This Just In: NOs are vital for our lives by Katie Lewis

katie lewisKatie Lewis is a graduate student in the Higher Education Administration program at NC State University. She holds her assistantship in University Housing as a Residence Director. Katie received her Bachelors degree in Psychology and Family & Child Sciences from Florida State University. She enjoys running and exercising, crafting/pinteresting, and baking. Katie can be reached on twitter: @kmlewis6      

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Throughout a majority of my life, I always thought being told “no” was a sign of weakness, of failure, of exclusion. I had no problem having it part of my vocabulary toward others, but when it came to being on the receiving end…I couldn’t bare it.

I thought I was invincible after getting into graduate school and scoring the assistantship of my dreams – I was easily getting accustomed to the word “yes”. Multiple instances this year felt like I was running into massive road blocks plastered with N’s and O’s all over. Was I elected for a Recruitment Weekend chair? No. Did I win the Graduate Student Case Study Competition at SEAHO? No. Was I selected to be a TPE intern in Baltimore? No. Were some of my ideas in various group projects implemented? No. It wasn’t until recently that I stopped and reflected on this powerful two-letter word; just like I have a choice to utter it, the one dishing it back to me also has that same right.

Instead of starting back at square one each time rejection surfaced, I had to utilize NO to my advantage – to push myself in a different direction. What did that entail, you might ask? First, to start on the more positive end of the spectrum, I reflected on the instances where I have been told yes. Where did my strengths lie, and how can I best transfer those strengths to my not-so-competent capabilities? Then, I thought, “Well…sometimes my yeses weren’t because I was competent in XYZ aspects, but because the ones telling me yes believed there were areas in my toolbox that needed improvement.”

So, that led me to think about why I’m being told no. Have I thought about inquiring from the No-deliverers firsthand, or am I only scrutinizing myself through my own personal lens? Just because I have goals for what I’m pursuing, that doesn’t mean the other end has those same objectives. With any avenue you might be interested in pursuing, there are invisible components that aren’t always visible through your frame. Many times, it’s okay to not be able to see the bigger picture; but, it’s NOT okay to NOT comprehend that the bigger picture exists.

Furthermore, like many of our students today, many have had a life of being told YES — time and time again. Sure, growing up means freedom, and new knowledge, and less curfews, and it also means facing life’s dispointments, and failures, and being confronted with NOs that you think you deserve to be YESes. One of the most important things I have had to learn this year is how to face those disapointments and how to come out from under how heavy that often feels. I have had to take those disappointmenets and turn them into lessons, and teach myself that life is a series of negotiations with yourself and with others. Being told no often hits us where it hurts the most — our ego! When we disappoint that piece of us, it hurts —  usually a physical stomach pain, accompanied by a facepalm. However, we must move on from this and know that mentally, spiritually, and physically speaking — we can and will overcome the NOs to be ready for when the YESes are actually for us.

We can do this by, reframing any no situation as “opportunities” instead of seeing it as defeat! Ask questions such as, “what were you looking for?”, “how can I better prepare my skills in future endeavors?”, or “where do you see my strengths operating best?” After many of my thoughts pondering over various “no” situations, I finally reached an epiphany! In any given circumstance, I am not being evaluated by the number of no’s or yes’s I’ve achieved in my life; I am, however, being assessed on how I’ve internalized, reflected upon, and successfully navigated through those various responses. I’ve turned those no’s into pit stops to understand what my purpose is, and how I can best accomplish them.

And, to channel my inner Kanye, I’m honored to receive some no’s every now and then – they’ve made me work, “harder, better, faster, stronger!”

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