In my earlier years, I was a “yes” person. I always wanted to be chosen, and I equated the value of myself to others’ liking me. I made “yes” synonymous with acceptance. If I say ‘yes’ to them, they’ll like me or love me or want to be my friend or want to have me around is what I naively assumed. What I would learn over the years is that saying “yes” to everyone and everything never meant they loved or accepted me, but it did mean that I didn’t love or accept myself.
The biggest “no” I’ve said in my life came a few years ago. I was working in my field, broadcasting, and just knew I’d be the next Pam Oliver—but in hijab. The unfortunate part of working in my industry was that I barely made enough money to feed myself. I was living on food stamps and subletting a room in some stranger’s townhome I found on Craigslist.
According to society, I was supposed to continue to say “yes” to this life because I was grinding and hustling and starting from the bottom (or whatever is in these rap songs). But that “yes” was compromising my sanity and wholeness. That “yes” had reduced me to showing up out of fear. So, after four and a half years of chasing a life I thought I wanted, I decided to say, “no” and create the life I needed instead.
I resolved that I would move abroad. I was clear in that decision and affirmed the following: No, I would not tell anyone I was going. No, others would not be part of this move. No, I would not extend myself to seek validation for choosing myself. No, I didn’t care who liked it or who didn’t or who had any additional thoughts about it.
Booking a one-way ticket to Cairo, Egypt, solidified that “no” in “no turning back.” Simply standing in that decision—that “no”—and not wavering, the love that I gained for myself in taking that step was profound. I’d found the ability to say “no” to appeasing everyone else’s concept of stability and career advancement. Being a latter-20-something at the time, I had even said “no” to the possibility of a happily-ever-after because, as some thought, who was going to marry me if I moved abroad? But I didn’t care. I recognized that for the first time in my life, I was going to be alright with none of it.
In hindsight, I wish I had known the power in daring to say “no” a little sooner. No, I don’t have to toil on a career path that compromises my quality of life and restricts personal growth. No, I don’t have to stay in one place waiting around for the person of my dreams. And more importantly, no, I do not have to do anything for anyone else’s approval or to anyone else’s liking. And guess what? Not only did I survive and make it out of my “yes” girl phase, I have thrived in daring to say “no!”
What is something you can say “no” to in order to say “yes” to yourself?