Growing up, especially in a conservative, traditional country like the Philippines, I was always taught that it was rude to say no to people. I would be forced to kiss my titos and titas hello, even if it made me uncomfortable. I would take on project after project without being able to resist in fear of looking unprofessional or lazy. I would say yes to outing after outing, even when my wallet was in pain and all I felt like doing was crawl into bed and take a good, long nap. Time after time, I would always do things I didn't even want to do, and in the end, I would regret doing them. It took me so long to realize that there was nothing wrong with properly and respectfully rejecting someone, and when I had gotten used to it, I had no idea why I used to find it so hard.
A lot of the time, we think it's wrong to say no because we don't want to hurt the feelings of others.
Here's the thing: A lot of the time, we think it's wrong to say no because we don't want to hurt the feelings of others. Yes, it's important to care for other people, but you need to remember to care for yourself, too! It's okay to say no if you don't feel comfortable doing something. It's okay to reject a date offer if someone asks you out and you don't like them. It's okay to decline to take another project. There is nothing wrong with not wanting to do something. Sometimes, we just aren't up for things or don't have the physical or mental capacity to do them, and that's fine! There is no need to feel guilty for loving yourself, or for taking time for yourself and yourself only.
I know it isn't easy to say no, especially when it's face to face. Trust me when I say that it took me a long time to become comfortable with doing it, it truly was a long, horrendous process. To be honest, I'm not even fully comfortable doing it now! Something important to remember is that you don't need to take a big leap right away. Build yourself up from being overly apologetic about skipping plans or lightly rejecting someone's offer to being able to be completely straightforward and direct about what you're feeling.
Here are a few situations you might get stuck in and make you feel like you have no way of saying no. But we also have suggestions to help you get out of those situations.
- Someone you're not interested in asks you out on a date.
A lot of us have gone through this painful experience before. It feels awful, especially when you know that the person asking you out really likes you. However, even if it feels bad, it's better to let them down right away instead of waiting to tell them, or leading them on.
To decline gently, you can say "I'm sorry, but I just don't see you that way." It's the truth, it's direct, it's straight to the point, but it's lighthearted and isn't as heavy as flat out saying "I don't like you," or "It's not going to happen."
- Your friend or barkada asks you to go with them to an outing.
Your friends are the people you hold close to your heart. You'd drop everything for them in a heartbeat, especially when you know they need your company. However, there are just times when you can't bring yourself to go.
It's okay to say "Sorry, pero hindi kaya ng wallet ko," if you feel like you've been spending too much and want to take the time to save money. If it's not money and you just don't feel like it, tell your friends the truth. Say you don't feel like going because if they are truly your friends, they will understand when you need some time alone.
- Your parents tell you that you need to go to a family event with them.
A lot of the time, being a Filipino means that you grow up with your family. You meet with them on holidays, on birthdays, and on every occasion possible. Parties are filled with loud talking, socialization, making beso to every adult you pass by. It can be so fun yet tiring at the same time.
Sometimes, simply thinking about all of that interaction and touching can feel extremely draining. Try to talk to your parents in a gentle, mild-mannered tone as to why you're feeling under the weather. Remember to tell them honestly and sincerely what you're feeling because that's the only way you're really going to get through to them.
Saying no is scary, sure. It can be a risk. You might have someone get mad at you; an angry ex-admirer that'll yell at you for breaking their heart, an inconsiderate friend that'll want to force you to come to that party you really don't want to attend. There'll always be people that will hear you say no and will do all that they can to change your mind, but life truly is short. Don't waste your time doing things that make you unhappy. Learn to care for yourself. Learn to put yourself first, because the point of living is to be happy with what you do. Get rid of all whatever baggage is weighing you down and find what brings you joy.
Stop wasting your time saying yes simply because you think it's what's best for everyone, because sometimes, deep down, you know it isn't.
Ever been in similar sitch? How did you handle it?