How to Politely and Lovingly Say Hell No: The True Story of Me Jumping off a Bridge to Make You Love Me

Like most mothers, my angel of a mom always tried to instill the fear of God into me at a very young age. I remember vividly my mom (most likely with a sandal in her hand) asking:

“If your friends were jumping off a bridge, would you jump too?”

I never understood why she would ask me such a simple question when my my answer would naturally be that I would assess the height of the bridge and weigh out the pros and cons of course. In all reality, my mom knew who I was.... a classic people pleaser. While bridges were the least of her worries, she never truly warned me what would happen if I were to say yes… to everyone… all of the fricken time. She never taught me the true and necessary art of saying no.

What if I were to say no? Would people like me less, would I seem less helpful, would I be less of a daughter or a disappointing girlfriend?

Who would I be if I weren’t always pleasing?

The answer is I would be myself, but a lot less anxious, worried, and unhappy because I was communicating something to the world when I was always saying yes. I was telling everyone that their opinion about me mattered more than my own opinion of myself. That I would exchange my happiness and sanity for theirs. So in short, I would actually jump off a bridge if it would make you happy and love me more.

It took me a long time to understand what saying yes really meant. It meant that I was constantly saying no to myself. To things that brought me joy and peace. To everything that I deeply wanted but was hidden behind the 176 point to-do list I created of things that I could be doing for others.

We believe no to be the ugly sister of yes, a boundary between us and life. But, we can’t possibly do everything. Most of us desperately need boundaries to understand the limits to how much of ourselves we can give. Like most things in life, there is a fine balance between no and yes. Both can lead to adventure, both can lead to beauty. In the end, it is about understanding and following what holds importance to us because that will guide us to the bridges worth jumping off of.