You may have seen the movie Yes Man, but even if you haven’t, the concept is simple: a man used to saying no changes his outlook and starts saying yes to everything. While it’s not good to say no to opportunities, an obsessive amount of “yeses” is also dangerous.

Saying yes to everything and everybody is not a healthy way to go about life. For the purposes of this article, we’ll call it the “yes syndrome.”

Symptoms of the yes syndrome include:

  • The inability to say no because you want to be a “nice” person, you want to please people or you fear the consequences of saying no
  • Not having enough time to complete tasks because you’re overwhelmed with work and activities
  • Having little time to no time in your day for yourself
  • Being short on money because people tend to “borrow” from you, knowing you’re going to say yes

Welcome to Yessers Anonymous. I’m Anisah, and I’m a yesser.

I don’t know how I developed the yes syndrome, but during the fall semester of my junior year of college, I realized something had to give. On top of school work, being on the executive board of several clubs and saying yes every time a friend wanted to hang out, I accepted several freelance jobs and found out it was just too much to juggle.

One freelance job in particular, I never completed the tasks I was assigned. And that’s not me. I’m not a person that doesn’t complete stuff. But somehow, I had become that person.

After realizing I had taken on too much, I’m now learning how to say no. 

It’s about first recognizing you are a yesser and then being honest with yourself and the people you communicate with.

If you don’t have time to do something, let that person know. If you don’t have the money to give, don’t give it.

With learning how to say no, you have to also learn when to say no and when to say yes, because you may end up passing on opportunities that could be beneficial in the long run.

It’s about knowing why you say yes.

I recently decided to accept the position of president for my college’s National Association of Black Journalists. I don’t know how the decision will manifest, and even though I was (and am) already vice president of one club and treasurer of another, I still said yes. 

I said yes because the association is still somewhat new and hasn’t had a big presence on campus, yet, and I feel like I have the skills and qualities to move it in the right direction. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to be able to tell future employers in the industry, “By the way, I was the president of the Mercer Association of Black Journalists.”

Don’t just say yes on a whim or because you’re suffering from the first symptom of the yes syndrome. 

If you’re reading this article to search for a special key on saying yes and no, there is none. You have to weigh for yourself what’s important and what’s not.

It’s about balance. If you have a test to take the next day and you know you’re not fully prepared, why say “yes” when your friend asks if you want to hang out? It’s about knowing how to prioritize. It’s about saying, “Well, I have to study tonight, but how about so and so day?”

And honestly, if you’re suffering from yes syndrome, the true medicine is to JUST SAY NO. It’s two letters. One syllable. No. Practice saying it out loud. No. No. No. Record yourself. Say it to yourself in the mirror. Say it to the smaller stuff in your life. 

Once you get into the habit, you’ll find it’s not that hard, and you’ll feel how much lighter your burden is.


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