The Joy of NO

Written by Martina Popadakova


“Would you like to grab a coffee?” –  sure, that would be lovely.

“We have to meet again, next week?” – of course!

“Let’s go for a glass of wine this Thursday”- I can’t wait! My friendships and friends where all over the place, and at some point I realised that I was spending way too much time hanging out with way too many people.

Naturally, a divide between “friends time” and “me time” occurred, as I was living through the second half of my twenties. As the circle of friends scaled-down and I would meet the same people regularly, I came to the realization, that some of them simply sucked the energy out of me.

. . .

At their core they were  good people and I respected them, but our energies did not seem to… align anymore.. Throughout those years, I slowly but surely got to the point, when I chose to stay home all by myself and enjoy a glass of wine, rather than spend my time with a person who exhausted me mentally at the end of the day.

I have become a controller of who is going to get my attention, support, smile and love.


Stay Close to People Who Feel like Sunshine

Becoming picky about people you want to be with and setting boundaries does not make you a selfish person or an arrogant asshole. Our time is limited, and so why should we invest or waste it on people who simply do not deserve our attention? 

Who they are, and what kind of people you need or do not need is totally up to up to you and your individual preferences. Our twenties are here for figuring that out, so once you’re done selecting, you know you are surrounded by the only quality people who fill you with joy, love, and energy every time you get together.

Photo by Helena Lopes

How do I know when I should say ‘NO’?

I have started applying the same approach to activities as to people. Surely, there are situations, responsibilities and people within work and family areas, which you simply can’t avoid facing. But the rest comes down to how much control you give to yourself or others.

When it comes to my private time, I give myself permission to say ‘no’ to things I don’t want to do. How do I know when I should say ‘NO’? I listen to my gut most of the time, but when it is hard to find your instinct, it is time to set your priorities straight.

. . .

In general, it is individualistic, and everybody needs to think about what in life, means most for them. Who comes first, family, friends, your partner, your mental health, fitness, or you?

If your personal well-being and social life is top of the list and work is just a way to earn a living, then you already know that taking on extra work tasks or being dragged into family activities that won’t fulfil you will probably require a big ‘no’.

But if your work is your passion in life and you are offered extra responsibilities or extra projects that you will find personally satisfying, then perhaps you want to give your free time for it.

What is your NO?

Everyone has different priorities and therefore your ‘no’ will differ from others too.

Finally, I managed to set my top priority list and can confidently say ‘no’ to rest of the things that I do not want to find time for, I do not want to do, I will not benefit from, or will cause me extra stress.

Follow your gut, practice saying “no” and remember: true friends, family, and people will respect your decisions as long as you are honest with them and mostly with yourself.