It’s okay to say no

Photo by Catrin Johnson on

Ashleigh Tain, Editor-in-Chief

When I started taking my education more seriously, I formed study groups with my friends, made efforts to talk to my teachers, and in applying myself I developed an academic rhythm that I became confident in. This was all I needed to succeed, I thought. And within these confines, I developed a comfortable routine that was manageable and easy. 

But in between all the praise of my academic responsibility people began to nudge me to pursue things outside of school. My mom had me start taking piano lessons, my father was suddenly very big on swim practice, my grandparents tried to talk me into Vietnamese language classes. After an initial denial and realizing that I actually did have enough time, I took these perspectives into account. Extracurriculars, clubs, sports, and leadership suddenly were important, they needed to become important to me. I needed to integrate these new habits into my life. However, in realizing the imbalance of my pursuits, I lost this confidence that I had everything under control. I started panicking and felt myself fall behind. And suddenly I made an attempt to sign up for everything, accept any offers and any opportunities that came my way, driven by this hunger to compensate for the time that I lost.

Starting off another academic year, or a whole high school career, this is a common trap to fall into. At the beginning of high school careers, the beginning of school years, students feel the need to overcommit and take on as much as they can. It is a common conception to achieve success by wielding and taking advantage of every opportunity that comes your way; this subscribes to the key of yes as a way to gain access to portals of extracurricular achievement. In the process, no is associated with being a hindrance, a deterrent from finding true success and thus happiness. And as much as we hate saying no and swatting down prepositions, we also hate being told no.

One thing that I recently learned, however, is the significance of no. Of course, it stands for rejection and all the negativity that connotes that word, but it serves as much more. 

I was once that person who felt the pressure to accept and pursue everything that came my way. I felt my capacity for work was infinite as long as I had the drive and passion to pursue everything. But in the trials and tribulations of my pursuits, my interests and disinterests were exposed in the way my ethic faltered. I refused to accept this for a while and continued to justify the individual impacts of these activities, that although were valid, didn’t align with my own sense of identity. It wasn’t until I realized my frustration and discontentment that I finally considered letting go of some things. The liberation after giving up the commitments I didn’t like allowed for more time to commit to things I did, and it was a blissful feeling being able to pursue diligently. But suddenly, like clockwork, another opportunity came up. A friend was working on an external project and needed an extra set of hands, or some chances to make money came up and suddenly I was back at square one.

But things began to change when I recognized my incompetence and refused opportunities. Saying no didn’t deter my success, but allowed for the full mobility of it. And in a sense, being able to say no and exercise it well is an unfathomable skill, it protects from the dangers of the vulnerable yes.