Have Your Cake and Eat It Too: When Saying “No” Gets You Exactly What You Want
By: Mira Tosheva
Have you ever been in a situation where your gut tells you, “Fuck NO!,” but the only thing that comes out of your mouth is a gentle, “Yes?” And then from time to time, you think back on this very moment and kind of want to punch yourself for not following your gut. Whenever I visited my grandmother’s house as a child, she used to bake one specific cake that she adored and, for some reason, thought I did too (and she’s a great baker, by the way). I would go there, she would bake the cake, and when she asked me, with her big, generous smile, “Would you like a piece?,” I would smile back at her and say, “Yes, thank you.”
This went on until a few years ago, when, during one of my visits there, I realized I just couldn’t take it anymore. When she asked me again if I wanted a piece of her favorite cake, I smiled back and said, “No, grandma, I don't. Because I don’t like it very much.” She stood there for a few minutes, trying to process what I just said, and then responded, "You know what? Let me try something else." And she baked another cake, right then and there in front of me. A delicious one. Why didn’t I just tell her the truth earlier? She would’ve made thousands of different cakes by now. I misled her and myself. Out of courtesy. When a simple, honest “no” would have been just fine.
Doing something that contradicts your inner feeling of right and wrong simply out of courtesy is totally different than doing something you don’t mind in general out of courtesy. Like my grandmother’s cake. Yes, it’s true. I didn’t like it. But for that short period of time when I was visiting her, I decided that it wasn’t a big deal and I could live with it. Of course, in the end, I just felt the need to say something, and I came away with an unexpected and happy result: she wasn’t angry, and she baked a delicious, new cake. When it comes to simple things that are more like a gesture of kindness to someone, we can say “yes” instead of “no,” out of courtesy, out of love, out of… whatever the reason might be. Sometimes we do things that we don’t specifically enjoy but that don’t make us feel like we’ve betrayed our own values or beliefs.
However, life isn’t all about a piece of cake. You can’t always put up with something you don’t like, especially when it goes against too much of your inner moral compass. You can apply this cake metaphor to important things and life-changing situations, when your gut is telling you that something isn’t the right thing for you, but you still agree to it. Like when another person’s behavior toward and treatment of you doesn’t feel good or right, but you still say “yes” to the situation or the person. Here’s the deal: in 100% of those cases, you’re going to end up having the same “cake” over and over again. And remember? You didn’t like it in the first place. And moreover, you don’t want to kick yourself for not trusting your gut, right?
Why do we agree to things we don’t like? Why do we neglect our inner voice? From what I’ve observed, we tend to believe that if we’re clear about what we like and what we don’t, if we speak up about what we believe and want, people might leave, might think something bad about us, or might even get mad. We’re afraid we might lose someone, or we won’t be accepted anymore by the people we care the most about. We fear our own perceptions and visions of what our life should be like, look like, feel like, and we’re afraid of speaking up so that we can have what we want in life. I’ve witnessed so many times, including in my own life, the vicious cycle created by saying “yes” when we really mean “no.” At some point when it’s too much to bear, and “no” comes out at the top of your lungs, it almost sounds like a scream. No one can suppress feelings or emotions for an indefinite period of time. But all the while, a simple “no” would break the spell!
“No” is an answer in and of itself, that shows our desire to not do, accept, or allow something to be a part of our lives. It’s important to be really careful about what we allow to become a part of our own world. We need to be very clear about that with everybody in every situation. It’s a daily choice to be true to ourselves and, of course, to be vulnerable. In other words, it’s all about which cake you like and which one you don’t, and not being afraid to express those feelings.