April 13, 2024

No. A simple two letter word. One that so many people let flow from their lips with ease. I have not been so lucky to have been blessed with such an ability. This is the reason I often work 15-hour days, spend time with people I have no interest in and over-invest myself in projects that I have no business completing.

I have inherited this habit from my father. One of the many qualities he has passed on, but one of the few I wish I did not have. My roommate believes she can help me overcome my inability to say no, yet when she asks me to buy the toilet paper for the fourth time in a row, I still find myself doing it.

Of course, the reason this is so hard to break is because it is a conditioned response. As is saying sorry when you have no need to do so. I often find myself saying: 

“I am sorry for having all these feelings, I just feel them.”

“I’m sorry to be so emotional.”

And when someone tells me I apologize too much? You guessed it, I always find myself responding with a swift: 

“I know, I’m sorry.”

The moment you lead someone to believe you are sorry is the moment you have something to be sorry for. The moment you apologize for having feelings is the moment your feelings become easily invalidated. Your apology gives others the right to dismiss you. The more you say yes, the more people will ask you for. The more you let people walk all over you, the more they will.

As I said, this is a quality I inherited from my father. My mother has no problem saying no. I am also unsure that “sorry” is in her vocabulary. I love her for that. She sits in her office, on the twelfth floor, looking out over the city. She spends much of her time traveling to London, the Philippines and Milan. Internationally kicking ass and telling people who can’t say no what to do. So, how does one transition from the person who says sorry 100 times a day to the person who hears sorry 100 times a day?

Stop being so nice. Think of yourself first. Clearly, these are things that I have yet to master but each day, when I tell someone no, I feel myself become stronger. Each time I let my feelings out with no concern of being annoying, I feel stronger. I feel closer to that top floor office and that girl boss attitude.

I will never forget the moment I read the lines written by Kate Chopin in “the Awakening.”

“I would give up the unessential; I would give up my money, I would give up my life for my children; but I wouldn’t give myself. I can’t make it more clear; it’s only something I am beginning to comprehend, which is revealing itself to me.” 

I sat in my high school honors English class and I was disgusted by her selfishness. I imagined my life as a mother and what I would do for my future children. Now I look back and I understand. It’s a beautiful truth. You can be selfish and say no and still radiate love. You don’t have to always be sorry. 

Of course, in the very same story, Edna, the one who refuses to give herself up struggles to even become herself because she is not what society wants. She struggles to cast aside those who do not accept her for who she is. She conforms to what they want. She spends way too much time saying sorry, and she does not say no with ease, until moments before her death. 

With the help of Edna, Chopin reminds me that saying no is a process. Being nice is possible without apologizing. Love and healthy relationships are possible with honest emotion. You can be too nice.

Over the past year, at age 21, I have finally learned how to cut unhealthy people out of my life. The first step of a new me. Never feel bad for leaving those who hurt you in the past. Do not try to make relationships work with people who you just can’t be with. Delete them from social media. Delete their number. Take down the pictures. If they try to come back and apologize, don’t let them. You don’t have to.

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