It’s a two-letter word that has the power to anger, disappoint or maybe even defend.
There’s not just one meaning to “no.” It can hold a handful of meanings, but they all usually leave us feeling some form of heavy-hearted emotion. Disappointing someone has the power to leave a stain on your day and your conscience.
Recently, I had to say “no” to a weekend trip with a few of my high school friends, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was disappointing them. I couldn’t figure out why, but I was crying on the phone to them, even after they told me they wouldn’t be upset with me. I could scratch it down as just being an overly emotional person, or I could dive a little bit deeper into what it means to say “no” — and why it doesn’t always feel right.
Since we were kids, “no” was that big green monster that got in the way of all our plans to stay out playing past dark or to stick our hands in the candy jar before dinner. It was the adults in our lives who told us the difference between right and wrong because we were kids and we didn’t know the difference. “No” was one of the worst words you could hear as a kid because it meant that either you were doing something wrong or you couldn’t do what you wanted.
“No” was a safeguard for us. It kept us out of trouble and prevented us from getting hurt. As kids, we think that we’re invincible, but that’s because we have not been around long enough to learn that’s not the case.
There’s an age-old rule that you don’t jump on your bed. Remember that nursery rhyme with the monkeys jumping on the bed? It’s a pretty classic case of when you are just not supposed to do it, but you did, and boy, did you get hurt. In my case, I already had a broken wrist when I was jumping on my bed. When I fell, coincidentally enough, I broke my other wrist.
I was a horribly klutzy kid, but that was even more of a reason to listen when someone told me no. When we were told no as kids, it was most likely doled out as a way to keep us safe, even if it meant missing out on fun.
Like Pavlov and his dogs, we were trained as kids to have negative feelings toward the word no. Now, as adults, we are uncomfortable, or at least I am, with telling people no. Those feelings of disappointment are so ingrained in us as children that sometimes no can feel wrong.
That’s not to say that we should start letting kids run with scissors; it’s that we, as adults, now have to learn when to dole out our no’s. It’s our turn to know the difference between right and wrong and how to weigh the pros and cons of a situation. It’s still new territory as a growing adult having to say no and disappointing someone.
Part of becoming your own person is learning that you cannot please everyone. There are times when you will have to do what is best for yourself. No does not have to be an ugly word — it can just mean “not right now” or “next time.” Saying no to one opportunity could mean you are on your way to finding a better opportunity.
We should take advantage of the offers that are given to us, if they are within our means and goals. As kids, we wanted to take every opportunity that was given to us because it meant we could find out more about the world around us. As adults, there is still so much to learn, but with that comes the responsibility of weighing different scenarios. Sometimes everything works out and you can say yes to every opportunity presented, and sometimes you have to disappoint people. It’s all a part of growing and learning.
You are your own boss. Yes and no are your words to give out whenever you want. Use them with care.
Michaela Mulligan is a UF journalism sophomore. Her column appears on Wednesdays.