By Mei Yee
The thing with learning is that you can learn at any age. I want to share with you an important lesson I learned recently.
The lesson I learned was to put my mental health before others. Some of you reading that may be thinking, “well duh,” while others may be thinking, “that is selfish.” I don’t mean that I will not help others in need. I just have recently learned it is okay to say no.
I have been spreading myself too thin lately to help others that I got to a point where I exploded. But I was the one who kept saying yes, even if I didn’t want to or couldn’t afford to. My mental health was decreasing. I became tired all the time.
The thing is, if I did say no or even hinted that I was going to say no, people would make me feel guilty until I gave in. Not everyone did this, and I am not making myself the victim in any way. I just like to keep the peace, as saying yes when I didn’t want to was easier than a fight.
I once had a supervisor write on my evaluation that I didn’t like conflict. I remember thinking, “well duh who does.” I finally understand what she meant. I don’t like it when, even if I am uncomfortable, I will do whatever to keep someone happy to keep the peace.
A former coworker of mine had a very dominant personality, which is the opposite of mine. If she was not happy about something, whether, with work or personal, she made sure the whole room knew and that if she wasn’t happy, we weren’t allowed to be.
She would often come to me to vent about things, which was fine. But it was like she was searching for me to fix it for her. And I wasn’t a “true friend” unless I did. So, I did what I could to keep her happy, so then the whole team could be happy. Before the pandemic, our team of four shared an office. It was a big office, so we weren’t cramped or anything. But I slowly suffered from doing this. As I slowly tried to distance myself from her, she latched on more and became even more overpowering for me.
My boss noticed this, and this is what she meant by not liking conflict. And she tried to put an end to it. She flat-out told this coworker to stop bullying me. Then, the coworker would come to me upset and ask if she thought I was bullying her. I wanted to keep her happy, so there wouldn't be a fight. So I said, “well, I never said those words.” Because at the time, I hadn’t.
However, had I said no to her at times, things wouldn’t have exploded as they did. There would have been more boundaries between us. I wouldn’t have been so mentally tired. I loved my job initially, but it got to a point where I didn’t want to go because I didn’t want to have to deal with her.
Also I realized it is not my job to fix others, I can be there for them and support them, but I cannot fix them.
The silver lining was that I found the job I have now and was able to quit the other job. As much as I loved that job, I love this one even more!
So ... it is okay to say no. It is okay to set boundaries for your own mental sanity!
I won't stop helping people, but I have learned to put my own mental health first.