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I'm glad you've come to read my blog, but unfortunately I don't live here any more!

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Catherine Ann x

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Strength... "No"ing Lessons

It’s such a wonderful thing to have a best friend, or a couple of them. I think that girls especially like to have that one person, or a small number, they can confide in. We may be part of huge groups, have different circles that overlap, but a “best friend” seems always preferable. They’re the ones that can teach us very important lessons. I’m lucky enough to have had lots of best friends throughout my life, and thinking about saying “no” before writing this post got me thinking about a very old one.

When I was in primary school, and then middle school (weird concept where I’m from, not important), I was best friends with a tall, slim girl who had red hair ("it's strawberry blonde"), and was very confident. I could tell you lots about her, but those are the things that always stuck out. If you asked anyone to describe her, they would always say “confident”. At the ages of nine through to twelve, that’s probably quite a rare thing to be!

One thing I never seemed (still don’t seem) able to cope with was saying “no”. Someone would ask to borrow something from me, or for my help, and even if I didn’t want to I would agree. My friend, however, would always be able to say “no”. Sure, she would lend a hand or do a favour, of course, but if it came to something she really didn’t want to do, she would say no without hesitation or excuses.

I’ll let you in on a secret: people still liked her! She was still a very nice person. I couldn’t quite wrap my head round the fact that you’re able to say “no” to something without it being taken personally, without seeming mean. She once joked that she should teach me her ways, and give me “no-ing lessons.” We laughed at the time, but it probably would have been quite useful. Particularly when we enter our teenage years, we are faced with a lot of pressures and decisions. I won't go into them here, but I think that this lesson is particularly important for anyone about to embark on the roller-coaster of adolescence. I certainly wish I'd know it. 

Have you ever been invited somewhere you really didn’t want to go? You might have made an excuse—we’ve all done it—and pretended to be ill, or that your parrot had died, or that you had secret work for MI5 to carry out immediately. Or maybe, unable to think of something quick enough, you agreed and wasted a day doing something you really didn’t want to do.

If a friend—a real friend—asked you to do something, and you said simply “no, I can’t” or “no, I don;’t want to”, the chances are they would understand. And if they didn’t—if they tried to pressure you into something—then they probably wouldn’t be the best friend in the world.

How many times a week do you get manipulated into doing something you don’t want to do? Perhaps many of us don’t have time to think about that. We just automatically say “yes” because it’s easier and won’t cause an argument. Or perhaps if we did, people might think less of us.

Don’t get me wrong, of course, there are lots of things in life we might have to do that we don’t enjoy. That’s life, I’m afraid. I just spent an hour and a half studying Britain’s Post-War Economy. Not because I want to, but then again, that will benefit me in the future when I sit my exams. OK, so what if my mum asked me to help her with something? I might moan about it, but I’d probably see she was genuinely busy and I’d do it for her, because I love her and I’d want to help her out.

The lines between this and (big dramatic word coming up) manipulation are pretty blurred sometimes. Stop and think for a moment. If something makes you genuinely unhappy, then there isn’t really any reason you should be doing it. When someone tries to get you to do something, are they asking you or are they guilting you into it? Next time someone tries to get you to do something or even be a certain way, you should pause, not be rushed, and ask yourself a few questions. Is this something I really want? Does this person have my best interests at heart? Would they do the same for me? Does this make me--only me, nobody else--feel happy or unhappy? 

I think my biggest issue with saying no is that issue that we all know shouldn’t bother us but it ultimately does: what others will think.

Unfortunately, it falls to most of us at one time or another in our lives to make a choice between our own happiness and the opinions of others. Again, these things can mingle together and blur. There have been several moments in my own teenage years where I’ve found the courage to say “no”, or “that’s not OK.” 
Where I felt manipulated or mistreated, and I had to stand up for myself. It felt good and bad at the same time, I won’t pretend otherwise. I was pleased to be taking control and letting myself be happy, but I also felt sick to the stomach that people wouldn’t see my side, that they would talk behind my back and think badly of me.

You know what? Some of them did. I know that a lot of people judged me, and I don’t blame them. It did look like I was being mean, or unfair, or harsh. Gradually, though, the people who mattered began to see how I’d really been feeling. A real friend will want you to be happy, no matter what anyone else says or thinks.

(I have a feeling someone said this before Dr. Seuss, can anyone enlighten me?)

Sometimes you have to choose your happiness, and everything else can wait a while. It might mean saying “no”, but that’s OK. The world will get over it… eventually. 

PS, if my old friend is reading this, you know who you are! Let's have a chat soon xxx


  1. Great post, Catherine. It's hard to say No sometimes...and it's important to do it in others.

    1. Thanks Crystal, Glad you like the post :) x


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