Qualifying the No

In yesterday’s Daily Meditation on the Calm App, the topic was the word “no.” The guided meditation talked about how “no” is one of the first words that we learn, and we associate it with safety. “No” saves us from danger, “no” keeps us from failure, and we carry this with us into adulthood.

It’s an interesting perspective how something that is helpful in childhood can be harmful in adulthood.

We don’t take chances because we want to be safe, we want to be good, we don’t want to fail.

While I don’t think we should take “no” out of our vocabularies entirely, I think it would be helpful to learn to qualify it.

For example, turn “there’s no way I’m climbing that mountain, that’s dangerous” to “there’s no way I’m climbing that mountain without proper training and safety gear.”

If you’re feeling discouraged, it may help to talk to those around you that discourage you. It has been said many times that people will be quick to tear you down and you have to learn to keep going and build yourself back up – this may be true, but I don’t believe that is has to be true always, and sometimes your loved ones don’t know that they’re discouraging.

For example, I have these cyclical discussions with my parents where I’ll try to explain to them where my depression comes from, how I don’t feel that I fit in this world, working a 9-5 job in an office feels suffocating to me, and I want to make music and act. They understand this part, and are supportive of it, but then we get into the details of how I should move back to California, which I have chosen not to do (at this current time in life) because I am making a great deal more money here than I was there, and unfortunately we have to work to eat and live, etc.

At this point in the conversation, my parents become very frustrated and say things like “if you can’t/won’t do it, it’s off the table. Don’t even bring up acting or singing because it’s not an option.”

I understand why they say this – they’re my parents and they love me. It hurts them to see me hurting, and they  don’t want to discuss things they can’t help with. If I’m not going to take their advice, they don’t want to have the discussion. If they can’t help me, they don’t want to have the discussion.

So we settle on what I’m doing now… which is living at home and working a 9-5 office job and being very unhappy, hoping it will pay off in the long run and one day a better opportunity will come along for me. When we hit this point, I can’t tell if they’re satisfied or feel that they helped, but I’m even more sad than I was when the conversation began.

A helpful, qualified approach to “take it off the table” is “okay, you want to act and make music. You’re not moving back to California right now, so how can you do that here?”

For starters, I can try to get back into writing music. I stopped a while ago because I’m not crazy about the songs I’ve written, and I would like to have a songwriting partner to collaborate with. I don’t know how to find one of those, so in the meantime while I’m all I’ve got, I could start listening to different genres of music and practicing the guitar and piano more often to see if I can come up with something I’m proud of and have better material.

There is a saying that God never says “no,” but only “yes, not yet, or I have something better.”

This is one of those saying I’m sure someone came up with to feel better because “I have something better” is clearly the same as “no” – but I like the idea behind this.

Instead of telling yourself no, say “no, but…” and finish that with a piece of something you can say “yes” to.

If you want to travel, but can’t afford it right now and can’t take any time off from work, make a savings plan. Figure out how far into the future you have to get before you can use some vacation days. Write this down. Count down the days. It always helps to have something to look forward to. As you get closer, start planning little pieces of your trip.

Maybe you want to go to college but can’t afford it right now. What is it that you want to learn? Is there a single class somewhere in your community that is similar to the subject? You can learn just about anything on YouTube these days. Baby steps.

“No” does keep us safe and from failure, but remember that the great ones failed many times before they succeeded.

You can’t get rid of “no” – you’re going to say it, you’re going to hear it, and you’re going to feel it. You will feel defeated and discouraged. You will think that there is no way out. But there is – there always is. You won’t always be able to see it, but your first step is to find your qualifier.

“No, but…”

Always keep fighting. There are people who will not understand and won’t be able to help, but there are people who will. Everything takes time – and unfortunately that time may be a lot longer than we want or think we can handle – but it will get better.

Take baby steps. Make plans. Put them into action as slowly as necessary. Don’t allow yourself to give up on the things you can’t go a day without thinking about – the things you need to stay sane.

You’re exactly where you need to be.

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