Confessions: I’m a yes-(wo)man


Saying “no” may not seem like a feminist issue on the surface, but give me a chance to explain and I think it will become clearer.

Women are socially conditioned to be complacent, doormats, if you will. The amount of guilt I feel when I tell someone “no” for whatever reason is a direct result of the way I have been taught that my life is for others not myself.

I agree to literally almost everything that is asked of me. It doesn’t matter if I have no time to do it, if I completely disagree or if I would rather stab my eyes out, I always say “yes,” and hate myself for it immediately.

Most days, most weeks I am overbooked. I cram every single hour with engagements and tasks and the majority of them are for the benefit of other people.

There is a serious problem in the way we condition women to behave. I distinctly remember being told to “just go with it” by parents and educators when I expressed reservations about doing what I was asked.  If I didn’t want to play a specific game or do a specific activity, guilt was often induced to force me to participate.

Now, here I am 21 years old and still unable to say “no” when I really want to. Add this to my social anxiety and I am constantly putting myself in uncomfortable or undesirable situations.

The women who get places in life are the women who are able to stand up for themselves, and I hate that I am not one of those women.
I can be an aggressive writer, but in life I might as well have the assertiveness of a paper bag. I’m not going to tell it like it is unless I know you really well and I’m absolutely certain you can handle it, and even then I’m probably going to hesitate.

So my challenge to everyone is to try saying “no” at least once a week. If you want to have a life that makes you happy, you have to make your life about you.

If it’s easier for you, try another phrase. When someone asks you to do something, tell them you don’t think you’re the right person for the task rather than giving an outright “no.”

Also try to avoid encouraging body language until you know what the person wants from you. If someone starts pitching an idea that you think is interesting and you are nodding in agreement, they might interpret that as you being onboard.

If you don’t think you’re ready to start saying “no” just yet, at least carve out an hour every day that is only for you. It can be whatever hobby or activity you enjoy, but scheduling it will make you less likely to let someone have that time.

I like to schedule an hour of creative writing in the mornings, so if someone tries to occupy that time, I can say I have prior arrangements, which, for me, is much easier than saying “no.”

Jocelyn Gibson can be contacted at [email protected]