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When Is It Okay To Say No?

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We ponder the social pressures of the N word…

It’s come to my attention recently that we have a collective habit of saying yes to doing things that we don’t want to do or to going places that we’d rather not. Upon closer inspection, we do this quite often (myself in particular). Across all generations, – it’s not just a millennial thing – it seems almost impossible to simply say ‘I don’t want to go’ or ‘to be honest, I’m just not in the mood’ when met with a social suggestion. We scramble to make up excuses so as not to upset or offend anyone else. We fear that being so frank would result in some heavy social judgement. But why is doing what you want to do, or not doing what you don’t want to do, a bad thing? If I’m invited out with a group of friends for drinks, nothing major, and I say that I just don’t fancy it, am I rude? Or worse, a bitch?

I decided a while back that I was going to make a conscious effort to live more on my own terms, letting myself off the hook when it comes to my incessant need to please other people. Surely, the one person we should be most concerned with pleasing is ourselves. At what point is it not considered selfish to be, well, a little selfish? Though I set myself this task, I’ve come up against a brick wall on many occasions. It’s not that I’m anti-social or that I don’t like people (quite the opposite, actually), there are just days when it doesn’t suit for any greater reason than just that: ‘it doesn’t suit’. Increasingly, if I don’t have a legitimate excuse not to partake of something, I struggle to say this grossly underestimated, highly liberating word: ‘no’.

You’ve probably been here too: If I’m tired, I need to put across why I’m tired, often exaggerating that ‘no, but really, I haven’t slept properly in nights and I was LITERALLY falling asleep at my desk today, I’m probably coming down with something, it’s probably Ebola’, as I yawn down the phone for dramatic effect. If I’d rather not spend my money on a night out, I find myself mapping out the next few weeks, the upcoming events and how much they’ll cost me, so that my staying put is justified. Again, I ask, at what point will it be ok to politely decline, without the added excuses?

I’d like to think that perhaps I’m the problem. After all, if I’m the one putting myself under this needless pressure, then I could just as easily stop, but there’s scarce a person, these days, to whom you can say ‘no, I don’t think I’ll go’ without them instantly returning with ‘Why not? What else have you got on?’ It’s a given that if you’ve got no real reason not to go, you pretty much have to.

I doubt if I’m alone in the fact that I look forward to time spent doing nothing. I am not the kind of person who enjoys a schedule packed to the brim with social engagements. What’s more, when I do go out, I’ve never been the last man standing. Don’t get me wrong; I like to have fun, I dance like a maniac and possess a superpower in which I can put away several gin and tonics at supersonic speed. But after a certain amount of time, I’m ready to go home, and my bed seems far more attractive than a crowded, sweaty bar. I’m passed the point of wanting any more drinks just for the sake of drinking. Do I go home? No. Do I stop drinking? I try, but it’s never without a fight. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve had to make a serious case for why I’m happy to pass on the shots of tequila. ‘Why are you going home? It’s so early!’ ‘Well, it’s 3am, it’s not that early’ and ‘Shots! shots! shots! Go on, it’s just a bit of fun’ have been a recurring conversational theme in my adult life.

Am I less fun because I don’t stay out ’til 6am? Am I uptight because I (and my sensitive body) know the one that’s one too many? Much like saying no to going out at all, it’s a challenge trying to leave early if you haven’t got a reason ready for those who measure the success of a night by the hour of the morning at which you fall down.

I adore those with whom I socialise, but (while we’re on the subject of being frank) I’ve had it with today’s definition of a good time. Life is hard enough at times without these social pressures thrown into the mix. Go out if you want to go out, stay in if you’d rather not. Go home at 2am if that’s what you fancy, or dance ’til dawn if it makes you feel good. As for alcohol? Drink what you want to drink and don’t expect anything of those around you. We’re all living life at our own pace and surely by now the correlation between drink and ‘craic’ has been utterly demystified.

There’s always time for doing something for others, but this time around, why not do yourself a favour?

@CarolineForan

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