Late night conversations, just like binge watching a television show, stay with you long after the last word has been uttered. Two years ago, while sitting cross-legged on the kitchen countertop, I recall having a tete-a-tete with my then-roommate about doing the unconventional: I wanted to switch colleges. While it may appear to be nothing out of the ordinary here, it is very rare to make that kind of decision where I come from. “If you don’t ask, the answer is always no,” she had told me.
My brain immediately assumed the role of devil’s advocate. My friend’s statement left me even more perplexed than before. I realized that I’ve had to make similar decisions in the past, like choosing between chocolate mousse or honey cheesecake, and I suck at making choices. But, of course, the decision at hand was far more serious and intimidating, leaving me with life-altering decisions. Was I even prepared to confront them?
Allowing my guard to drop is akin to being pushed out of my comfortable happy niche. I enjoy being enveloped by familiarity, clarity, security and certainty. And the fear of rejection is so robust that people commonly end up auto-rejecting opportunities, allowing our past experiences to ruin our potential future..
Fast forward, I did transfers, and ever since that late-night, kitchen top colloquy, I’ve found myself reliving my ex-roommate’s now-distant-voice when stumped by a mental block.
I met a guy at my transferee college and internally debated whether or not to ask him out. I can’t remember if I ended up asking him out or not—it was a short-lived disaster—but this Nora Roberts quotation, “ If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.” has been my kick ever since.
But I’m not alone in this. I’ve noticed myself making slow progress, at least on the non-love front. After all, you could unknowingly and unintentionally offer someone something they secretly want but didn’t realize they needed all along. Isn’t it a win-win situation? So, give something away for free.
But after a while, I was left wondering with unspoken questions. My take on Robert’s quote had always been to ask others. That’s where it all began. The point at which my decision-making paralysis broke. While some people would respond with “yes” or “sounds good,” I was left reeling with indifferences, wondering if they were just being nice and supportive or if they truly meant it. So, I resolved to ask myself of my opinion first from then on. It’s an unsettling change, for sure, but you’re the best judge of yourself. No one, after all, lies to themselves, do they? Do yourself a favor and ask yourself first instead of asking others.
No doomsday will sweep us off our feet and whisk us away somewhere, for better or for worse. Why should we be discouraged if we base our endeavors on the short-sightedness of others?
Get them to give you either a yes or no, a definitive answer. By doing this, you’ll discover the art of asking what you want. However, one way to ensure you never get a yes is to avoid asking at all. The act of avoiding the ask altogether is a word of honor and a warrant to never overhearing a yes. You can either leave it to chance or seize the opportunity.
Solicit and seek assistance. Are you troubled with a class assignment? Are you stumped as to how to deal with roommate issues? Ask an ally for advice. They might not be someone you look up to; it could even be someone with whom you savor meaningful conversations. Even though it may be difficult to raise concerns. it’s highly unlikely that someone you meet will think to themselves, “I guess they’re having a hard time, let me check on them.”
Are you sensing a pattern here? The act of being rejected is one of my greatest fears. Sugar coating and alternating between praise and criticism may help de-escalate and leave us with elevated levels of self-esteem. Are you afraid of the anticipation of what the answer may or may not bring, such as being disconnected, demeaned or left isolated and desolate? Do you simply dislike being pushed out of your comfort zone?
While I have no experience with psychiatry, I did major in psychology before attending dental school, and I am just as flawed and gullible to change as you or anyone else. In my limited experience, hearing a yes that you have been longing for may be worth a thousand no’s.