I say yes to everything! You want to know why?
I was once producing a television series on conspiracy theories. A colleague came to me and said I should consider a comedy writer, Danny Wallace as the presenter. He’d never done television before, but had just written a successful book – ‘Join Me’. An amusing tale of how he had started a cult by accident.
So, we met, he was engaging and I thought: ‘great, he’s perfect’! There was no need to sell the idea of the show to him. He said yes, without even giving it a second thought. The series went on to be a Ratings hit.
Fast forward to about one year later. Danny’s second book comes out. In it, he mentions that first meeting with me. And why he had no choice but to say yes to presenting my show.
I had no idea back then, but this rendezvous came bang in the middle of his year of being ‘Yes Man’. This was also the title of his new book.
For one year, he had to live by the self-imposed rule of only saying yes to everything. No matter what it was. But he wasn’t allowed to tell anyone. So, when I asked him to present my documentary series, he had to say yes. No wonder his answer was instantaneous!
This year changed his life. Not least because Jim Carrey later optioned his book and went on to make the ‘Yes Man’ Hollywood film. Danny even got to attend the Oscars. But hey, I got to launch his television career.
This was more than a decade ago now. But for some reason the ‘Yes Man’ concept has always stuck with me. In fact, I still use his mantra to this day.
There’s been many times where an invite to a networking event has landed in my inbox. Or for a party, or a small get together with people I don’t know that well. And my first thought is to say no ….. I don’t want to go; nup, can’t be bothered. Which is often just a cover for the dread of having to turn up alone and looking like a dick when I’m there.
But then I started imposing Danny’s ‘Yes Man’ rule. Or ‘Yes Woman’ if you want to get politically correct about it. I must say yes to things, even if I feel nervous about doing them. I’m not talking about allowing myself to become a victim or doing anything stupid. But saying yes to things that could open new doors and opportunities.
There’s another mantra I swear by, as it’s been true for me: ‘when the student is ready, the teacher comes’. And in a way, the ‘Yes Man’ philosophy plays into this as well.
If you are open to the universe. If you say yes to going to new places, different events or to meeting new people. The chances are that that will open the door to the ‘teacher’ coming into your life. Who’ll say just the thing you are ready to hear. That thing that will allow you to learn more about yourself.
Or saying yes will lead you to another person who will become a pivotal relationship in your life. Or one event may lead to another that takes you down an exciting new road in your career. Yes means everything and anything is possible.
I’ve found the more you push through the feelings of fear and say yes, the easier it gets. Instead of dreading turning up alone to that party, you go with a more confident attitude. You know that this could be the event that changes your life. Or that this could be where you meet my soul mate. You just don’t know it yet.
The better you get at saying yes, the more your life opens in amazing and sometimes, unexpected ways. But there is a caveat to all this.
There is ‘Yes’ and then there is ‘Yes’. There is saying yes in a self-assured sense. And then there is saying yes, in an insecure and people-pleasing way. I was only able to learn the difference between the two, when I learnt to say the more difficult word, ‘No’.
Whilst yes has been full of promise and opportunity, no has been the most liberating word of all to me.
From when I was young I was a people-pleaser. I morphed into whomever anyone wanted me to be. I knew what I had to do or say for the cool kids to accept me and the nerdy ones to look up to me as such. But I always felt like an outsider, I was deeply insecure.
I would voice the same opinions as someone, rather than ever dare say ‘no, I don’t agree’. (People who know me now would laugh at this!). I pretended to know the answer to anyone’s problems, to act as their Agony Aunt and gain some authority. Rather than admitting I didn’t have a clue. Hell, I didn’t even know who I was!
When I met my Ex, my self-esteem was so low. Even though the warning bells were telling me this man was no good for me, I ignored them all. I couldn’t say no to him once he swept me into a relationship.
I couldn’t say ‘no, this is not good enough for me’, when the verbal abuse started. I didn’t say no to violence. Or walk away, when most women would have done.
He strangled me when I was seven months pregnant. I thought I was going to die that day. As I begged for my life on my last gasp of breath, the white light closed in on me, like a tunnel taking me towards my death. I had a vision, so clear and real, of my parents arriving back home from their holiday and finding my corpse. I could feel their intense sorrow as if I was them, of finding their youngest daughter dead.
I found the courage to go to the police that day. I admitted to them and myself that I was a victim of domestic violence. But even after they issued a restraining order, I was unable to say no, when he came back into my life.
Why could I not say no? Why was it so hard for me? I guess it was a fear of abandonment. It was a fear of rejection. A fear of admitting I was wrong. I was also terrified of confrontation. So, in the face of any bully in the workplace (and there have been a few), I was also crap, back then, at saying no to them too.
It took me many years to learn how to say this word. I had to hit rock bottom first. But I found the courage to walk away from that destructive relationship. And little by little I learnt to put myself first.
No is finding the courage to say this is not good enough for me. This is not bringing out the best in me. No is about learning to be assertive with bullies and standing up for yourself. Which is easier if you take the emotion out of it and learn to do so with dignity.
The incredible thing is that once you say no the first time, the bubble just bursts. It’s like finding out the Wizard of Oz is just a little man behind that scary facade. No, makes fear melt away. If you can say no once, then you can say it again. And bullies are cowards when confronted.
The more I said no, the better at it I got. I realised that putting myself first isn’t selfish but self-caring. And healthier boundaries were set. No, changed my life. Those who were no good for me disappeared, bullies were more reluctant to try it on. I was ready to progress to saying ‘Yes!’
I’ve said yes to jobs or projects that terrified me, yes to travelling to places a bit out of my comfort zone. I’ve said yes to simple things like putting on a smart dress and turning up to that networking event alone. I’ve said yes to opening my life to what is possible. And it hasn’t disappointed me. The only pity is I don’t get to go to Hollywood like Danny did and to pick out my Oscar party dress. But who knows? There’s still time.
Originally published at www.beingunbeatable.com