The Necessity of No

Posted by Kristin Beale in Life After Paralysis on March 25, 2021 # Lifestyle

I’m pretty good at taking care of myself. That hasn’t always been the case, though; it took some years to figure out what my body and mind needed to maintain my physical and mental health. “Some years” is my way of really saying “years of trial-and-error, some tears, some relief, and a constant rerouting of my lifestyle until I found what works for me.” I took those years, though, and I now have what feels like a solid understanding of myself and what I need to be happy.Kristin outside

My biggest hill to climb was my tendency toward saying “yes” to people, to commitments, to everything. I would get so caught up in other people’s feelings, that I took on all things and didn’t stand up for myself, ever. Call me very active and involved or kind of self-destructive, but I just didn’t want to disappoint anyone. I just didn’t want to say “no.”

As no surprise to anyone, that habit wore me down. My mental health was suffering, a lot of my time was wasted with things I didn’t care for, and I was stretched too thin. The advice of “just say ‘no’” was intimidating because, remember, I was caught up on things like: “I don’t want to seem rude,” “I don’t want their feelings to be hurt,” and the most inescapable “it’s not a big deal – I can just do it.”

Like I said: it wore me down, and down into a [metaphoric] hole. With some credit to my own realization and more credit to guidance from people I was willing to take advice from, I’ve realized that a “yes” habit does mean I’m very active and involved, but it’s also very self-destructive; I was letting myself get wrapped up in things I couldn’t control, either because my plate was too full, or the feelings were in someone else’s head.

Here we come to the solution, and please believe that it’s not as easy as it sounds (at least for me): SAY “NO.” Say no to commitments you can’t see through; to hanging out with people that don’t serve you; to giving yourself to things you don’t have the capacity for; and, sometimes, saying “no” to something as simple as an immediate text response. You need to prioritize yourself before you can be a light to other people. The first step in honoring yourself is using the short and powerful response of “no.”

In my case, the necessity for “no” is when people try to help me without first asking. I use a manual wheelchair, and I’m a very smiley woman, so I don’t fault anyone for wanting to help, but the lack of permission takes it a little too far. More than 15 years into being a wheelchair-user, it still baffles me when strangers push me up a hill without asking, when people use my chair as a footrest, when they pat me on the head, etc. I haven’t lost sight of the beauty of people wanting to help and feeling comfortable around me, but I do now recognize where “no” or “please stop” is necessary.

Years of trial-and-error, some tears, some relief, and a rerouting of my lifestyle dropped me off at a point of confidence in my ability to take care of myself, a closer management of my time, and nearly total satisfaction with myself. For me, saying “no” was a habit formed only after climbing a very steep hill – except this time, I didn’t have a stranger to push me up.

Kristin Beale is a native of Richmond, Virginia. She is the author of two books, Greater Things and A Million Suns, and a comic book, Date Me. Check them out and read an excerpt at https://kristinbeale.com/. Her comics can be found on Instagram @Greater.Things.Comics.