I've long been surrounded by superwomen. They're strong. They're selfless. They're caring. But what makes them super is that they never, ever say "no."
I grew up thinking the number of times a woman said "yes" equated to their success. I thought and still do to some extent, that the number of organizations and activities listed on a woman's resume defined their leadership prowess and set them apart from all the rest. I sought to prove myself by satisfying others' requests and let the number of activities I could juggle stabilize my self-esteem. Overextension was an understatement.
But where does this incessant need to satisfy people's requests come from? Perhaps it comes from my need to please people. Maybe it stems from my fear of confrontation, or maybe it comes from my inability to make decisions regarding the direction my life takes.
Now that I'm in college, I realize that I'm a serial user of that dreaded three letter word because of the last explanation. More than my desire to be well-liked or fear of confrontation, I've always been indecisive. I'd rather avoid the awkward tension that comes with weighing the pros and cons of a decision entirely by answering people's requests with a resounding "Yes!" "Yes" is a directional word for me- it means moving forward, it means being optimistic and positive, it's a validation of my ability to do something and do a good job.
But what I've come to learn and what Vanessa M. Patrick, Associate Professor of Marketing at the C.T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston, says is that "the ability to communicate 'no' reflects that you are in the driver's seat of your own life." And for women, being in the driver's seat in our own lives is a necessity.
I realize now that I've internalized indecisiveness as a feminine trait, and that at heart I've relegated myself to insecurity and anxiety when it comes to making decisions because I've been taught that that's a masculine trait. My inability to say no reduces my power as a student, as a woman, and as a leader.
Taking decision-making off the table further distracts me from pursuing my greatest passions and curiosities. By placing myself on a path that seems to be made for me and playing into the essentialist perspective I betray myself and my own independence. So now, I refuse to accept the path that's presented to me. I refuse overextension. I refuse to be timid in the face of decision making and pledge to be diligent in saying, "no."
"No" does not mean closing a door. "No" means focus, it means direction, it means the enhancing my true purpose in a journey made by me for me.