Thursday, July 14, 2011

The problem with being a Yes Girl.

Before I learned how to walk, eat with a fork, or sound out monosyllabic words in the English language, I learned how to be a people pleaser.

Oh, you know the person I'm talking about.  She's the Yes Girl.

"Absolutely!" the Yes Girl will say, when you ask her if your dress is flattering.  "Totally!  Tomorrow!" when you ask her to do something for you.  "I just love it!" when you ask her how she feels about ... anything.

It's not one of my most attractive qualities.

Sure, it feels affirming in the moment.  You walk away thinking, "that went well!" happy that the Yes Girl could offer the assurance / favor / shared outlook on life that you were searching for.

But, it's only a matter of time until the Yes Girl disappoints.

"Hi, you know that freelance article I asked you to write?" you type nervously in your email to her.  "I just wanted to check in on it?  Since it was due, you know, a week ago?"

"Don't you worry a bit!" she types back cheerfully.  "This week has just been crazy.  I'll have it to you tomorrow.  Maybe even tonight."

Tomorrow comes.  And then the next day.

It dawns on you that perhaps the Yes Girl's yes's aren't as reliable as you thought.


This is my issue with being a Yes Girl: she's closely related, and at times identical, to another person you may know -- the Flaky Mess.  Who is my alter ego.

I'm not sure whether this is a genetic thing, or a society thing, or a woman thing.  Maybe all three.

All I know is, I feel guilty when I say no, but I feel vastly guiltier when I say yes, then eventually let people down.

I have a friend who is the opposite of me in this regard.  His name is Jason, and since we've known each other, he has supported every single personal venture I have ever undertaken.  He has come to every party I've thrown.  He remembers my birthday each year.  He even read my blog back when it was on Live Journal, and I discussed topics such as: "Why the Mocha Frappuccino is My Favorite," or even more riveting, "Today I Learned How to Upload Images into a Blog Post so Here is a Bowl of Fruit."

The last time I did something significant for Jason, there was nearly a death involved.

A death at my hands.

The task was simple: I was to go to his house twice a day while he was out of town, and change his cats' food.

But somehow ... I ended up giving the cat food maggots.

Did you know that you can "give" cat food maggots?  Neither did I.  And yet, that is precisely what Jason came home to: A bowl full of crawling, slimy fly larvae, when his reliable friend Tolly, whom he had asked politely to take care of his pets, even paying her to do so ("FOR SURE!  No problem!"), had presumably been coming over there twice a day, every day.  To keep his pets in vibrant good health.

"What the hell is wrong with me?" I asked myself when I found out.  I'm sure Jason was asking himself the same question.  Especially since I also own a cat.


Now and then, there are those rare occasions when I decide to take a stand.  Set some healthy boundaries.

I start to introduce the word "no" into my vocabulary, recognizing that while the momentary gratification of being a Yes Girl is nice, the lasting satisfaction of sticking by your word, and following through on the things you commit to, is nicer.

It's never handled gracefully.

A couple of weeks ago, Jason asked me if I could take care of his cat again.

"HELL NO!" I practically screamed.   He looked frightened.

"I mean ... I'm just ... BUSY!  Ok?  I'm too fucking busy.  No.  No I can't take care of your cat.  Sorry."

We were standing in the middle of a club.

The room got quiet.

"Oh," said Jason, slightly startled by the violence of my response.  "That's ok, Tolly.  Don't worry about it.  I'll ask somebody else."

Jason then walked away to see if another, less reactive individual, would like to attend to the relatively simple job of picking up a bag with cat food in it, and turning it upside down into a bowl.

Meanwhile, I stood there.  A tense, fuming creature that I hardly knew, watching my gracious friend retreat.


The thing about being a Yes Girl is: I genuinely want to do everything (well, almost everything) that people approach me to do.

On a 1-10 scale of Life Hardships, with 1 being the car is out of gas, and 10 being you just contracted organ-melting Ebola, all of mine fall at roughly the 0.5 mark.

Poor me!  I sometimes mock myself.  Poor, little Tolly!  I just feel so badly for you, not having enough time to successfully execute all of your great opportunities!

I really do have no idea what my religion is, but to cover my bases, I occasionally pray to something -- today it may be God, tomorrow it might be The Universe, next week it may be The Holy Ghost of Ann Richards -- and thank it for giving me so many incredible gifts in life.

Because you see, the problem isn't everyone else.  Everyone else has been extraordinary.

My friends, peers, family, teachers, husband, you here reading this blog, the whole, shining lot, has believed in me and encouraged me.  In writing, but also in other things.  Like that time I really, really wanted to be a cheerleader.  Do you remember that, Mom?  All those ridiculous cheerleading classes on the other side of town, that you drove me to and paid for?  And then eventually, after what must have been years of stretching, jumping, arm extending, smiling and cheering for fictional teams and their hypothetical victories, I decided I didn't want to be a cheerleader after all?

No.  The problem is me.

Saying "yes" so much that I fear I never do any of it really well.

Unless, that is, you'd like to hire me to come over and give your cat's food maggots.  Because (and I have references), I genuinely do excel in that department.


Carrie Rosalind said...

Oh my gosh I LOVE this post! So beautifully written. I am a Yes Girl right along with you!

jackiek said...

I love this post because I'm a total Yes Girl! I used to think that this was such an amazing quality about me, until I realized Flaky Mess Girl is my alter ego and then I realized just how win/lose being a Yes Girl is.

Gretchen said...

The Holy Ghost of Ann Richards wants you to know that it's okay to say no.

Nicole Mlakar-Livingston said...

Oh, the yes girl. I know her well. I will say that somewhere in my 30s I finally found her opposite, the no girl and I've been pretty excited about her every since. You can do it Tolly! Find your inner "NO!"

Becca said...

I adore this post and can totally relate - this is fabulous, Tolly!!

Cathy Benavides said...

Girl, you are preaching to the choir! I am the queen of taking on way too much only to have the Flaky Mess rear it's ugly, flaky head! It's reassuring to know that people I admire (that would be you) also suffer from the same issues. I like to think it's just because we are so awesome, everyone wants a piece of us. Yeah, that's totally it!

That Chelsea Girl™ said...

Don't worry, Tolly, I am right there with you. My life is completely full of committments, but really it just makes life that much more interesting. And worthwhile! Take care.

Claire Hamilton said...

One cure for being a YesGirl is to have kids. It's not an instant cure; it can take some people--usually us Suthun Gals-- two or three kids and fully morphing into Flaky Mess before we can truly exorcise YesGirl.
The kid cure though, is the only positive cure I know of. Getting a painful chronic illness or having to deal with some other life-ickiness is the other way to get rid of her (but even then, YesGirl'll lurk nearby waiting for you to feel better so she can step in).

Crystal said...

Oh my! You said it SO well. I'm also a Yes Girl...and haven't quite gotten to the saying no business. Thanks for the inspiration. :)

Jennifer Alt said...

Currently, this is me to a tee. Righteously so, I acknowledged the fact out loud today. I’m a yes girl, learning to say no. It's that creative drive to be all, do all I suppose.