In a culture full of reasons to say “no,” it takes a lot of courage to find ways to say “yes.”
We’re taught to say “no” from a very young age, after all. For most of us, our first word was “no”, and it quickly became our favorite word. As toddlers and teenagers, we used “no” to
differentiate ourselves from our parents, peers, and surroundings. It’s how we began to control what was happening around us, or at least, how we tried to control that. It helped us over those early developmental hurdles, and gave us our earliest sense of our personal boundaries — and that’s a lot of significance bound up in such a tiny word!
The problem isn’t that “no” in and of itself is somehow bad; indeed, giving yourself permission to say “no” as an adult can keep you out of an awful lot of trouble.
The problem is that “No” begins to take on a life of its own. Too often, that life is yours.
Life is change, and “no” becomes a way of slowing down that change, or trying to stop it altogether. It is a shield we used to protect ourselves from having to experience anything new or different. Rather than riding the wave of change into a life full of exhilarating possibilities, we use “no” as a tether to keep us safely confined to the kiddie pool.
Using “no” to protect ourselves from change is like a kitten poking its head under covers, assuming it’s completely hidden. Change is going to happen, whether you say “no” to it or not. And, just like that kitten, assuming that “no” protects you from change is one sure way to have it pounce on you and bite your tail.
Let’s be honest here: We usually say “no” out of fear, and some fears are entirely reasonable. It’s sensible to say “no” to jumping off a bridge or “no” to cake if you are diabetic. These “no’s” aren’t the ones that keep us from living lives of incredible satisfaction and happiness. It’s those silly, neurotic fears like fearing rejection, or of looking stupid or being wrong. It’s the fear of commitment, the fear of speaking out, and the fear of facing our truest, deepest desires. The list is nauseatingly long, and we’ve all bought into some of these at least once. These fears have shaped our lives, often to our detriment and sometimes to the detriment of those around us.
So the next time you’re faced with something new and exciting and all those little neurotic fears start rioting inside you, what does it take to fight down a “no” and say “yes” instead?
Like the Cowardly Lion (an archetype for the fear-ridden) we need to find our courage. Unlike him, we know that we have to face our fears and find our courage within. Inside each of us beats a brave, fiercely courageous heart, willing to take on a challenge if it means that life afterward will be more authentic, happier, and freer. What better challenges tackling than the fears that keep us chained to our tiny, boring, closeted little lives?
Do yourself a favor: Right now, identify and tackle at least one of those inner fears. Find a reason to say “yes” today and every day. You’ve only your inner coward to lose!