Habitual, a ritual. I think it would be easier to say 'no' if I practiced, practice makes perfect, perfect. I stare at the idea of perfection in daily admiration, I yearn and long to achieve this unachievable ideal. To be beyond criticism, beyond judgment—these are meant for beings much greater than I. No human is perfect, no human can be perfect. It's written in the rulebook, and I've always been a strong advocate for following the rules.
What do I hope to gain by saying yes? Yes, yes, yes to everything, except I can't do everything, no one can. I do my best to avoid conflict, to dodge that bitter discomfort of frustration, that sharp jab of anger, that seeping slime of disappointment. I don't want to let people down, so I say yes.
I wouldn't recognize myself without others. I've heard that our soul is what remains in our identity after we subtract external influences, but I can't say I agree. My soul, if it exists, is buried somewhere inside of me, underneath a pile of unopened cards from acquaintances and long-forgotten friends. I am the sum of everyone I've ever met, for better or for worse. Maybe my soul is the mathematician solving the equation of my identity? No, mathematicians are far too busy to deal with addition and subtraction, and my identity is far from calculus, linear algebra, differential geometry, or any other fancy combination of academic-sounding words.
That is to say, I say yes. I say yes because I am grateful to others for giving me the gift of myself—no, that can't be right, can it? Can it?
I don't say no. It's a habit, this avoidance. It's a habit.
Can I reasonably blame this habit on anxiety, or do I need to assume some deeper level of responsibility? That's a joke, by the way—of course I assume responsibility, of course I know this habit is unhealthy. It's a joke, but not a very funny one. It's a joke, but I'm not laughing. I know I should say no, but it's easier said than done; isn't everything?
I tell myself I should break this habit, but the truth is, I'm not sure that I even want to. This habit, this perpetual state of agreeableness, is not without its benefits. I hate interpersonal conflict far more than compromising on my desires. I hate frustration and anger directed toward me far more than acquiescing, than agreeing.
I am not selfless. I have a self, and that self is entirely dependent on others. I know that's not healthy, I know, I know. If knowledge really were power, I'd be a king, a god, but since power is power, I sit alone atop my empty throne of introspection. I know my people-pleasing tendencies—'tendencies,' what a nice and euphemistic way to put it!—aren't healthy, I know. Is this a habit or an addiction? I don't think the two are mutually exclusive.
Theoretically, I could say no. I know how to produce the proper sounds, I know how to insert the word in proper contexts, I know how to use it in a grammatically correct manner. But, like all those academic theorists, my knowledge stays within the confines of my mind, my ivory tower, except I don't like ivory and I'm vaguely afraid of heights.
It's habitual, a ritual, saying yes, not saying no. I've gotten better at standing up for myself over the years—no, really, I have, I have, I've made progress, some progress, not enough progress, not enough. Not enough. But some. And isn't that better than none? My legs are quite long, but these steps I take toward self-acceptance and self-compassion are so small. They're almost insignificant, but not quite, because isn't any progress in a positive direction enough to be significant? Things are better than they were, and isn't that something worth celebrating? As long as we don't allow ourselves to become satisfied with less than we deserve, as human beings, then I should like to think I'm permitted to celebrate my slow progress in the direction of jubilant autonomy.
Is that alright?