In many moments of my life, I find myself afraid to say “yes.” I’ve had a bad habit of saying “no” to all the right things (new experiences, new friends, new adventures) and “yes” to all the wrong things (helping someone out to the point where I’m inconvenienced, feeling too guilty to back out of plans I only made because I felt guilted into it in the first place). Two things cause my frustration:
- I hate disappointing or upsetting people.
- I’m terrified of the unknown.
So many things in life are out of our control. I try to grasp onto whatever I can control, and sometimes that means trying to shield myself from potential mishaps. Trying new things brings up so many feelings for me, and many of them are shrouded in worry.
Will I fail at this new thing?
What if this new person doesn’t like me?
What if I’m bad at whatever I’m trying?
What if things go wrong?
What if I don’t have a good time?
What if I end up feeling miserable?
I do think some of this worry can be credited to my Generalized Anxiety Disorder. While my anti-anxiety meds help me silence these fears, they don’t make them dissipate forever. There’s sometimes still a nagging voice in the back of my head.
As much as this nagging voice is trying to “save” me from the occasional awkward encounter, it also prevents me from having new, wonderful, rewarding experiences. I’m missing out. Or at least that’s how I feel. It would be a different story if I felt completely fine with my decisions to constantly turn down invitations out or opportunities to meet new people. Instead, once I make my decision, I feel bad about it, and often wish I’d said yes.
To counter that, I’m actively trying to say “yes” to things my gut would automatically say “no” to. Saying “yes” more has been challenging, but there have been a few instances recently where I said “yes” and it’s absolutely paid off. I’m part of a charities committee at work; I started volunteering for a local organization; I attended the birthday party of a co-worker I didn’t know very well at the time and now we’re friends; and I’m even learning how to knit from a sweet woman who I walked up to one day and just said, “I admire your skill!”
My fears always seem so silly when I end up having a great time. So if you’re also looking for ways to open yourself up to new experiences, here are a few dos and don’ts I’ve learned.
DO give yourself a moment to think when an offer is on the table. No need to jump straight to “yes” OR to “no.”
DON’T feel bad about your decision one way or the other. It’s great to try new things, but it’s also completely acceptable not to want to!
DO consider why your gut instinct is to turn down an offer. Sometimes, it’s legit. You shouldn’t be agreeing to go DIY bungee jumping.
DON’T get hung up on the “what ifs.” I know what it’s like to fret over how things might turn out. But you can’t actually know how it will unless you do it, or don’t do it.
DO relax. As much as you can, anyway. Life’s too short to fret, my dears.
DON’T base your decisions on other people. The decisions made by others shouldn’t necessarily influence your own — and if others try to bully you one way or the other, stand your ground.
DO keep things in perspective. I agreed to go to a bowling party the other week, and they didn’t have bumpers. I’VE NEVER BOWLED WITHOUT BUMPERS BEFORE. Instead of worrying about being bad, I rolled with it. Who cares if I sucked, as long as I had a good time? Once I started playing, everyone was super nice about my lack of bowling skills — and it didn’t even matter that I came in last place.
DON’T let your fears get the best of you. In most instances, people are much nicer than we think they’ll be, events are much less miserable than we anticipate, and trying matters so much more than succeeding or failure.
DO have fun and stay true to yourself. If that means saying “yes” to saying “no” more, then so be it. Don’t worry about anyone else. Unless those people have cheesecake, and then you should worry about where you can get some.
Photo credit Jason Weeks.