Photo courtesy of Nahje Royster.
How many times do we say sorry for things that aren’t our fault? How many times do we convince ourselves that something we know isn’t our fault somehow is, and then we allow ourselves to feel like crap because of it? How many times do we agree to something, knowing we’re burned out, tired or just plain old disinterested? How many times do we go directly against our own interests to preserve the interests of others? How many times do we sacrifice our comfort for others?
From here on out, we stop that behavior. Instead, the answer is, “Thanks, but no.”
If people aren’t going to value every aspect of you, they don’t deserve your time. It’s okay to turn people down because you need to rest, eat, binge-watch your favorite T.V. shows, exercise or whatever else you like to spend your time doing; and don’t feel sorry about telling people “no.” It’s not being selfish, it’s self-preservation. Anyone that truly cares for you is not going to force you to feel bad because you are investing in yourself. Rather, they will see to it that you take care of yourself instead. Anyone that cares for you will take the time to make sure you do whatever it is that you need to do.
If people aren’t going to value every aspect of you, they don’t deserve your time.
As marginalized people at a PWI, on a campus that is diverse but not inclusive, many days feel tiring, frustrating and stressful. We share classes with people that don’t think people of color belong here, want to debate the existence of trans and queer people and simply make our navigation of campus difficult. And unfortunately, I have heard many of my friends apologize unnecessarily. My friends and I have held our tongues, stayed silent and made ourselves uncomfortable so that others could be comfortable. I know many of us have overbooked ourselves trying to please others, and sometimes it’s for things we aren’t truly interested in. Ask yourself, “At what cost is all of this?” Our mental health, our sanity, our free time? All things we need to preserve the best version of ourselves. Taking time to love ourselves, paying attention to our body’s needs and putting our all into things we care about should be our focus. It’s far more important than pleasing others or making them comfortable at our expense. So, subtract “sorry” and add “thanks, but no” to your daily vocabulary.
Call it selfish, vain or whatever else you want — but the bottom line is you don’t owe anyone anything. I may not know you all individually, but I want you all to start preserving yourselves the best way you know how. Be selfish with your time and be selfish with your energy and presence; because what I’ve realized is that people will demand your time, but then try to mold you into their image instead of valuing you as you are. They want the clout that comes with you but not your authenticity. For marginalized folks, it’s expected that we exist in addition to others versus singular, whole beings.
Thank you for your mediocrity, but no.
Nahje Royster is a fourth-year student majoring in women’s and gender studies and minoring in African American studies. NR852569@wcupa.edu