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  • Writer's pictureMadhura

It is okay to say No

Hello my friend, welcome to the latest episode of Morning Cup of Sunshine podcast. A warm welcome to my new and regular listeners. This week I am starting a mini series called , “It is okay” Today is the first episode in this mini series. It is okay to say No. I got this idea from one of my regular listeners. Huge huge shout out to Medha for not only suggesting this topic but for being an amazing listener, supporter and a friend. Thank you so much for this topic idea, I hope I do justice to this great topic. So let’s dive in today’s episode, episode number 21, It is okay to say No. 

Happy Moment of the Week

So, friends, how are you? Has the weather started to cool down in your area? Fall is almost here. I just can’t wrap my head around the way this year is passing, just one blink of an eye and we are almost near the end of the year. This is just unbelievable. I love summer so I am just trying to enjoy it till the last minute. We are going on hikes, trails, walks, riding bicycles. We are trying to be outdoors as much as possible, of course with social distance. This weekend, we did a trail. It was beyond beautiful. There was a river flowing justb by the trail. There were some small waterfalls. The river was not too deep. We could even cross it. My son loves adventures and he was excited to cross that small stream of river. I for one love the sound of water. It is so serene. It always makes me calm. The sound of water, chirping of birds and dense trees created a magical ambiance. I can feel that sense of serenity even when I am describing this to you today. Amazing company of friends, beautiful nature and family time definitely made this entire trip memorable. This was for sure a highlight of the week for me. I am just trying to soak in the summer vibe till I can. What about you my friend? Do you like summer or you are more of a cool weather person? What are you doing this month? Share your happy moment of the week in our amazing facebook community. I always have a post on Sunday where you can share your weekly highlight. 

Alright, it is time to dive into today’s episode, “It is okay to say No”  I had a physics teacher. She is a  brilliant teacher. She not only taught us Physics but she often talked about life lessons. She was very active in social causes and loved speaking her mind. I respect her so much for teaching me a valuable life lesson. I don’t remember how the subject came up , what’s the background story. But I used to go to her house for study after college. She had a separate room in her backyard with tons of Physics books. I loved going through those books. I loved studying there in the company of books. She sometimes used to sit with me reading her own book but always prompt to solve my queries. One day, she was reading a book, I don’t recall which one. Suddenly, her face was quite serious and emotional at the same time. She looked up at me and said, “Madhura, it is extremely important in life to say no sometimes. If you want to say No, say No.” That’s it, she immersed herself in  her reading again. I was too young to understand the depth and gravity of her words. But I still remember these words in different crossroads of life.   The situation changes, the circumstances alter, the time, age, my mindset changes but her words are still relevant. I wish I can just pick up a phone and talk to her at this moment. Maybe I will do that after recording this episode. Some when Medha suggested this topic, the first thing I remembered was this incident. I had no idea what steps to talk about that time but I knew that this is definitely an important subject which needs a discussion. We struggle to say no many times and then finally regret saying yes. Let’s try to work on this struggle together, Let’s think of the situations when it is totally okay to say no. shall we?

Situation 1 : When you have no time

First of all, let me tell you one thing. It is not selfish to take care of yourself. It is not selfish to say no if saying yes is overwhelming you. It means you understand yourself and respect your beliefs enough to stand up for them. So, it is absolutely okay to say NO. Alright, now that is out of the door. Let’s first analyze what you exactly want to say. Deep down, you always know, what is right for you. You call it gut feeling. But if you are confused, sit in peace and quiet and think what is your real answer. Make a pro con list if you are more of an objective person. Consider a very simple and easy situation to start with,  Let’s say your friend asks if you can join her on Saturday for some shopping.  Of course you loved the idea, you want to go but you are expecting guests on Sunday and want to prepare for it, maybe you had a busy week and Saturday is your chance to play catch up. What I want to say is you loved the idea of going out with her but you know deep down, if you go with her, you will feel overwhelmed on Sunday to host the guests. You make this simple situation complicated because you can not say no to her so you drag yourself to shopping, you might even enjoy it but the moment you come back home, you start stressing out yourself and in turn your family. Just take a pause and think, was it worth this stress? It was easy to tell your friend honestly about your dilemma. It was simply a matter of trusting your friend and your own instinct. People will always have requests, sometimes you will be able to fulfill them and sometimes, it will be really hard to fulfill those requests, even if you want to. But that does not mean you are a bad person. If you start putting everyone else’s need before yours the only thing that will happen is you will be exhausted. You will burn yourself out. That is the reason why you have to set the boundaries and understand your own thought process. Think objectively, if you want to say yes to this obligation.

