For most of my life, saying No has been a challenge. Whether it was a casual invitation for another drink, a request for a financial favor, or a plea from a co-worker for assistance on a project, my default response was invariably, Yes. My old modus operandi was being a people pleaser. The journey to overcoming this habitual Yes and embracing the empowering No, although arduous at times, has been a tremendous improvement in my life and my finances.
Each reluctant Yes subtly eroded my sense of self-worth and inner peace. The fear of disappointing others overshadowed the necessity to uphold my well-being, sometimes emotionally, physically, or financially. I was running away from difficult conversations, fearing the backlash of a simple No.
It took years to transcend this fear and to see the value in asserting my boundaries. Today, one of my daily affirmations is, “to fearlessly face problems collaboratively with love rather than escaping”. I no longer feel the necessity to flee from confrontations. Instead, facing fear is now honorable especially as I am coming towards it with compassion. Further, the dread is usually just a figment of my imagination, often exaggerated compared to the actual reaction. Yes, someone may be disappointed on receiving a No; however, they will be fine. The exercise of saying No, although simple and quick, has been transformative, allowing me to live anew and to assert myself in previously challenging situations.
For instance, my 9-5 job entails selling loans to other financial institutions. In the early days at my company, sleepless nights were a common occurrence as I grappled with the pressure to prove myself, generate outsized profits, and incessantly say Yes to deals. Deals I knew would keep me awake at night. The people pleaser in me wanted to be helpful, but this came at the expense of my emotional and physical health. Over time, I’ve learned to assert a No, especially with the support of data. For example, I declined a recent transaction by pointing out that “I called potential 10 investors and they all said no.” I realize it is alright to push back, to say No when the conditions are not favorable.
The journey towards mastering the art of No also seeped into my personal life, especially concerning financial requests from family. I often felt like a public ATM. Everyone had a sob story. My empathy was exploited to the extent I began to feel a sense of obligation to rescue them from their fiscal miseries. By always giving in, I was enabling their behavior, which was not only detrimental to them but was also draining me emotionally and financially.
At times, when the barrage of requests and expectations become overwhelming, I fantasize about possessing a supervillain-like device to repel everything and everyone, leaving me in peaceful solitude.
Then I realized I do have that power. I get that relief and clarity each time I muster the courage to say No. As Dr. Aziz says, “I am the captain of my own ship.”
Dr. Aziz’s book, Not Nice, illuminated my path toward self-validation. Dr. Aziz had us create a personal Bill of Rights to live by; my first blueprint to live a healthy and assertive life.
A few Rights stand out to me:
- I am allowed to say No to anything I don’t want to do, for any reason, without needing to justify it or give an excuse.
- I am allowed to not be responsible for others, including their feelings and problems.
- I am allowed to change my mind; I do not always need to be logical and consistent.
My family and I are blessed with numerous resources. While I don’t want to morph into a Scrooge, establishing healthy boundaries is imperative for sustaining meaningful relationships and a serene mind. The power of No, wielded with love and understanding, has become a cornerstone of my new way of living.