What is normal?—A blog on how to say no, and yes to you

So many times during the course of my career I have heard the statement, “I just want to be normal.” What exactly is normal? Who can we put standing in the middle of a room, point at, and say, “That is what normal looks like.  That’s the ideal we should all strive for.”

So many berate themselves for not being whatever the ideal seems to be.  Saying disparaging things to yourself can obviously contribute to low self esteem, and how you view yourself. This could be something that was imposed upon you by someone else, or exacerbate your already-existing insecurities.  How do you let go of being this ideal person, living in an ideal way, or acting the way you or others think you, “should”?

We are individuals in an individualistic society.  Individual achievements are admired and praised.  As we get older, out of our twenties and thirties, we no longer, “have” to be just like everyone else.  We gain the freedom to express ourselves in whatever way we choose, and choose to be whatever makes us feel good in our own skin.  We find our own, “normal”, and what our own norms are.

What’s healthy and what’s not healthy?  As long as the things you enjoy are not hurting you or someone else, everyone is allowed their own, “normal”.  We can choose what we do or do not say yes to.  If you have formed habits that are harmful, that is something to consider changing for your own, or someone else’s, benefit.

Do you know yourself?  What do you like?  What don’t you like? Who is that person that feels good about their decisions?  What things make you feel happy and fulfilled?  What inspires you?  What drives you to keep trying? Whatever these things are for you, that is your authentic or real self, enjoying all life has to offer.

When you authentically “be” who YOU are, your self esteem, how you view yourself, and self care matters to you.  You don’t seem to care so much about what others think, or how they view you.  If you are struggling with being yourself, what is in your way? What could you benefit from working on?

What may be stopping you from saying yes to yourself? What would it feel like if you truly said yes to you and your priorities?  What would it look like to move from being distracted, to having focus because you are doing the things that genuinely matter the most to you?

When I was growing up, my grandmother showered me with candy and gum. It was so much so that I took it to school with me.  I became the “go to” for gum in the girl’s locker room.  In my later twenties, I once asked a friend to borrow some money.  She said that it was a rule of hers that she didn’t lend money to friends.  She was not singling me out, as she did help me buy a bed later on under her credit.  It wasn’t me she didn’t trust to pay her back.  It was a principle she learned from other experiences in her life.  We remained friends.  She did not want to become an ATM, and I am no longer a gumball machine.  We both learned how to say no.

Are you a people pleaser?  This is one thing that can stop you from being yourself, and make it difficult to say no to others because you may want to make them happy, make them like you, or be looked at in a favorable light.  Saying yes to too many things can cause you to burn out.

How do you begin to practice the art of saying no?  Does what’s being asked of you seem fair?  Will you benefit from doing it?  Could it be rewarding, or bring you joy to do it?  Does it serve you, or will your efforts be appreciated? 

If just thinking about doing something makes you feel bitter or resentful before you’ve even done it, there probably is no reason you would choose to say yes. If something sincerely doesn’t fit you, you can say so.  The person asking might not feel slighted due to your sincerity.   

Take time to think about it.  Saying no does not mean you have to say no to everything.  If you can say yes to any of the above questions, taking some time to see if you can say yes without saying no to yourself might be okay. If something will add to your life, instead of taking away from it, you are still saying yes to yourself.  This could also make the person who’s requesting something of you feel like you’re considering it, while you have time to think about it.

Saying no gets easier with practice. The late, very successful, Steve Jobs once said, “Focus is about saying no.”  If you overcommit yourself, you move away from the work you really want to do.  You can apply this to your personal or professional life.  If a person becomes upset due to you saying no, and you’ve articulated it in a way that sounds fair without blame or shame on them for asking, they probably aren’t the best choice of a person for you.  As you practice, you can feel less guilty.

Propose an alternative.  Giving an alternative to what someone is asking of you can help.  If you can say no quickly, briefly state why you’re not able to do it, and propose something else that might be an easier way for you to help, or an easier way for them to complete their task, it won’t compromise your time.  If you take on too many commitments, you won’t be able to complete your tasks, or reach your goals.  There's no need for apologies.  You're saying yes to you.

If this resonated with you, it may also resonate with someone else.  As always, please feel free to share, and also to reach out if you find it difficult to start saying yes to you.


1.   What’s healthy and what’s not healthy?  

2.   Do you know yourself? 

3.   Are you a people pleaser?

4.   How do you begin to practice the art of saying no? 

5.   Take time to think about it. 

6.   Saying no gets easier with practice.  

7.   Propose an alternative.