Saying yes when meaning NO. What did I learn and where do I go from here

by Despoina
yes vs no

I remember one of the first times that I said yes when I really meant to say no. It was when I went off to college to study Information Management, something I did not really care for or was particularly excited about.  I did not even understand what it meant other than it had something to do with “computers”.  I knew that I wanted to learn how to design my own websites tough so I thought I will just go for it and see what might come out of that. After all I was 18 and going to College no matter if you like the subject of studies is what you do.  If you ask me today, I would say that compromising was not the way to go and that this was a huge waste of my time. Unfortunately when you get used to this type of choices , you will make the mistake again and again.

Saying NO is fucking hard

Sometimes I think of the time and the stress I could have saved myself if I had just said no to things I did not really want to do. How different would my situation be today if I dared to go after what I really wanted instead of being “safe”,  “patient” , “nice”, “helpful” or possibly just an idiot. I started reflecting on this behavioural pattern of mine when one of the last times that I said yes, even though my gut feeling was a loud no, resulted in me spending six months in a dead end job that I really did not want or enjoyed doing. 

One thing I know is that I cannot blame others when I feel unhappy or pressured. In my personal life I managed to never do things I do not like. I do not speak to people I don’t want to speak to and I never make myself feel pressured.  Sure, it was not always that way and things changed when I started saying no. Defining what is important for me, sticking to it and keeping all of the noise out. A lot of things helped me manage this. My husband has never cared for the “must” and that was a refreshing change on how I behave towards social obligations or how I had to act even in our relationship. My friends and some of my family are of the same mindset so I never get stressed or pressured into doing things.

Now that I know what it feels like, I am greedy and I want things in my professional life to be the same way. So I  pin pointed the reasons that drive me to say yes when I really mean no in an effort to recognise them next time and act appropriately, keep that noise out and never feel pressured or even stressed into doing things.

Feeling that there is no alternative. 

There are times that I said yes because there seemed to be no alternative. Or at least the alternative was not obvious at the time of the decision. Taking up that job or getting involved in a project that does not pay well or that is not what I want just to not be unemployed or have blanks on my CV. There is nothing more stressful than having gaps on your career timeline. Not stressful because of you but rather for what other people will choose to assume about you.  So much like with college , I just went for these jobs to see what would come out of them. The result? I hated every moment of it. I was always on the edge, taking things way too personally and was never satisfied which took a toll on my personal life as well. 

What I would say is, I know it is hard but if it is not what you want and you know you cannot make it work or give it your true 100%just do not take that job, take a break instead. Follow a course, go on a trip, be unemployed it is OK, really. No one cares. No one. It is most likely that you will gain more from not working on a dead end job that taking it just to fill in the timeline.

Giving a helpful hand.

Ending up chocking myself with it

It is always exciting to work on a new project, get some extra cash, adding a new cool item on the portfolio but at the same time there are risks. An over commitment , enthusiasm to help and people who take advantage of those very same facts.

I know what it feels like starting up, I was there myself and even so there are times that I feel that I am back to zero. I feel the stress, the confusion, having to do all the work myself , wanting every little detail to be perfect. It is not always fun and easy trying to figure it out on your own. I only wish there where people around to help me when I needed it. Hopefully people who would provide quality work for little to no money whenever I needed it. So I say the occasional yes in helping and working with non profits with other freelancers , with small business owners. There are times when these collaborations work out and then everyone is happy but it is not always the case. While initially they will seem to be speaking my language, understand the struggles because they go through the same thing in the end they will just want to take advantage of a free service until it dries out.

All in one solution.

Once people pass on the other side, the one of the client,  they tend to forget to be respectful and responsible. People do not realise where my work ends and what lies within my responsibility. They do not realise that I too have weekends, days off or my own life to manage. When I end up saying yes to that little extra task I usually find myself doing the job of four people or the entire work in fact as if the business is mine or I am paid as a project manager.

Here is a for instance; Would you hire a plumber to fix a problem in your sink but then expect him to also remodel , clean and rearrange your bathroom and while he is at it, maybe also go out in the supermarket and get some toilet paper for you? All while only paying him for plumping ? No you would not. You would not expect this, you would not make that request because it is ridiculous not to mention out of limits and dumb.

Limits. They should be set from the start and they should be respected. What I will provide and what I will not, what you should expect from me and and what you cannot ask. It is true that sometimes I get excited and compassionate and I mention that I can help with this and that if necessary but before you know it I do basically everything! I remember for instance designing an eShop but then also organising an online advertising and emailing campaign on the side for the same client and on top of that being expected to help boost the sales of the actual products…. errrr no. These are 4 different jobs and you are not even paying me for one!

Paying my dues … but maybe I have already paid off that loan

Your parents will tell you that after all the hard shit ….. or is it hardship?  you will only get better in your craft and get your break in the end. Your parents themselves have gone through it and you have probably read it in almost every successful person’s biography. So I will say yes in doing that little task thinking that not only I am helping out someone but that this is a learning opportunity that will help me get even better at what I do and improve.

Here is a scenario where this is ok, when this is a first job and you have to gain basic skills and work ethic on what you are doing.  In no other scenario is this ok…. Would you ask Dries Van Noten to come to your house and iron your shirts for free because you “don’t know how” when in reality you just can’t be bothered? No, you would not and that is because you know that this is a stupid and outrageous idea. Also Dries Van Noten would probably not even answer the call ….

There is no reason to say yes when you feel that a job will make you feel undervalued and no advantages  will come out of it  the end. Unless you will be doing it for your parents, you kind of owe them your life.


I guess knowing when and how to say no is something that comes with some level of experience and yes I will say it, maturity. After having had my share of “bullshitters” both in a personal but also in a professional scenario I know how to avoid certain things. As I grow, I am more sure of what I want but even more sure of what I don’t want. I know myself better and I know what I bring to the table. We all have our moments of insecurity but that is no reason to compromise, downgrade  or be weak anymore. Sure everyone needs that helping hand to get forward but putting other before you is just plain stupid.

It is not always easy saying no and it requires a lot of work, practise and….. balls. However, it is either saying no and being free of worries or saying yes when meaning no and feeling annoyed. From now on I choose peace. To be continued……

Currently listening to Destiny’s Child: No, No, No


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