“Always start with ‘yes’.”
It’s a guiding quote that I’ve held closely for as long as I can remember.
“Hey, Romel can you/will you/would you do _______________.”
No questions. No clarification. No qualifiers.
Yes comes at a cost.In my younger years (hush it!) I vividly remember looking around at mentors, role models, people I genuinely admired and saw success. These people were (and still are) movers and shakers in such a major way. In those moments I said to myself, “Self, start with yes. The way there will always work itself out.”
Growing up, I went to church *ahem* religiously. Every Saturday – I’d be awake before dawn, get dressed and make my way to the place I found community, safety, and a sense of belonging. Anytime someone offered an opportunity to become more involved – “yes.” Before I knew it I was somewhere around 12 years old and getting ready to give my first hourlong sermon. Folks. 12.
Asked to join our youth leadership group? “Yes.” Bible study? “Yes.” Church choir? “Yes.” As an aside here, I can’t EVEN SING t
hat well at all.
In relationships – “yes.” Friendships – “yes.” Work – “yes.”
But what happens when I can’t get to yes? That’s where the fun starts.
Let’s take a step back. I’ve functioned somewhat successfully from a place of “scarcity.” My family did the best they could, raising me (directly and indirectly) ultimately to become the person I am today. They were honest about finances, relationships, etc. I knew what was up. Always.
Even though this was incredibly well-intentioned – I developed the idea that there wasn’t enough. Now I can’t legitimately say that there was a moment that led to this idea but every time I said yes it represented success, opportunity, advancement, making them proud. It represented safety.
If I say yes, people will like me. There won’t be conflict. Everything will be fine.
Because ultimately the thing I avoid most adeptly, is conflict.
Friendships that should have ended, didn’t. Relationships. Jobs.
But here’s the thing – people can feel “no” even when you say “yes.” I’m not talking solely about facial or physical expressions. I’m talking about disconnection, not showing up, irritability, all the other ways you act out “no” without saying it. And so in a (so very unintentional) way, I was creating silent ‘conflict.’ I was showing no when saying yes.
And that’s arguably more dangerous than just saying no. Saying no isn’t necessarily a showing of ‘weakness.’ Arguably, I’m learning more and more every day that no is more often a sign of self-awareness, authenticity, and acting from your foundation. I’m learning that people respect authenticity more than ‘yes’ because when you do say yes, it means yes.
So in this period of deep reflection I reached out to someone who is rapidly becoming a very close friend – someone who seems to say what I’m thinking, finishes my sentences, and just keeps it real – but I digress – we spend 4 hours talking over a bottle of wine. Here’s what they texted me today –
“My real talk thought:
- Big Energy
- Yes Man
And so there it is. In one fell text – my whole life. Told. I don’t disagree with any of it. Items 2-5 feed 1.
About a year ago I posted a status to Facebook in the middle of knowing that I needed to say no but wasn’t. “Everything you’re running from will be right there waiting when you stop.” My ego has been the thing that has kept me safe, has kept me going, has kept me moving in my life’s purpose – to serve others. But in what ways am I not serving myself? That’s my cost. And now that’s my work.
In the last few years that have led me to this moment, vulnerability has become my new mantra but it isn’t easy. It requires constant letting go of my ‘image.’ It requires me releasing the idea of how I want people to perceive me. Because the latter is none of my business.
What is my business is being real. It’s being authentic. It’s being wild. RAW. These are the values that drive me. It’s honestly who I am. And that’s okay.