It's OK to say 'no'

Cora Herbert analyses the positive effect of the word "no" during this pandemic

Cora Herbert
19th October 2020

Normally, my advice to students, especially first-years, is to say yes to everything. I would usually say push yourself, venture out of your comfort zone, take every opportunity that you can. But this year that rule goes out the window and my new message is this: it’s okay to say no.

No, you’re not being a buzz kill. You’re not being boring or unadventurous – you're being safe and taking care of yourself which is the most important thing at times like these.  

Day-to-day life is challenging enough at the moment so there is no need to overwhelm yourself with situations that will make you feel uncomfortable. The new guidelines about what is and isn’t allowed is as complicated as ever and it seems each person has their own stance on what they’re happy doing or who they’re happy seeing. So be confident in your own boundaries and if you’re asked to do something or go somewhere that’s going to make you anxious, you can say no.  

There are so many reasons why people may not want to be socialising in the same way as usual – they may have health issues or live with someone who does.

They might be an anxious person and trying to reduce stressful situations. Or quite simply they just might not feel up to it. All these reasons are perfectly valid as is any other feeling of caution towards ‘breaking the rules’. We all have that worry of what others might think of us. But please believe me when I say that no one will judge you. Honestly.  

If this year has taught us anything, it’s to be kind and understanding – your friends, new and old, will respect your decisions. Everyone deals with difficult situations differently so there is no need to compare yourself to others. Understand, as the people around you will, the importance of taking time for yourself.  

Having said all this, there is still an argument for maintaining a sense of ‘normality’ (whatever that might be) by trying your best to keep in touch with people and getting involved with all that university life has to offer. Socialising in one way or another is so important and can be helpful and supportive, but it should never come at the cost of your safety, health of sense of well-being. You know your own boundaries and we have these limits for a reason, so if you’re not comfortable with a situation - as with everything in life – it's always okay to say no.  

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