I am not the type of woman who says no

Photo: David Yeo

Lily Peschardt tried it for a day and the world did not end. Instead it changed it – for the better

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By Lily Peschardt on

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I’m the type of woman who says yes to every work assignment that gets thrown at me, driven sleep-deprived and anxious by the idea that if I say no, I will be seen as “difficult” and the career that I’ve worked so hard to build will disintegrate in front of my eyes.

The type of woman who always says yes to going to the pub when one of my friends has had yet another fight with her boyfriend and then insists on paying for the drinks, even though my bank balance is about to teeter over into the overdraft.

The type of woman who signs up to make a monthly donation to a grocery subscription service I’ve never heard of and that I unequivocally can’t afford because the man on the side of the road looked so desperate for someone to talk to. I am the type of woman who then gets home and calls the bank to cancel my credit card because I can’t work out the company’s website, rather than just saying no in the first place.

The other day, when I was telling a group of friends about the subscription service I accidentally signed up for, my boyfriend was perplexed. “Why didn’t you just say no?” he asked. But all the women around the table nodded, knowingly, and unfolded their own, similar stories; unsurprisingly, most of the women I hang out with also aren’t the type of women who say no. There was something so depressing about the money we spent, the time we wasted, the sleep we lost, all because we were afraid to say that tiny, two-letter word every now and again. And right then, I decided I was going to run an experiment: I was going to say no for a day. For one whole glorious day, I wouldn’t agree to a single thing I didn’t actually want to do. I was sure it would be liberating and invigorating. And I was equally sure it would be completely fucking terrifying.

There was something so depressing about the money we spent, the time we wasted, the sleep we lost, all because we were afraid to say that tiny, two-letter word every now and again

The next morning, while I was wrestling with the million other people traversing down Oxford Street, trying to get to work on time, my brother called to ask what I was getting our mum for Mother’s Day. I told him about the jumper I’d picked out. “Cool,” he said, not really listening, “Can we go halves?”

I rolled my eyes, swallowing the temptation to say it was fine – even though he pulled this exact move at Christmas and was yet to pay me back. The money we spent, the time we wasted, the sleep we lost.

“No, get her something yourself, you lazy bastard,” I said, making sure to laugh, so that I didn’t sound too rude.

“Seriously?” he asked.

“Seriously,” I replied.

He huffed a bit and I felt a small burst of satisfaction spread across my chest. I hung up the phone and walked into the office, drunk with power.

Later that day, in the flurry of morning emails, there was one from my friend, asking me to proofread her cover letter. “SORRY! The application cutoff is at midnight so could you do it ASAP?!" her email read. When I opened the attachment, it was littered with spelling mistakes and half-finished sentences. Normally, I would have said yes; even though I didn't actually have the time, I would have forced a crack to open in my day where I could try to spin her garbled mess into something coherent. Instead, I shot off a reply: "I am so sorry – I'm swamped at work." And then, because I felt guilty, I added: "Make sure you look really closely at the job spec and that the skills they ask for are mentioned in your letter.”

When a colleague asked me to cover for her because she couldn’t be bothered to do something, I pushed back and told her I didn’t have the time. When an editor made a change I didn’t agree with and asked if I was OK with her changes, I was honest and told her I liked it better before. When my boyfriend asked me to cook dinner because he really fancied the veggie curry I make, I said I wasn’t in the mood for cooking.

At the end of the day, my friends were still talking to me, my career didn’t implode and my boyfriend and I ate eggs for dinner. After a lifetime of feeling like I was allergic to saying no, my throat growing itchy and tight at the very thought of it, I found out that maybe I was the type of woman who says no, after all.

This blog is part of our Do The Day Differently series where we have asked writers to unfasten and liberate themselves from everyday constraints. The week is brought to you by sloggi, who are making it their mission to free women from uncomfortable bras with their new ZERO Feel range of bodywear, bras so easy to wear they feel like a "second skin". Click here to buy.


Iris pen holder, £29, Nathalie pencils, £2 each, & Fountain pen, £19, all available at Twentytwentyone. Leather diary with fastener, £25.99 available at Zara Home. Prop stylist Stephanie Iles. 

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Photo: David Yeo
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