We all get 24 hours in a day and it is our choice how to spend those 24 hours. You already have your to-do list, your own personal preferences. You need to think clearly can you accommodate the obligations within those remaining available hours. Nobody gets an extra hour in a day to fulfill an obligation. Running frantically in all directions, overbooking, overwhelming yourself will only burn you out. I talked about this in my previous episode, I used to be like that, always running, always going somewhere, doing something, totally ignoring down time, not even thinking about relaxation time, it made me a busy person but I was for sure not content. Slowing down, enjoying the present moment and saying no to things that I simply can not accommodate in my schedule gave me more peace of mind. It even meant saying no to myself. I wanted to do workout, my podcast work, cooking an entire meal in the morning before my office hour starts. I started moving my wake up time earlier and earlier to fit everything in but that made me too tired to focus on anything. I generally sit on a sofa near our patio window for planning my episode in the morning. I love to watch the sunrise while writing the outline of the episodes. But,every time I saw people going on a morning walk from my window, I used to have the urge to squeeze those walks in my morning routine but it was not realistically possible. I can go on a walk or workout in the evening but I can not get this quiet time in the evening with kids running around so I have to say no to myself for going on a walk in the morning. I had to tell myself no for this over scheduling tasks in a small time window, but once I did that I am much more calm. 

Think about the time you have in your hand, is it really possible for you to accept the request from a friend in that available time, if your answer is yes, by all means go ahead but if your answer is no, it is okay to say No.

Situation 2 : When you have no energy

If you are tired, sleep deprived and not really up for any obligations, say that out loud. It is okay and that does not mean you are lazy. As I always say, you can not pour from an empty cup. It is better to say no beforehand rather than dragging yourself to a commitment where neither you nor your company can enjoy the moment.  You have the right to relax and unwind. Sometimes, we ignore the signs that our body is giving. We tend not to pay attention to our needs. Specially, as a mom, I see so many of us juggle thousand things in a day. You are in charge of your family’s well being, you are in charge of home making, cleaning, cooking, taking care of kids. But sometimes, we need a reminder that you are in charge of your health too. You are in charge and responsible for your physical and mental health too. It is absolutely okay to say no sometimes, if you are drowning in mile long to do lists and you are left with no energy to. Take a break, recharge yourself. Pour a hot cup of coffee or tea for yourself. Enjoy every sip of that cup mindfully. Sit in peace and quiet for sometime. Just don’t do anything. No complicated thoughts, no planning for future, no thinking about past mistakes, nothing, just you, your coffee and your present moment. Soak in that moment, you will feel recharged. After you feel recharged and if you feel recharged then think of the obligation that you had to answer. Do you still feel tired and not really up for it? Then please say no. It is okay. “I am just tired and will not be able to join you this time” is an absolutely valid response. Don’t be afraid, nobody is going to judge you for your honesty but if they do at least you were honest and real. I read a quote from Josh Billings , it is so true here “Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough.”

Situation 3 : When you have no will

Life is too short and beautiful to spend on something that does not bring you joy. Every moment that you spend should help you bring happiness, help you grow, help you be a better person. If there are some  commitments that are not doing any of these, then it is okay to say no to them. Most of the time, we are afraid to say no just because you don’t have will or interest in doing those. We feel scared, we think we will hurt people along the way. We think people won’t like me because I said No. I understand and I agree with you. I also feel the same sometimes. I feel awkward and scared to say No because I think they will think that I am arrogant or have some kind of superiority  complex. But I know deep down in my heart, that is not the case. My interests just don’t align with them. It is possible right? I remember, when I was in my first job, I had a friend. We used to work in the same office but in a different team. Their team used to sit just across our team. Their entire team used to go on a coffee break every day around 4.30 and they used to spend a good one hour on this break. But all of the team used to stay quiet late in the office working. They needed that break and they loved it. It was kind of their team ritual. My friend was always part of that group but a couple of months into the project, she got married. Her priorities changed. Now, she started feeling uneasy spending one hour on coffee break and then making up for it by staying late in the office. She was not sure how to say no to those coffee breaks. She was worried if that would affect her position in the team. She was scared to say no and kept on going after those coffee breaks and staying late and feeling guilty for staying late. I feel we all feel the same sometime in our life. You know that you have to say no. It is not in your best interest but you keep dragging yourself just because you are too afraid to say no. Steve Jobs once said that “It is only by saying No, you can concentrate on things that are really important.” So give yourself permission to say no, without feeling guilty, mean or selfish and just be in peace with your decision. 

