I recently started freelancing and picked up a few jobs that went fairly quickly. It was exciting and I quickly took on a larger editing project and a smaller, ongoing one. However, it was soon clear that the smaller job was actually a lot more work than I had anticipated, and, paired with tight deadlines, was adding a lot of stress to my daily life. I’m still working full time as a teacher, and am in the midst of the final week, plus have my husband and three little ones at home which is chaotic enough on its own.
But I kept plugging through each step anyways. Even though I hated it. Even though it wasn’t worth it. Even though I knew I was only hurting myself in the long run by stressing myself out.
I kept finding myself justifying the work and the stress due to the pressure to make more money for our family’s upcoming vacations. Or because I couldn’t stand the thought of letting down a potential long-term employer. Or I just told myself that it was my own fault that I hadn’t figured out how to prioritize everything and make it work.
But then, I got to a point during one step for the smaller job (this was an “interview” assignment, basically no pay for the pieces in order to see if I could meet deadlines and follow directions), I was literally hesitating with each click or keystroke. I was physically and mentally fighting the job itself and warring with my feelings as I was trying to complete the job. That’s when I realized part of the problem: I’d turned this want to do into a have to do.
It was at that point that I finally emailed the employer and let them know that I was not going to be able to complete the interview position. That I was saying “no” to the job that I had originally applied to enthusiastically. I was saying “no” to the question about whether I could get on board with how the company ran things.
And it was SO. INCREDIBLY. LIBERATING.
Okay, yes, at first, I may have had a mild panic attack that I was sabotaging my future as a freelancer and was going completely against everything that I thought I stood for. But as the day wore on, I noticed that I wasn’t feeling as bogged down. There wasn’t a pressure pressing against my temples every time my kids asked me for something or I checked my email. And everything felt a little clearer. I could suddenly see just how to prioritize the other job (and another one that I picked up that was much more in tune with how I want to work).
But probably the biggest thing that I realized was that I felt a sense of accomplishment by basically quitting and saying “no.” At the beginning of the year, I decided that my motto this year would be to “Be Brave” and I had actually done something brave in deciding to quit this job. It was incredibly reassuring and satisfying to know that I was anxious and upset about something and I faced it and made a decision that was good for ME. Not for the company. Not in accordance to the pressures of society. Not because I had to. Because I wanted to. I took back part of my autonomy and freedom just by saying “no.”
This is definitely a stepping stone on my path to becoming a better, more confident and self-assured person, and one that I hope I will never forget.
What about you? Have you found the power of saying “no” yet? I’d love to hear more about it in the comments.