and decided that was going to change. (And if you don't know who Karamo Brown is, you need Queer Eye in your life, pronto. Seriously though, where the hell have you been without the Fab Five in your life?!)
1st March marks what would have been my Dad's 51st birthday. As some of you reading this may know, my Dad sadly died in 2013 at the age of 45. The one thing I'd feared as a child had became a living nightmare. This great influence in my life that I absolutely adored and idolised was taken from us. It's something we, as a family, each struggle with every day, but something we have no choice but to live with.
As anyone who has lost someone will know, birthdays, anniversaries and any signficant dates in the calendar are overshadowed by a sense of loss. You can never predict how you're going to feel, so you prepare for every possible emotion.
This year, Dad's birthday fell on a leaving party that had been organised for my now former housemate. In fear of letting anyone down, I committed to the event, knowing full well it was Dad's birthday. As the days rolled by and the date crept ever closer, I became increasingly stressed about how I could mask my feelings on the day. How did I pretend it was just another day? How did I suppress my grief and make sure I didn't ruin the night for everyone? As you can see, my concerns were completely focused on everyone else. I was suffering because I was so worried about what other people might think. But what about me? What did I think and need? Why wasn't that important to me?
So, this week, I decided to do something completely out of character. I decided to put myself first for once and plucked up the courage to ask my former housemate if she would mind if I headed home to be with my family on such a significant day. Pretty understandable, right? Normally, I'm all for eating my body weight in tacos, drinking too much prosecco and hitting the d floor, like we'd planned for her leaving do, but it simply landed on the wrong day.
The truth is, if people are really your friends, they'll understand why you need to put yourself first sometimes. You can tell when someone has a genuine reason for declining an invite and when someone is just simply being a lazy sod. I think we can all admit that we have committed to things in the past out of fear of disappointing someone. We predict the conversation before it has even taken place- a full blown role play in our heads with 75 different, often unrealistic, outcomes. But guess what? 9 times out of 10 it's fine and people do understand when it's for the right reasons, just like my old housemate did. And as for that 10th time? Well, there is only one acceptable and celebrated diva in this world and that's RuPaul. Anyone else can literally sashay away.
Just to make it clear, I'm not suggesting you now start declining work meetings because scrolling through memes on insta is how you'd prefer to spend your day. Sadly, there are some things we can't say no to in life (well, not unless we want to end up unemployed). I'm simply saying that I have personally found that it's okay to say no to some things in life and I feel more empowered doing so. It taught me that next time I agree to anything, my needs and wants should be my first consideration and concern.
I know there will be plenty of people who struggle to say no too. So, just to prove how easy it could be, let's practice saying no together now. I've even collated a list of questions which are certain to generate such a strong response:
Is there anyone left in the UK who isn't sick of hearing the word Brexit 8,000 times a day?
Is there a greater national treasure than Sir David Attenborough?
Should people who dislike dogs be trusted?
See! Saying no isn't so hard, is it?
So, to sum up my learnings for this week, I will no longer automatically say yes to anything just to please others... but I can't promise anything if Harry Styles, Tom Hardy or Ryan Gosling are thrown into the mix.