Be true to yourself: The challenge of learning to say ‘no’


Eating healthier? Going to the gym more often? Making more time to spend with friends? These aspirations are advantageous, beneficial and perfect for the people who made them. My resolution this year is a little unconventional, however: This year I am working on saying ďno.Ē

From a young age, kids are taught the importance of kindness and awareness of other peopleís feelings. Being selfless and generous are important, but some people take it too far, giving until they are mad at themselves for participating in things they have no desire to be a part of. Volunteering and donating time are not actions that fall into this category. Iím talking about things such as doing extra favors for friends or explaining, once again, what the homework assignment is. So, this year, learn to say no.

It often feels like we tiptoe around each other, cautiously on edge for whether we are going to offend someone for something we do or say. This pattern is detrimental. We need to learn that sometimes it is OK to disappoint other people. Does anyone get anywhere in the world by thinking only about how others will react?

People need to take into account their own feelings on the situation. If others take decisions personally, thatís their prerogative. They are choosing to be hurt, just like you are choosing to be honest with yourself. In this case, itís not always about you. Disappointment is never easy, but itís something we all need to get used to it every once and awhile.

Doctors are a prime example of being able to say no. Every day they consult with patients who have health problems and are looking for help. If doctors only thought about their patientís emotional well-being, people would die. Doctors have to be honest with their analysis, and sometimes blunt to get their point across. For example, physicians donít say, ďSir, if it is convenient for you, it might be nice of you to walk a little bit. If you feel like it, eating vegetables would help too, but the choice is totally up to you and not really important either way.Ē

No. Instead, they emphasize how important and necessary it is to maintain a healthy diet balanced by an active lifestyle. They disappoint patients regularly because they donít always say what their patients want to hear. Their job is to determine what is best for the person. This may seem strict, but doctors help people. They make a difference in the world and they can do so by saying no.

Teachers are another example of people who are able to disappoint, but have a positive impact their students by doing so. If teachers only considered the emotions of their students, nothing would be done in the classroom. There would be no system of authority or no learning environment. While it is refreshing when a teacher is cool enough to be a studentís friend, the beneficial part of the relationship is when they give them a zero for not completing their work. By disappointing them with a bad grade, the student has learned about responsibility and accountability. I know for a fact that teachers are aware and sensitive of studentís feelings, but in the end they are paid to teach and make sure the kids learn. They arenít afraid to say no.

Of course, constantly denying the people around you is neither beneficial nor appropriate. An underlying respect for everyone is not only necessary, but mandatory. There is a time and place, however, to be a little selfish and think about what you need to do to maintain your sanity and feel good about yourself. Itís OK to occasionally dissatisfy someone, and there is no need to feel guilty about it, because in the end you are being honest with yourself and your true feelings.

Letting people down and falling short of their expectations isnít easy and it takes a significant amount of time and courage to be OK with someone being disappointed. But this resolution is empowering. You learn a lot about yourself when you are brutally honest with your desires.

So in 2012, I am learning to say ďno.Ē

Emily Barney is co-sports editor at El Diablo, the Durango High School student newspaper. She is the daughter of Anne Klein and Tom Barney of Durango.

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