Note To Self

‘Everything I’m Not Makes Me Everything I Am’

In her latest Note To Self, FW editor Emily Brooks explores the power of our rejections and the importance of saying 'no'.

By Emily Brooks

Note To Self

In her latest Note To Self, FW editor Emily Brooks explores the power of our rejections and the importance of saying 'no'.

By Emily Brooks

On a drizzling night, not so different to the one I am writing under now, nothing appeared to have changed but everything had. I had learned that different people have different versions of nice. Netflix was my temple, and comedian John Mulaney, my preacher. I was watching his comedy special, Kid Gorgeous, and as he began an excellent five minute monologue recounting his time spent with famous people as a writer on SNL, he explained most had “different definitions of nice” and, therefore, behaved in line with these definitions. One of these people was Mick Jagger, who would yell “Diet Coke!” and one would appear in his hand. So when Mulaney’s friends asked, ‘Is he nice?’ Mulaney replied: “No! Or maybe he is, for his version of life. Because he has a very different life. He’s Mick Jagger. That’s his name.” Like Mulaney, I was brought up in a household where polite was the default language we spoke and, as Mulaney claims, if you spilt your soup on me, I would probably apologise for you. A while ago, I walked this version of nice into a few real jobs and discovered a plethora of people who were getting by just fine (and maybe better) with a different version of nice, which was, in my mind, rude. But now I have positively reframed my perspective on this breed of person, I feel they actually have something to offer. 

These people exhibit an ease with the word ‘no’, which I have always found difficult. It is an ease I am, in fact, starting to admire. In his bestselling book, The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F***, Mark Manson dedicates an entire chapter to the importance of saying ‘no’. “We need to reject something. Otherwise we stand for nothing,” Manson writes. “We are without values and therefore live our lives without any purpose.” What these people with different versions of nice often know is where they want to go, and they’re quite happy rejecting requests and offers and burdens that push them down an alternate path. They do this with An Easy No. While most nice people know where they want to go, yet they end up down rabbit holes after saying Multiple Yeses to things they didn’t want to do but, nevertheless, feel obliged to. A friend ended up running a finance conference the other day, and she hates numbers! So while ‘no’ doesn’t always correlate with our versions of nice, it is artillery that must be used accordingly as we continue to walk down the chosen paths of our lives. “That rejection is an inherent and necessary part of maintaining our values, and therefore our identity,” Manson writes. “We are defined by what we choose to reject. And if we reject nothing (perhaps in fear of being rejected by something ourselves), we essentially have no identity at all.”

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