“But what if they say no???” – the question that prevents us from doing pretty much anything. We’ve all been there, we all do it all of the time, we have a great idea, we believe that we have worked hard enough for a promotion, we are sure that we deserve more money for a job that we are doing and we’re so ready to question it, to ask for something, to DEMAND it even, and then we have that thought: “but what if they say no???” and all of a sudden that idea dissolves, the hope that we had fizzles out and before we’ve even had the chance of being rejected, we’ve convinced ourselves that the idea wasn’t worth having in the first place.
We hear this scenario a LOT where women in work are concerned, they say that the reason that we are unable to move ahead in work is because we just can’t ask for what we deserve. And to a degree I am sure that there is an element of this in play: I know for certain that this is something that happens to me all of the time, I never ask for money in work, convinced that the person who receives my request is going to run for the hills and label me as a danger and the idea of asking for MORE money, should someone have offered me some in the first place? Well don’t be ridiculous, that’s just unthinkable.
This is something that Alex is constantly on my case for, when a PR gets in touch with me and offers me something to try, he begs me to ask them for money, to send them my rates. I always explain to him, patiently, why I can’t: ‘it doesn’t work like that’, I tell him. ‘You don’t just ASK for money, are you insane???’ Of course, I’m wrong. That’s exactly how it works. But in MY head, in my totally irrational mind, the one that is totally terrified of rejection in any form, well that’s a different story entirely. So I say no, I say it for them, I save them the bother and us all the embarrassment and shoot the idea down just as soon as I have had it. And then my feelings are spared. And for a short little minute, that feels pretty good. I haven’t asked for money and I don’t get it, but at least I don’t have to sit and watch the minutes go by on my laptop until I realise that my money talk did in fact scare them off and there will not be a return email.
But is that really the answer? Is this idea of saving myself from rejection, even if it means shrinking myself down at every turn, the solution? Is it making me happier? You know, I’m not sure that it is. Because I don’t think a ‘no’ from me is actually any easier to take in the long run, than a ‘no’ from a stranger would be.
I know a girl who literally does not take no for an answer, ever. She is fearless. I’ve watched her march into a kitchen before now to ask where our food is an hour after we’ve ordered it. I’ve watched her get out of her car and move a whole load of cones so that she can park where she wants to park. I’ve watched her do pretty much everything. She EXPLODES confidence and when I’m with her I am left feeling half mortified (because I am the type of girl who would say no to a free box of doughnuts) and half totally in awe of her ‘won’t take no for an answer attitude’. She runs an incredibly successful business, has a husband that she both adores and respects and is generally a very happy person. And so every time I leave her I think: I’m going to be more like that. It’s working for her, why can’t it work for me? But then the opportunity presents itself and I’m back to my old ways, hiding behind my hands and talking myself out of everything.
I am not happier that I say no to everything, in fact, I think I’m missing out on a huge amount of life because of it. Because it’s not just the unanswered questions, it’s my whole attitude. It’s this fear that surrounds me, this uncertainty, this belief that I am not worth very much. The belief that leads me to telling myself ‘no’ before I’ve given anyone else the chance to. And that is a belief that a lot of us have, that a lot of women have. Sure we’re told all the time that “if you don’t ask, you don’t get” and that “the worst thing anyone can do is say no”, both true enough sayings, but we just don’t hear it like that. No, I think we hear those expressions as something like this: “if I don’t ask, then I won’t be rejected” or “yes the worst thing anyone can do is say no because that IS THE WORST THING IN THE WORLD” and fairly quickly we’ve talked ourselves back into our totally debilitating mindset.
Albert Einstein once said: “A ship is safest at shore, but that’s not what it’s built for” and this is a quote that I not only love but can totally relate to this piece. Much like a ship I am so much safer at the shore, clinging onto the side for dear life BUT that is absolutely not what I was built for. I have massive dreams of things that I want to do and directions that I want to take this blog and my life and career, I have all of this ambition and that is what I was built for and it seems that for the most part, the only thing that is stopping me from getting where I want to be? It’s me and my obsession with saying no to myself.
I have got to stop holding myself back. I have got to stop assuming that everybody is going to say no to me and I’ve really got to stop beating them to the punch. I don’t want to lie and pretend that I won’t feel a crushing blow next time someone turns me down but what I do need to do is give them the chance to do that. And that’s something that I would encourage you to do to. A no is a hard thing to hear, I do appreciate that but it is so important to remember that a ‘no’ from you is not necessarily easier to take.