We are taught from a young age to say no. We are told it’s okay to stand up for ourselves and go against the crowd, especially when it comes to drugs and alcohol. But when we are put in a position where it’s time to say no, it can feel difficult, scary, and at times, impossible. Why is saying no to drugs and alcohol so difficult?
It’s not easy to go against the masses, especially at an age where everything feels like life or death and fitting in is what helps you survive the day. But when we choose another person’s path, their perspective over ours, we diminish our own and project negativity into our future. It means we are too afraid to put ourselves first. To get a better understanding of what this looks like, let’s look at an example.
Jayden loves to draw and desperately wants to get into art school so he can become a successful graphic designer. However, his group of friends is not as motivated. They don’t hate on him for his dreams, but they aren’t doing anything to better Jayden’s future. Jayden’s friends drink most nights of the week and smoke weed every day. Jayden used to think the weed helped him with his creativity, but now, it just makes him tired and lethargic. He hasn’t been drawing every day like he used to, and he’s noticed changes in his work. He wants to tell his friends that he doesn’t want to smoke anymore, but he’s afraid they won’t want to be his friend if he does.
What’s Jayden’s main concern?
He’s afraid he will lose friends if he stands up for himself and says no. It may not seem like it but saying no stems from self-worth. He has the first part down by knowing he doesn’t want to continue the behavior, and he knows the behavior is harming his future. But Jayden is afraid of the possibility of walking away from his friend group. He’s putting more value on his friends and their opinions over his own well-being.
Let’s say Jayden’s worst fear comes true, that his friend group won’t hang out with him anymore. Are they really Jayden’s friends if they are willing to throw the friendship away over drugs? Absolutely not. If he does choose to walk away, it will be a blessing in disguise because it’s clear these friends aren’t loyal and caring. Some may even go so far as to say that rejection is protection. If Jayden does lose the friend group, it might make him sad and lonely at first, but the change can lead to new friends who are like-minded, supportive and encourage creativity. Wouldn’t you say Jayden is better off?
Here’s where most of us get stuck. We only think of the worst-case scenario, but when we do this, we forget about the other possibilities. What if Jayden tells his friends and they support him? What if they think it’s a great idea? Part of this scenario is about the integrity of his friends, but it also goes back to Jayden’s self-worth. If he believes in himself and knows he is a valuable friend, then it doesn’t matter if his friends choose to stay or leave because Jayden knows he will be successful and find new friends that truly care about him. But if his friends choose to stay, then he can continue building relationships with them as he grows and changes.
This is the key takeaway when it comes to connecting to your life’s purpose.
It’s about taking care of you and putting you first. When you do that, the rest will fall into place. This can seem scary because friends and hobbies can change, but doesn’t it seem worth it to do the things that are important to you? When we have confidence, when we believe in our convictions, and when we know we don’t want to do something, we find the strength to say no and walk away. That’s not to say the moment isn’t scary. It means we value ourselves more than the approval of others.
It’s Okay to Not Go to the Party
It’s okay to not go to the party, it’s okay to not accept the drink, and it’s okay to call home for a ride if you get stuck in a sticky situation. What’s not okay is dropping down to the level of others and saying yes simply because it feels easier. It’s okay to listen to the voice inside your heart and honor its wishes, even if it means losing friends in the process. It’s about realizing that sometimes we have to make sacrifices to gain the life we are dreaming of.
It can feel like life or death when it comes to saying no, and that’s okay! If you or an adolescent you know struggles with boundaries that are leading to addiction, professional help is always a great option. The Bougainvilla House offers adolescent behavioral health programs for individuals and families.
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