I just cannot say ‘no’.

I don’t know how and when I developed this habit, but saying no is just not me. It was never in my dictionary. I always used to think that making others happy is my job and if I said no, they will be offended.

No prizes for guessing, this habit has led me to face emotional and sexual abuse, too. I have suffered a lot… A lot 🙁

Despite having faced all that, I still cannot gather the courage to simply say no for things I don’t want or don’t want to do. (Very recently I said no to someone on her face very politely for a very small issue, as I am getting into the habit of using it, I kept feeling guilty for 2 days).

The only positive side of this trait is that I am of help to genuine needy people and I have testimonies for that too 🙂 

Okay, back to the post: A brief background. You all know by now that I quit my job for taking care of my family and I have written about it here.

A few years ago, I came across a lady, who is an HR in a big pharma firm, runs a well-known pre-school franchise and also owns a woman empowerment local group. I told her casually once that if she has some job opportunity with flexible timings, I’d be open to consider it.

She then offered me a chance to anchor her annual event. I have successfully conducted more than 15 international and domestic conferences as Emcee for various events, managing sometimes around 400-500 participants.

I asked her how much she would pay me (living in material world comes with a cost) 🙂 She said, “Nothing.” She told me she just wanted to see how good I was at the job. As always, I could not say no to her. The event was a great success. Everyone appreciated me and the way I managed such an unorganised event. That woman was advised to hire me as a counsellor for the pre-school by the owner of the brand.

She didn’t. I didn’t complain.

Came her next event. She wanted me to host another event.  I was advised by my loved ones to ask for at least small remuneration, as I was giving my time and lending my expertise and that’s how the world works.

So as advised, I asked her for it. Her reply (verbatim), “I already have one person for anchoring and she is perfect at her job. But I still want you because you are expert in managing the backstage chaos.” Now I didn’t know  if I should have taken it as an offence or a compliment.

She asked me how much I was going to charge. She agreed to pay me 1/3rd of that with one saree as a gift. And I agreed, because I simply cannot say no!

This woman, may be being an experienced  HR, knew my weakness and used me for all her events, hosting MLA’s gathering, distributing pads to women, promoting sports among kids, women’s day, children’s day, making me write poems, managing cranky toddlers, distributing samosa packs to guests, welcoming people, arranging awards… You name it, I have been used there.

Then she offered me a job — online verification of Zomato delivery boys, and making an excel sheet after checking their documents. I had to use a website and I took a training lasting four hours to learn that. The money she offered me was ₹2000 per month. I had to give 4 hours everyday to this job, with an ailing, bedridden mother-in-law and one-year-old daughter at home.  

You guessed it. I could not say no.

My mother-in-law used to experience hallucinations in the night and used to run around the house sitting on the centre table and all that chaos. I patiently used to switch on my laptop and work on this Zomato thing, with my daughter sleeping peacefully in my lap and me waiting for my mother-in-law to finish all the tandav, so that I could lift her back to her bed once she had drained all the energy. At 4:00 am, I used to put my daughter, MIL and laptop back to their respective beds and then I would sleep. My husband used to be out of Delhi almost 20 days of the month at that time.

After 10 days, I told this lady, I want to do this work but at the moment I am overburdened with family responsibilities, so I quit. She was fine and didn’t pay a single penny to me. Later, I got to know by some well-wisher that she was being paid ₹28,000 by Zomato for this job, and she outsourced it to me me for ₹2,000!

Then came 2020, she again called me to host a virtual event and I said why not… But money?

She said COVID had made things worse for her… So, I will have to pay 100 bucks to host that event, that’s how short on funds she was. Well, you know what! I could not say no.

Yeah, yeah… I hear you  calling me a fool 😉 

Anyway, now comes the interesting part. Post my transformation in 2020, oh yes! I am transforming. I am now more content in my life and happy with everything I have.

So this lady tagged me in an FB post where the job requirement was for a content writer and social media manager, the location was Chennai and they needed the person to be from South India. Obviously, I didn’t respond as I live in Delhi, and I am technically so dumb I don’t even know how to remove a tag from any post.😁

This lady then messaged me on WhatsApp asking me to check the job posting on FB. She asked me to share my  resume for that vacancy and apparently, they were really paying a good package.

I said I don’t live in South India how can I apply? She said, ‘Just share your resume, but do not mention the place of your stay.’ Now how can I lie and that too right at the the beginning of a job I might get…

So, for the first time in my life I told her: “No, I won’t lie and I don’t have a resume ready with me. I am not very active on social media so how can I even manage some company’s social media accounts. I am sorry, I am not interested.”

Finally! I could  mustered the courage to say a direct ‘no’ to someone and luckily, I didn’t feel bad. As a prize, my partner gave me a few bucks that day with some pizza, “You did it!” And I danced with my daughter exactly the way Dora dances with her monkey in Dora the explorer cartoon series. We did it! We did it… Hurray! 

And since then, trust me, I am feeling so light and I am happily using this superpower of saying no. It is a very liberating feeling. I have never enjoyed this peace before.

For example, if I had decided that I would take rest or simply read in the evening, and someone called up and started telling me their sad, oft-repeated stories or arguing with me to follow their belief of religion or spirituality, I could not have said no. So. I’d end up listening to them, compromising my me time or family time.

And today again, I said no to someone that I can’t talk I am busy. He was shocked with this response and a sudden rush of happiness ran through my veins. I am smiling as I write this, for I have never felt this peace, ever.

Please, whenever, wherever required, we should say N.O. And be firm with it, esp if it disturbs our inner peace and daily routine.

Jai Sri Hari .

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay 

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Shalini Pandey

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