Sunday Coffee – Yes and No

Society teaches women to say yes. To everything. That is a very, very hard lesson to overcome.

I remember once, back in middle school, when we went through the drive through at some fast food place and they gave my mom the wrong order. She couldn’t force herself to go back to have them correct it. Confrontation was difficult for her. She didn’t make store returns, even when there were duplicate gifts. She didn’t answer the door when sales people came. She actually listens to telemarketers when they call, because she feels bad hanging up on them.

I tried to learn from all that, and I’ve done relatively okay. I can close the door on sales people and hang up on unsolicited calls. I can make returns when necessary. I definitely make sure I have the right food. At other times, though, I end up agreeing to things I don’t want to agree to when I’m put on the spot. A couple weeks ago, for instance, a local store called me about setting up some volunteer times. I’d gone to volunteer once at the request of a family member, and had to fill out a form while I was there. I didn’t really intend to go back – I have enough to do at home – but on this call, I allowed myself to agree to four shifts of volunteering that I didn’t really want to do. It took four days of anxiety and fretting to call back and tell them I needed to cancel and withdraw from volunteer duties.

It shouldn’t be that hard. I don’t know what it is about saying NO that is so difficult. It causes so much anxiety that it’s often easier to just accept the anxiety of whatever you’re saying YES to. Only when the YES anxiety outweighs the NO anxiety does it become worth it to decline (or cancel). And the whole thing is just ridiculous. I shouldn’t feel bad saying, “No thanks, I just filled out the volunteer form because a family member needed help that day.” But I do. And then I feel anxious about going. And then I feel bad about canceling. There’s no winning here. And this whole cycle is just stupid.

I’ve read about that one book about saying yes to everything for a year. I think I need the opposite. I need to just say no to everything for a good, long time and see what emerges from all that.

PS – I was mixed up on dates and wrote about Mother’s Day last week. So once again, happy Mother’s Day to y’all out there!

About Amanda

Writing. Family. Books. Crochet. Fitness. Fashion. Fun. Not necessarily in that order. Note: agender (she/her).
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7 Responses to Sunday Coffee – Yes and No

  1. Karen K. says:

    I agree, women are conditioned to say Yes to everything, and I think we’re conditioned to also feel guilty for saying No. Seriously, there’s only so much you can do. I volunteered to help out for something here on base and I’m beginning to regret it, and I think I may have to drop out. However, I definitely have no trouble saying no to telemarketers and door-to-door solicitors (well, except for Girl Scouts. I can’t say no to Tagalongs!)

    And I’m curious, a store that needs volunteers? Is it non-profit?


    • Amanda says:

      The store is a non-profit – it’s called the ReStore and it’s run by Habitat for Humanity. It’s a great cause and a great store, and honestly I wouldn’t mind volunteering on my own terms, at the times I choose, when I’m able. They wanted me to commit to a specific schedule and that just wasn’t going to work for me.


  2. I can’t speak to your experience, or women’s experiences, but I can agree this is a tough, tough thing for some people. I happen to be one. Part of why I have been so stressed/overwhelmed these last few years is because I’ve felt like I’ve had to say “yes” to every project that came my way: every committee, every leadership opportunity, every substitute need, every program review, etc. etc. It’s an expected part of “professional faculty development” and whatnot, and I think an important part, but people have to be able to say “no” without consequences, sometimes. That means without professional repercussions, but without those feelings of guilt, too.


    • Amanda says:

      I can imagine that’s tough! I’ve never been in a place where professional development is a focus, but I know others who have – my stepmom, for instance, is always saying yes to various committees related to the San Antonio symphony – and I know this is definitely a problem. I think it’s a cultural thing in our country. We’re always expected to DO MORE. Jason gets so tired of tech companies that expect him to cheerfully work 80 hours a week. He has coworkers who continue working for fun, rather than spending time with their families. He makes it clear to bosses that he’ll never do that. He’ll work extra for emergencies, and then he’ll take some time away to even it out. He’ll never get far in the corporate world, but he has no desire to, so that’s okay. But the fact that he’s the exception rather than the norm is just crazy to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Michelle says:

    I don’t have a problem saying yes or no, but I am not consistent in that practice. I will say yes to something, like volunteering, and regret saying yes about halfway through my shift. I will say no to something but regret it when I hear how much fun it was. Like the commenter above, I agree that professional requirements make it so difficult to decline anything, but I am okay with limiting my advancement opportunities by saying no to something that limits my time with my family. I struggle with finding that balance of helping out with kids’ and friends’ activities. (I am weird.)


    • Amanda says:

      I think we all have our own struggles with this. I have a tendency to say yes yes yes then suddenly clam up and say no to everything (or cancel commitments, as I’ve over-committed). I long ago realized I didn’t want to volunteer at the school with kid things, though! Heh.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Michelle says:

        I volunteered once for school things and then had to back out because I got a promotion at work and had no time. I have never done it again.


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