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How I Learned To Say No In College

By Ryan Anderson

Posted on

The word “no” is one most people have no problem using, and abusing. I however, did not have that word in my dictionary.

Freshman year I was crippled by my inability to tell someone no. My mind had created a negative stigma around the word, and so my mind refused it.

I still remember being in the edit bays of the Communications building, and having three different groups of people come up to me and ask me if I would help them with their projects. To most people, this situation would not phase them and they would say “no”, and be on their merry way, but for me a whole new can of worms would be opened.

When I was in high school, I struggled to make friends and have a solid friend group.

Colleges, to me, seemed like a place where I could get a new start, and finally have that ideal friend group to hang out with.

Having come into college with a good amount of computer and video skills, people would always come to me with their questions regarding different projects and programs.

I would always say yes, thinking it would just be a simple question and answer but it never was.

Once they would get me at their computer, the questions would continue to flow, and the time would continue to fade away from me.

Before I would know it I would have done their entire project, all because of my inability to say, “No, I should go do my own work.”

I always had this sense of fear that if I said no to someone then they would get mad at me, or not be friends with me. This constant fear of not having friends only continued to feed the inability to say no. All of a sudden I was doing two other persons projects before even starting my own.

Dr. Chris Lootens, associate professor of psychology at High Point University, told me that my mindset coming into college is not surprising, and not uncommon.

“Freshman who come to college having struggled with friendships in high school, tend to have developed anxiety around the friendship making process. Their mind will do anything to not have a repeat of High School, and this could include, getting in a yes mindset.”

Because of my fear and anxiety of upsetting someone, I put aside my own happiness and needs, to help fulfill the needs and wants of others.

My inability to say no stretched beyond just projects and grades and even into my social life.

Anytime someone would ask me to get dinner with him or her or drive him or her somewhere, I would say yes. Saying no made me fear they would stop being friends with me or not invite me to things.

My grades started to fall, and I was turning into the person everyone turned to when they needed something.

Sure, it was nice to feel wanted, but I was being wanted for the wrong reasons.

I knew I had to learn to face my fears, and start saying no for my own health and well being.

I realize to most people saying no seems like an easy thing, and something that no one would struggle with, but for me it was a real process.

Once I finally started to think of my own well being first, and not worry about how others felt about me, I was happier, and doing better in life and school.

I soon realized that even if you say no to someone, that doesn’t mean they will instantly dislike you, and if they do, then they clearly weren’t a good person to begin with.

I can happily say that I now have one of the greatest groups of friends that genuinely care about me, and don’t just use me for my skills, or when I am useful to them.

Although this mental journey that I was forced on was stressful, and a challenge, I am proud to see how far I have come, and how much I have grown as a person over these past four years.

One’s own happiness and success should not be based on what others think of you, but rather based on the work you are doing.

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