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This Year I Learned The Art Of Saying No

the art of saying no

This year, I learned the art of saying no.

I found that for most of my life I was afraid of saying no to people because I thought that meant that I would lose them.

My soul and body only knows how to be giving, without asking for anything in return. I think this stems from the way I was raised.

For example, I was taught to eat less when you went to somebody else’s house for dinner. To never borrow anything from someone else, or order anything expensive, if you knew another person was paying.

Somewhere through this process of giving, I lost my way.

When other people’s needs overpowered my own, I learned this simple, powerful, gratifying word, “no.”

To those friendships that only relied on me saying yes. To the failed talking stages that ended; because I stopped initiating the conversation. To the strangers that inadvertently made me chip away my own sense of self. To the managers that took advantage of my dutiful nature. And to the men that thought they could paint a version of me in their minds. Finally, to my loved ones, who can only see me as the girl in the photographs they keep.

I said no.

I started saying no to my religion and culture when I started drinking alcohol. Or, well, that is what I was led to believe. I do not know how much of that is true and I am still coming to terms with that part of my identity.

When boys, and I say boys and not men because I feel they have not grown up yet, ask to suck on my neck when I am dancing with them, my answer is no. Because you felt inclined to put your arms around my waist and for a split second I allowed it; because it has been conditioned in me to always please others. But then I remember everything I stand for, and the answer is no. Because tomorrow, when you are hungover, I will be washing away the feel of your hands from my body. And I thought something was wrong with me because I hate the touch of unfamiliar hands when others make it look so fun. I guess they do not know the feeling of when it is the right pair of hands, so they settle for any pair of hands.

I learned it is okay to say no to that feeling. And it is okay for other women to say yes, because neither of us are wrong, we are both free.

No, you cannot take me home and see me exposed and vulnerable while I am under the influence of alcohol; but thank you for asking. Because I am supposed to feel flattered that you grabbed my hips and told me you wanted to fuck me in the middle of an alleyway. And they say romance is dead. Never.

Some people want that, not me. I am relieved to admit that. What a relief to say that no, I have no urge to have sex, and there is nothing wrong with that. The first time I heard someone say that they felt no sexual or romantic emotions was in my second year poetry class at university; and I thought finally, here is someone that has explained every confusing feeling I have ever had when it came to my sexuality.

When I say no to an arranged marriage, I am not trying to be difficult. I am not embarrassed or scared, I am just exercising my right to say no. Arranged marriages are sometimes the right option for people and can work out really well. My parents had an arranged marriage, and although it was not love at first sight for them, the love that they grew into has been inspiring to watch. Even though they are not openly affectionate, the small sweet gestures between them are not lost on me.

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However, I do not think that marriage is the answer, or be all and end all of my life. I feel that my future is unwritten and unpredictable. Marriage, and having children are not something I want to set in stone. So I said no to the marriage proposal. I am sorry; your son will make a wonderful husband to any girl looking for that future.

I am sorry, I do not want children. I have been told many times that I am wrong for saying that; that I am too young to know right now and I will change my mind. I have never envisioned myself being a mother. That is not to say I do not like children, or love them even. It is just that there is no maternal instinct in me, and I do not feel incomplete without a child. So I said no to the nuclear family.

This year, I found my voice.

I loved knowing that “no” did not make me a bad person; and sometimes no does not mean never, but it means not right now.

I am still coming to grips with putting myself first, which is a foreign feeling to so many people. But it does not have to be. If you had to say no to somebody today because you were putting your own mental health first and they did not—or were not willing to—understand, then that is their problem.

We are all still learning how to navigate this thing called life.

This year, I learned the art of saying no.