If you read through my instagram posts, you will see that there are people congratulating me on being bold or living my dream to the fullest, or even encouraging me saying “you do you and we’ll support you”. I wanted to take the time to one, thank all my supporters. It feels blissful to know that its ok to be different but two, I also wanted to share some insight on what it takes to say NO and keep following my dream.
What is the value of the word ‘NO’?
There are cultures that practice the concept that saying no is an insult or disrespect to another. Saying no is like committing one of the seven deadly sins and for that, you would need to carry the cross of shame. It is engrained in a person, specially in the east to always say yes and accommodate people even in the most painful circumstances of life.
Some parents, both in the east and west are implementing the practice to always saying yes to their kids. Expanding more on this concept- they don’t want their kids to grow up in a negative environment. The word no is like a swear word for the child so even punishments are crafted with much thought to make it seem like a yes. I’m sure you’ve heard of this concept, specially with modern Moms.
Now, both these situations might be cultural and generational. It can be argued that in a household, any other way might be wrong as you are not the person in charge and there are certain rules to abide by when living in a certain house, country or hemisphere. I get it.
I was raised in an eastern culture, so let me shine some light on how it was for a conservative 90s girl growing up in India.
YES’S for others
The expectations of a girl child in South India is that she is to be fair, hair is oiled and perfectly long, wearing conservative clothing, timid and grounded in faith (whichever religion that might be). Am I right, ladies? From these expectations come the self-induced rules that she must not speak to men outside her family, drink a bunch of homemade folk cure that makes her beautiful on the outside and the most important thing-she must not have opinions, dreams or wishes contrary to what society expects of her. That said, she can have no other purpose than to do what her mother, grandmother, great grand mother did. In a few words, her words must be yes and ok, as she cannot dare or venture to be different.
The NO’s for yourself
On the contrary, saying no to being just an average South Indian girl is frowned upon. The very moment, a girl stands up before her family or society to give her opinion or ask a question on why things are the way they are, she is branded negatively. On top of that-riding a bike, having a pixie cut, having a boyfriend and wearing pants were all big no no’s. Not only is she called selfish, arrogant, a rebel or an anomaly (in a bad way) but she is looked at, even stared at differently to the point that she is pushed away from society.
Today, the details of how a girl is to be might have changed but the outward concept of how contained she must be, remains the same. These concepts are true for boys growing up in the east as well. Certain expectations are placed on them at a very young age, that breaking out of those bars are frowned upon.
The healthy balance to saying NO
It is good that we are taught to live a certain way. I do believe that the culture and family I was raised in, imbibed in me discipline, respect and humility. I was said no to and spanked so much growing up, and today, I wouldn’t trade that life for the world. On the contrary, not all that society demands of us while we grow up or when we’re fully grown, is right. These demands that society places on us is for the outer edification of ourselves. How we present ourself, where we study, what job we have, how many times we’re married, why we’re childless–All these don’t add value to how much peace our soul finds in a lifetime. The things that bring peace are the friendships we pick up along the way, the time we spend doing things we love, the changes we make to improve our family and community life. These are things that should want to dictate our YESs and NOs.
After a certain age, no matter what society dictates, we are left to make decisions for ourselves and fund our own needs. Right then, our education won’t matter, our fair skin won’t matter, our job positions won’t matter. If we are not established and peaceful, society will not give us a structure on how to grow up but slap back in our face.
So the next time to say yes or no to someone, ask yourself. “Are you doing it out of pressure or are you doing it out of rebellion?” Either can’t be right. So find out for yourself what helps you live your fullest with a healthy balance of YESs and NOs.
To be able to follow your dreams, and to be able to stand on your NOs, it is important to have the right mind and a good support system. Losing these keys over time will result in a life of disappointment ( and nobody wants that). Find out what you want from life, where do you want to be and how you can get there. For me, I achieved this by having the best people around me. The ones who are true and share my journey in pain, laughter, fun and love for travel.