Your Worth Is Not Attached to Anyone’s “No”
For the first time in my life I looked up the word “no.” It’s a two-letter word that has been driving me insane since I was a kid.
When I was a child, my grandmother always wanted to be fair, and to do so, she had to tell us “no” pretty often. I could not understand her reasoning for the life of me. I mean—why can’tI have any cookies, if all the other kids are outside, not even worried about cookies?!
But her reply was always, “No, Coco.”
Given the fact that I can’t stand the word, why would I look it up? But today, for some weird reason, I wondered if this horrible word was even in the dictionary. I mean what does the word “no” really mean? If my grandmother was still living, she would attest to the fact that it meant nothing…to me.
Every time I asked for those cookies, it was as if I was asking for the first time. I would gather myself and go right back at her with the same question using the same tone of voice, no desperation what so ever, and wear her down. “No” is a universal word. It is used all over the world and told to millions of toddlers fifty thousand times a day. To a toddler, it means stop whatever you are doing and almost never comes with an alternative. We tell children “no” so much that they start to put that word out into the universe as well—telling us “no” before we get to them.
My niece is two years old and “No” is the only language she speaks lately. I think she has discovered her power: “No, I don’t want chicken.” “No, I don’t want green beans.” Come here.“No!” I think she pretty much has it down.
So I looked up “no” on www.merriam-webster.com, yes, “dot com” because I have no idea where the dictionary is in this house. We have a physical dictionary, but asking Siri took 2.5 seconds today. (On other days, that Siri service doesn’t even function properly and can’t understand what I am saying, giving some off the wall response. So then I get louder. Well, more like yelling at it, as if it’s a person. As if Siri even trips off the change in my volume or tone! I know I am not the only person who does this. I watch my sister all the time, cussing out the automated system. Right after giving her account number she may say, “dumb ass,” as if the automated system is a person, and the system replies, “I didn’t get that,” and my sister then has to start all over. Hilarious.) Well Siri was on point today because even it knows what “no” sounds like.
The word “no” as a noun is defined as: an act or instance of refusing or denying by the use of the word no: denial.
Life has been handing out firm “no’s” to me since I was two years old and, as much as I hated it then, at thirty-eight, I would like to report nothing has changed. I still hate it. When someone tells me “no” an instant—and I do mean instant—instinctive response leaps out of me to counter that “no.”
My response is almost like a reflex. I hear “No” and I immediately think: “Why not?”
“Why not?” is my personal challenge to whatever door has closed in front of me. It’s my demand that—whoever is responding to my why-not question—their answer better make a whole bunch of sense when it hits my ears.
We will be the recipients of many “no’s” in this lifetime, but what I have observed is that people attach their worth to the “no’s” that come their way. Before the end of the school year, I scheduled an appointment with the Superintendent. The secretary requested to know what my meeting would be in regard to, and I only gave a two-word reply, “my position.”
When I walked in to his office, the Superintendent pretty much already knew what I was going to say, because I had just been sitting in that same office, in the same chair, four months prior, to have the same conversation. I had already been told, “No,” the door had already been closed in my face, but there I was again. Hearing “No” has the ability to fire me up because my worth is not attached to anyone’s “No.”
I will say that again: My worth is not attached to anyone’s “No.”
I was advocating for myself, I was being my own cheerleader, speaking on my own qualification and what I bring to the school district and there is not a “no” in the world that can take that power from me. I don’t expect people to do what’s right; I can only hope that they will. Going in with only the expectation I have for myself, I was able to remain levelheaded, meaning, no emotion or feelings involved.
I left that office with another “no” but my response this time was, “I guess you need to figure out how many times you’re going to tell me ‘No,’” because, little does he know, hearing “No” has the opposite effect on me, so I don’t take it personally. My only goal is to turn that “No” into a “Yes” and then sit down to enjoy my cookies.
The great thing about life is that my “yes” may not even come from the Superintendent, so I’m not attached to that particular outcome either. If nothing else I spent that time practicing, and I’m cool with that. My grandmother was probably looking down on me relieved that I found someone else to wear down.
So what “cookies” are you reaching for? Remember: Your worth is not attached to anyone’s “no.” Carry that attitude around with you, and the door meant for you to open and walk through will appear.