The Fear—and Power—of Saying “No”

I have a very difficult time saying no. Many people have this problem. It’s the fear of losing a job or opportunity, disappointing someone, or both.Say-NO

For me, it’s both, but it’s particularly the former. I think it’s because I’m not 25 anymore and I’m just starting to figure things out, which means I have only just recently begun getting involved in the things that interest me. Why did it take this long for me to come to an understanding of myself? I don’t know. Some people know exactly what they want to do when they’re kids. Like this teenager, who, at 15 years old, cooks gourmet, restaurant-quality food. He’s passionate about what he does, and knows exactly what path he will be taking.

I envy that. I really do. If only I’d known at 15 what I wanted to do, I may have saved myself a lot of trouble. I knew I wanted to write, that goes without saying. But it was drilled in me that writing was not a profitable profession. I needed to do something that would earn me money. I thought about being a teacher, a psychologist, a veterinarian, a music producer—but for one reason or another, I didn’t pursue any of those. In the end, I went into the publishing business, and that is a saga unto itself.

But back to the subject.

So, here I am at XX age and am finally enjoying the things I’m doing. The problem is, I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do. And I don’t have the next 20+ years to network and “go places.” Well, at least not where my career is concerned. And so I say “yes” to everything.

My life lately has consisted of a 9-to-5 job, commuting 15 hours a week, freelance work (because I really need the money), 3 anthologies with which I am involved in various capacities, writing projects with actual, concrete deadlines, projects with non-concrete deadlines, events that I am participating in, preparing for panels at GCLS, a cat on medication, and numerous other things. Oh, yeah, and zumba class.

I’ve said yes to everything. Why? Because I have a lot of catching up to do. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret any of it. But there’s only so much a person can take physically. I don’t get enough sleep, and I haven’t rested in weeks. Well, I lay down and closed my eyes for about a half hour last week after spending the day with my mother, who had a medical procedure. Other than that, zilch on the resting.

But I think at some point, I’ll need to start saying no. That will be a very difficult thing for me, but if I’m going to live to see the next decade, I’m going to have to learn. By learning to say no, I will probably take control of my life, and feel like I have a say in what happens to me. I think that when I do say the word “no,” it will mean that I finally have the self-confidence to pick and choose what I do. Saying no says that you have the power.

For now, this is my life. And, hopefully, I will reap the rewards, and feel like my life has been enriched for all the experiences.

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5 thoughts on “The Fear—and Power—of Saying “No”

  1. I understand what you’re saying. I still haven’t figured out what I want to be when I grow up. Know what? It doesn’t much matter. I’m embracing contentment, not success. It gets better, really. Stop and take a breath, get off the hamster wheel–it feels good.

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