Learning to say NO does not make you a bad person. – @jenpastiloff on Instagram, Beautyhunting.com, found on a Facebook post
One of the shortest words in the English language, consisting only of two letters. But considering how hard it is for me to say it, it might as well be pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis or…or that other really long word that has 189,819 letters and takes three hours to pronounce.
I’ve long since wondered why the word “no” seems to hold so much power and impact. It’s hardly the password used to open the gateway to Hell, but just the sound of it—“no”—makes my chest feel heavy and my stomach cramp up and my hands go clammy, along with other, vaguely unpleasant feelings and sensations.
Maybe it’s because when I was a little kid, I always heard the word “no” from my parent whenever I wanted to do or have something fun (but ultimately inadvisable). “Can’t I ride the rollercoaster with my cousins?” “No.” “Can I go out and play in the rain?” “No, you’ll catch cold.” “Can I have more candy?” “No, you’ll rot your teeth.” And so on.
Later, I grew older, and the “no” I heard from my parents was the word that kept me from being one of the cool kids, thereby ruining the fabulous social life I could have had in high school. “Can I go spend the night at So-and-So’s house?” “No.” “Can I hang out with my friends until past 7?” “No.” “Can I have boyfriend?” “No, you’re still too young.” “Well, I already have a boyfriend, sorry about that, so can I bring him over to the house?” “No, and now you’ve officially broken our trust in you, you terrible, disobedient child.”
To me, the word “no” meant disappointment, disapproval, and a lack of trust in me because I was unworthy of such trust. The word “no” meant I couldn’t have what I wanted because I didn’t have the ability to figure out what was good for me or not, and therefore could not be trusted to make my own decisions.
Now why would I want to inflict that kind of emotional weight on anyone else?
The thing is, though, most of the time my parents were right to say “no”. Sure, they could have said it less often, but if they hadn’t said “no”, I likely would have gotten into far worse trouble. They did the best they could with their “no.” Besides, I and the boyfriend didn’t really work out anyway, so there’s that.
Now, at two years shy of 40, I’m re-learning the meaning and value of the word “no”. I’m learning how to be a parent—not just to my daughter, but to myself. I’m learning how to be the mom and dad I need to be to my inner child, and infusing the word “no” not with disappointment or disapproval, but with love, kindness, understanding, and a healthy dollop of discipline—oh God, yes, the dreaded D-word.
“No”—not because I’m unworthy, but because I am worthy of the highest possible good.
Just like my mom and dad said.