Situation 4 : When you have no money

Ahh, this is a big one. How many times do you see someone who doesn't have the money but tries so hard to show off just to fit in their circle of friends? My dad used to say that you cannot pretend to be rich. Your friends are going on a cruise trip and they invite you. You don’t have that kind of money to spend on a cruise trip or you might have the money but you are saving it for something else, should you say yes to your friends just out of obligation? You and your friend go on a shopping trip and she is shopping in a high end designer store but you are a thrift shopper or not really into those designer clothes, should you buy stuff just to fit in? Your friend bought a house with a front yard, backyard, and pool. I don’t know much about fancy houses so whatever makes the house fancy your friend buys a fancy house with all those features. There is another house right across from her and is available with exact same fancy things. Your friend suggests you excitedly buy that house so that you can stay nearby, should you invest in something that you don’t have means to repay? No, No ,no to all these three questions. Am I correct?  If you have no money to make the same purchase, investment as your friend you say no. Plain and simple. In our Indian culture, we have always been taught that you should spend within your means. There are things that you do to bond without spending any money. Enjoy those little moments together. There is no price tag on a hearty laugh, on a kind gesture, on a supportive hug. Friendships are made with your love, laughter and happiness. Spend those rather than money. It is hard to say no when the offer is so lucrative and shiny. I completely get that, but always look at the bigger picture. Don’t say maybe if you want to say no. It is absolutely your decision. Decide what kind of life you want and then say No to everything that deviates you from your path to get to that life.

Situation 5 : When you have to go against your beliefs.

I think this is the most important situation when you have to gather yourself together and say no at any cost. If the demand is completely against your belief system, against your non negotiable values don’t even think for a second, go ahead and completely deny that demand. Nobody can force you to go against your non-negotiable values. I am absolutely against mom shaming, this is my absolute non negotiable value. I will never ever support anyone whois shaming other moms. I trust with every bone in my body that every mom has her own instinct to parent her own kids. If someone shares a story even as gossip or in a non-harmful way against another mom, I will not wait for a second but say no to be part of this conversation.I am not talking about differences of opinion. People can have different opinions than mine. I am totally open for a healthy discussion. But what I am trying to say here is the demand of going against your non-negotiable belief system. It is your choice to say no to such demands.  I don’t want to get all political or start a controversial conversation here. But everyone has their own threshold, there might be some leeway but beyond that, you need to learn to say no without explaining yourself. Keep yourself calm and just say no. Have the courage to say no and have the courage to face the truth.

Situation 6 : Bonus - whenever you need to. 

This is a bonus situation, guess what? You can say No whenever you want. It is your life my friend, it is your decision when to say yes, when to say no. If you want to say no, please don’t say may be, just say no. Don’t stress yourself out. Don’t choose anxiety when you can choose peace and joy. Always, remember, happiness is a choice, but it's made up of a lot of smaller choices that you need to make based on what you actually want.  You can be a good person with a kind and loving heart and still say no. Setting boundaries is healthy and taking care of yourself is your responsibility. So if you want to say no to something and you think this is the right choice for you, then just say no. I think it is utmost important that we teach ourselves, our kids to say no. But what is even more important is to teach ourselves and our kids to accept the answer No. We should create an environment safe enough that people around us feel comfortable enough to say no. It is our responsibility as a community to create an encouraging environment for anyone to say no to someone or something. There should be no judgement. If you have a right to say no, then you have the responsibility to acknowledge the No from someone else. Let’s understand each other, let’s be each other’s virtual friends and support each other. Let’s create a safe environment to say No  and accept No. What say? Let’s decide together, “It is okay to say No to an overwhelming commitment. It is okay to say no to something that drains you and istead show for yourself, show up for what matters. 


On this note, let’s recap the episode. Today, we discussed why it is important to say no sometimes. We discussed, when and how we can say no? The situations in which you should say no are

  1. When you have no time

  2. When you have no energy

  3. When you have no will

  4. When you have no money

  5. When you have to go against your beliefs.

  6. Whenever you need to

Today’s action item is quite simple,just notice your behavior in these situations and start speaking your mind. If you want to commit to something absolutely say yes and then follow through but if you have even a slightest doubt, don’t hesitate to say no. No is a complete sentence without any explanation or justification. As Paulo Cohelo said , “ When you say yes to others, make sure you are not saying no to yourself.”

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