As women we are told that we can “have it all” and “do it all” and that wearing our “yeses” on our chest makes us a superhero. Although these messages are meant to empower, they actually compound one of the most prevalent issues women face today — the lack of the ability to say “no.” But why? Why is it so hard for women to overcome the guilt and the shame around the word “no”? And when are we going to stop and realize the cost of always saying “yes” — both to our bank accounts and to our sanity?
The answer just may lie in an economic concept called “opportunity cost.” (Oh, how proud my microeconomics professor at USC would be if he knew that after nearly two decades I was still throwing around that term.) By definition, opportunity cost is the benefit or value of something that is given up when one chooses one thing over another. Or — put more simply — it’s what you could do with your 10 minutes and $5 if you don’t walk into Starbucks each morning. Bottom line, you can do A LOT since that daily yes to a skinny vanilla latte over 15 years can cost you nearly 1,000 hours and close to $50,000. That is a lot of time and money that could be put to better use. And this is coming from a woman who LOVES her lattes!
This same principle can be applied to the seemingly endless requests of our time and the obliging attitude some of us have as we “yes” ourselves into insanity and exhaustion. I am not suggesting that we all stop baking cookies or sewing several monkey costumes for our children’s school play after a long day at work — or stop volunteering our time to worthy causes. But I am suggesting that before we shout out that “yes,” we stop to recognize that we are a worthy cause too.
Just because you can’t always quantify the cost of a “yes” doesn’t mean there isn’t an impact on your bottom line. The extra time you take walking along the beach, feeling the sand between your toes, enjoying a little downtime with a glass of wine, or reading a book to gain a new perspective can yield an even higher return.
So to all you Superwomen out there flying around with your “yeses” on your chest, it’s time to rip off the cape and stop for a moment to think about the true cost of “yes.” You just might fly higher if you embrace the power of no.
Steph Wagner is a member of the DailyWorth Experts program. Read more about the program here.