I can’t say no.
I mean, I seriously can’t say no. I’m writing this at 2:30 a.m. right now, because I haven’t managed to utter that word once all week. I truly believe that if a stranger barged into my room right now, blood-soaked and wide-eyed, and asked me to help them hide a dead body, I would say yes out of pure habit. For some reason, I have zero self-preservation skills. No matter how full my schedule becomes and how stressed I already am, the little voice in my head screams, “WE SHOULD HAVE TIME FOR THAT!” Those six words are the siren song that leave me drowning in work and muttering futile complaints as I continue to sink. Week after week, I make the same mistakes over and over again and suffer through the same consequences — late nights, zero free time, and utter exhaustion.
But, why do I continue to say yes? Why do you continue to say yes? Why do we continue to say yes? I used to think the core of this problem was rooted in my need for academic validation as I cling onto the remnants of my high school self. I assumed that my desperation to get good grades and be liked by my teachers had translated over into the non-academic parts of my life as well. In short, I thought it was because I’m a people pleaser. Yes, you heard it right, my name is Neha Iyer, and I’m a people pleaser. (This is where you say, “Hi, Neha.”) Making people happy, by doing exactly what they ask of me, makes me happy — at least temporarily.
I used to think that maybe I just got addicted to the euphoric high associated with receiving validation, but I’m starting to believe that there’s an even better explanation. Yes, I love being academically validated. Yes, I am a people pleaser. But, I also struggle with setting boundaries for myself, and if I don’t start setting some now, the cost will be my sanity. I always have something to do, from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep. There’s always something — for work, for a club, for school, and, always for someone else. This mindset has been incredibly destructive, and has lowered the quality of my life and the quality of my work. My brain is so scrambled that I’ve managed to lose both my wallet and ID within the last two weeks. So, in an effort to revamp my life, I am starting a self-care experiment. Every week, I am going to carve out time that is just for me, and I’m writing this article so everyone can hold me accountable. It will be a time when I refuse to think about work, and instead focus all my energy on being happy and relaxed and in the moment.
I want to start reading again. I want to go out into the city more. I want to have dinner with friends. Because needing time for yourself each week, to have fun each week, is a perfectly valid reason to say no. Time when you choose to do nothing is not wasted time, and choosing to be productive all the time doesn’t make you any better than anyone else, nor any more ahead than anyone else. We’re all running very different races — sprinting as fast as you can, all day every day, will make you collapse eventually. We need to make the word “no” a part of our day to day vocabulary, so we don’t end up resentful of the life we created for ourselves.