The 3 Questions That Make Saying “No” Easier

Photographed by Eylul Aslan.
Learning to say no can be tricky, but once you do, it's often gratifying. Whether we’re saying it to a friend who's requesting a favor or to ourselves when we're tempted to buy another vanilla scented candle from Anthropology, uttering the words “nope” holds incredible power. 
Especially right now, saying no can be a form of self care. No to the Zoom call with that chatty Cathy acquaintance. No to that social distancing walk with a friend who has no concept of what six feet looks like. Just, no. To help you say no with emphasis during these strange times and beyond, we’ve taken a chapter from Karen Karbo’s book, Yeah, No. Not Happening: How I Found Happiness Swearing Off Self-Improvement and Saying F*ck It All ― and How You Can Too.  
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Saying “yeah, no, not happening” is about learning to evade the tyranny of culturally sanctioned bullshit. It’s about figuring out what you want to do and taking a pass on the rest. Before we say yes or no to something, we need to take some time to think about it. Our Buy Now with One-Click culture discourages taking even a minute for consideration, which is how I wound up with not one but two weighted blankets, an essential oil diffuser, a fruit dehydrator, and a subscription to a webinar that promises to boost creativity while lowering anxiety — I think. I bought it during a low moment when I felt very anxious and uncreative; then the moment passed and I forgot about it. 
To be able to say yeah, no, not happening with authority, we’ve got to seriously entertain what it would mean to say yes. That’s why we start with yeah, which translates to “okay, I’m going to spend some time thinking about this.” 
Consider: where is this urge to improve yourself coming from? Is some inner surveyor on your case because you’ve been too freewheeling lately, reminding you a good modern woman is always disciplined and self-policing? Are you feeling dissatisfied with reality and want to escape who you are by resuming the chase after the fantasy of your best self? Did you simply see a product being shilled by a beautiful influencer online and that stirred up all your dissatisfaction, disappointment, and insecurity? Did your mother say something to you on your birthday? 
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Consider: why do you want to say yes? To do something, anything, even something lame and expensive, to feel better about yourself and your life? To go along with the other Stepford wives doing radical puppy Pilates? (Actually, if that’s not a thing, it should be.) Because you don’t know who you are if you’re not improving yourself? Or is something that your true self genuinely requires? 
Consider: what does it cost in time and energy? Is there someone who stands to make money from your decision? If upon reflection you feel like a Wednesday night karaoke date with the women from the office would be a zany break from an otherwise dull workweek, say yeah, it’s happening! Likewise, if you have trouble getting enough fruits and veg in your diet and that weekly smoothie delivery service, though a little expensive, would make life easier, go for it. Extreme waxing of your lady bits? Know that I’m saying yeah, no, not happening, and also judging you, but you can tell me to fuck right on off. To each her own, sister. 
I hope by now it’s clear that the best thing you can do to improve your life is to say a hard no to most of the self-improvement-related nonsense being thrust upon us every minute of every day. Anything that will eventually make you feel like crap about yourself: no. Anything that feeds self-doubt while eroding your ability to trust your knowledge and instincts: no. Anything that features a moving goal-post: no and no. Saying no signals that we respect our own judgment, our time and energy. We’re setting boundaries when we say no. Not happening underscores this. It turbo-powers your no. It seals the deal. No, this is totally not happening. Added bonus, it makes you sound confident in your decision, especially to your own ears.
From the book Yeah, No. Not Happening. by Karen Karbo. Copyright © 2020 by Karen Karbo. Published on May 19, 2020 by Harper Wave, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted by permission.

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