The Super Power of Saying "No"
Last week I quit one of my jobs. It's nothing dramatic, really. It was just a tutoring job I've been working at school for the last couple of semesters. It was not too demanding, but also emotionally draining because I was responsible for planning sessions for English 101 freshman. So there was a bit pressure, but I was able to handle it. "Was" is the key word here.
I got offered the job for the third semester in a row (last year I did one-on-one tutoring, which was still the same deal), because I was told I'm good at it and they could use the help. And I could use the money. I'm still living with my mother, struggling to barely pay for gas or my phone bill at times. So, I said yes.
For the last couple of semesters, I was able to handle it, even with being editor-in-chief for my school magazine and my course load, I could do it. But a lot of things started to change this semester, including a new job in my field, heavier courses for my Soc degree and other outside pressures began to factor in. For most of the semester I still thought I could make it through--juggling 3 jobs, an extracurricular, school work, administrative meetings, capstone projects, and so on. I thought wrong.
I'm a terribly indecisive person, so for the last couple of weeks, as i've been feeling the snow avalanche that is my schedule loom over me, I turned to my friends and partner for advice. The funny thing about advice when you're in a crisis (at least for me), is that you want the person to tell you the exact solution to what to do, but you still can't listen because you're too panicked you'll make the wrong decision because of something someone else said. That's where I was. I felt in a viscious cycle of my own mind. But I also felt like something had to give. Something had to give.
I recently started reading Turtles All The Way Down by John Green, in the hopes of having some nice low-maintenance reading aside form school related stuff. And I'm honestly kind of hooked. One of the things the main character int he book struggles with is the idea of control and how much of it we have over our own lives. I felt such reliability to this, especially lately. I felt like on the one hand, I am in control of the things in my life, but on the other hand I'm not. On the other hand, I feel like I'm forced to do a lot of things that might be good for me for the long run, but are draining me and causing so much overwhelming stress. Obviously, this is something that a lot of people deal with, and you just gotta push through, I get it. But at one point you will reach your breaking point, and even though I didn't know it, I was reaching that point when I took on too many things this semester.
As always, this came to me as a harsh realization. A couple days ago I overslept (which I don't usually do) on the day of my 9 a.m. statistics class, where I had a test that day. I don't know what possessed me that morning, but something inside me just said "nope" and I didn't wake up. I woke up five minutes after I had to be in class. Now, I don't know if many of you know, but two of my worst fears and anxiety inducers are 1.) Math and 2.) Being late. So yeah, what better way to start off the week then being LATE for my MATH test. Needless to say, I didn't take it well. I had a pit of anxiety the whole morning, even after my professor was kind enough to let me take the test at a later time. But as I was finishing the test, I still felt overwhelmed. Obviously, I didn't really have control over oversleeping. It happens. And even though I knew I wouldn't fail the test, I know I didn't do my best. Because I couldn't, because I was just doing too damn much.
After I took my test, I made a b-line from the Classroom building to the Tutoring office where I worked. At that moment, I thought about texting my partner or friend one more time and ask "Should I quit, should I quit." At this point, I thought no. Enough. So I just went with my gut, and my gut was correct. I broke down and told my boss I was quitting, and none of the reasons were fabricated. And even my boss, very empathetically told me that as you get older "you just need to learn to say no to some things."
Granted, I was saying no to this thing halfway through I had committed to it, but there's no reason for me to feel shame or guilt about taking a step back. Now I feel so relieved that I have at least one thing off my chest. Just one thing. It helps. And I felt like I was doing myself a favor, for myself and only myself.
Yes Woman Syndrome:
This Yes Woman Syndrome, as I like to call it, is nothing new to me. It's also nothing new to many of the other people I know. Especially women, I feel like we're always expected to say yes to as many opportunities as we can, because it's going to be harder for us. We're expected to take care of others before we take care of ourselves and we just aren't told to put our well being before others. We're expected to always say yes, always expected to be enthusiastic and warm about doing things -- and if we're not, then we're seen as not good enough. It's also an inherit feeling of wanting to be good enough. Wanting to do enough, and never settling. This is a good thing -- not to settle. It's good to have high standards for yourself and your future, but that includes saying no at the right times, as well as saying yes.
But I know this feeling too well. I know the feeling of wanting to be ambitious and wanting/needing to say yes to everything. Because I know that being a young woman means feeling like you need to grab the whole world in your arms and take all of it on all by yourself. The pressure of women to say "yes" can be applied in so many areas of our lives. If we say "no" or show any kind of resistance to work on a project, help a person and often, even show affection. Far too often, acceptance and agreement are things that are demanded of women, not asked. And often, we do agree and we do say yes. We do this because we know the feeling of not being good enough due to the unrealistic standards dismissing attitudes that we experience. It turns us into fighters, which is good. But it also drains us dry, and takes away the time we could be using to focus on our own growth.
It's okay not to be Superwoman all the time. Because saying no is not a weakness -- it's is a super power in itself. It doesn't make you weak, it doesn't make you bitchy and it doesn't mean you're selfish. You're the one who knows yourself best and knows how much you can handle. You know exactly when to say no and when to say yes.
So I'll tell you this. It's okay if you can't do it all. It's more than okay--it's normal and it means you're planning your time wisely. My High School drama teacher once put it so eloquently, "It's not to half ass a lot of things, instead full-ass one thing." There's always going to be projects we want to get involved with, there is always going to be the FOMO effect and the never-ending pressure to always do more. Because I know, this world is huge and it feels like there isn't enough time to do everything, but you don't have to. But you can still do a lot. I'm slowly learning to find this balance, and it definitely comes with age. I'm finally learning to embrace the power and comfort of saying "no" to things, because it means that I'm learning to understand myself, my strengths and what I truly want out of life.