Why you need to say ‘no’ to yourself

I had an epiphany the other day, after recently falling down the black hole of Youtube and consequently binge watching videos on morbid obesity for a week (stay with me here). While mesmerised by the plight of people who are morbidly overweight and still shovelling astonishing amounts of food into their mouth, I realised that their addiction to food is not dissimilar to my addiction to shopping, or my former addiction to smoking or other common addictions people have to alcohol or gambling. Whatever the severity of the addiction a person suffers from, the common denominator is the inability of the addict to truly say ‘no’ to themselves.

I think especially having grown up in a generation where I was encouraged by society and education to “be positive” and to say “yes” to everything, I have somewhere along the line, lost the ability to say “no”…at least to myself.

Even in society, the trend towards agreement, compliance and conformity has seen a resultant retroaction with the rise in books such as ‘The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck’ which teach readers how to say no to things, commitments and people in their lives that do not add value to their lives or contribute to what’s really important.

While I agree that some people definitely need a helping hand when it comes to saying ‘no’ to others, I am not one of those people. However, my epiphany made me realise that I do need a lot of help learning to say ‘no’ to myself. No to my appalling (but slowing improving) shopping habits, no to making poor food choices, no to spending so much time online, no to being lazy and not learning.

Previously, I thought that somewhere along the line I had forgot how to say no to myself. But after mulling the idea over a bit more, I realised that I never actually learned or was taught how to say “no” to myself. Since I was born to the time I became a legal adult, most “no’s” came from my parents. And by the time I turned 18, the number of no’s my parents dished out rapidly declined, but instead of picking up the slack myself, I started replacing their no’s with my yes’s.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing bad about using the word Yes in moderation when it comes to your own life…but when you’re using it indiscriminately, that is when things begin to slip.

So now after nearly 1.5 decades since my parents’ no’s basically became obsolete, I have to now teach myself how to say no to me. I already know this is going to be a hard lesson to learn, but it’s one that can’t be avoided if I want to lead a productive life that I can be truly proud of. And to think that it all starts with such a small word.

Questions to Ask as a Minimalist

My weakness, my addiction, my love – shopping. If there is an opportunity or excuse to go shopping, I will find it in a heartbeat. Online, offline, sale or no sale, I will find a reason to spend money like a fish finds water.

For me, to change my habits successfully I need to stagger it into stages, with each stage being a further departure to what I am currently used to.

My current change process for my shopping habits – Step 1:

  1. Asking myself a list of questions regarding the item during the buying process.
  2. When I online shop, I try to cull my shopping cart as much as possible.
  3. When my purchases are delivered or when I bring them home from a store, I try it on with different outfits to make sure its versatile and complements more than one outfit.
  4. After all the above, I ask myself again – do I love it?
  5. Unless I have fallen madly and deeply for an item, I will return it. If I feel like I have fallen in love with an item, I will then wait a few days and if the feeling remains the same then I’ll keep it.

For this month alone I will be returning more than $900 worth of purchases which equates to roughly 95% of what I ordered. This in itself is a drastic improvement from the 50-60% that I’d previously return.

Questions I now ask myself when making a purchase:

Judging Criteria for clothes

  • Do I love it?
  • Does it bring me joy?
  • Does the colour suit me?
    (Note: this is different to “Is the colour pretty?” – just because its a pretty colour doesn’t mean it suits your skintone)
  • Does the material feel nice and look nice on me?
  • Does it fit me?
    (Note: this means ‘Does it fit me now?”, not some arbitrary date in the future when you’ve lost 5kgs)
  • Is the cut flattering on me?
  • Does it complement other clothes/outfits I already own?
  • Does it fit my lifestyle?*
  • On what occasions will I wear this and how often do those occasions occur?
  • Do I already have something similar to this?
  • Can I wait for another week/month before I buy it?
  • Do I need it right now?
  • How hard is it to clean and care for?
  • Is the cost worth the value?

Judging Criteria for other items

  • Do I love it?
  • Does it bring me joy?
  • Do I already have something similar to this?
  • How often will I actually use this?
  • Does this item serve more than one purpose?
  • Does it fit into my lifestyle?*
  • How difficult will it be to dispose of this item? (Sustainability)
  • Is the cost worth the value?
  • Where will I store this item?
  • Can I wait for another week/month before I buy it?
  • Do I need it right now?

Step 2 of my change process for shopping is to go from ‘buying it and returning it’ to not buying at all in the first place.

*Note: the question ‘Does it fit into my lifestyle?’ refers to whether the items you purchase actually match the way you live. For example, I spend 80% of my time at work and 20% of my time socialising with friends. This means it doesn’t make sense for me to have 80% of my wardrobe focused on casual clothing when that only takes up 20% of my life.