What does it mean to be a 'no' woman, you ask?
Let me explain. Last Thursday, I was invited to an event hosted by Pioneering Women, a Canadian resource to help and support women in the film industry. The event was all about the book Darling, You Can't Both (and other noise to ignore on your way up), a book I previously read over the summer last year. The event had authors and advertising greats, Nancy Vonk and Janet Kestin. These two women are powerhouses and are such an inspiration to me, so getting to hear them speak was a huge privilege.
The talk was all around the word no, and our inability as women to be to say it.
Women are pleasers. We smile and we do everything we can and we say yes. We don't like to upset anyone or cause conflict. We want to please everyone - our boss, our parents, our significant other, strangers we don't even know, and the list goes on. We want to do everything and be everything and still have a smile on our face. Girls agree and they smile and they say yes. But when we are assertive and say no, we are not pleasing. We are monsters and we are too tough and become unlikeable. We aren't being the 'ideal woman', who does as she is told and does what she can to please.
They spoke about how, as women, we always feel obligated to say yes to everything that is handed to us. We live with consequences for saying yes. We wear our results. From a young age, we are taught that yes is a positive word. Saying no is bad, it's not being open-minded and it's definitely not cooperative. So, we are trained to say yes. If you say yes, positive things will happen. If you say yes, you're cooperating. You're being a pleaser.
Over the last year, I've become much more of a 'no' woman. A woman that doesn't have to say yes to things to prove herself. Someone that doesn't have to explain why she is doing what she is doing or why she is doing it. I learned to let go of people that aren't respecting my boundaries. Saying no to people that waste my time. It's that metaphorical table of my life - not everyone gets a seat. I can remember saying yes to doing more work for a group project, saying yes to going out when I really wanted to stay in, and saying yes to someone I really should've said no to, over and over again.
But, what exactly is the worst that could happen with saying no?
I think it's strong to wish goodwill upon those who have wronged you or hurt you or made you feel inferior, even when you want to be bitter and hold on to grudges. But I also think it's strong to put up boundaries from these people, too. There is strength in saying no to people that keep coming back when it's only in their best interest and it's convenient for them. I know people that have had to set boundaries with friends they've had for years and parents that were never really parents, because it just got too much for them. It's not a bad thing to do, it's just teaching others around you what you tolerate and what you can handle. You're teaching both you and the people around you respect.
It takes a lot of willpower to begin saying no to all of the things that we are comforted by but aren't always the best for us. I always think back to this marvellous little quote from the incredible Cheryl Strayed when I think about setting boundaries in my own life:
"Fucked-up people will try to tell you otherwise, but boundaries have nothing to do with whether you love someone or not. They are not judgments, punishments, or betrayals. They are a purely peaceable thing: the basic principles you identify for yourself that define the behaviors that you will tolerate from others, as well as the responses you will have to those behaviors. Boundaries teach people how to treat you, and they teach you how to respect yourself.”
I am a 'yes' woman - I am up for anything, will always have a hand open to help others, and like to work hard for what I want. But I'm embracing the label of being a 'no' woman more and more. Saying no is powerful. It gives you a choice. It gets rid of the things that become heavy and it filters out the people that aren't helping your journey.
It creates a safe place for you to flourish and bloom right beside all of those lovely people that love and respect you and all of the hard work you've done to make it this far.
Fellow 'No' Women, I am happy to be embracing your label.
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