Saying No

I suck at saying no.

It may not seem like it, but it’s actually a skill I had to learn to be a successful model.  There are just too many opportunities to pose, not enough time, and I want to take them all.  Although I’ve gotten better about it, it’s still hard.  I still schedule too much.  I still work more hours than I really should.

As I’ve met more models, I’ve learned we all seem to have this in common.  It’s the same for other freelancers too.  It’s so ingrained that it’s practically a cultural norm.  Why is that?

Have you ever heard the saying, “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it?”  I think it’s something like that.  To survive as a model—or any type of freelancer for that matter—you have to be extremely competent.  Almost overly competent.  We’re used to being able to handle anything that comes our way.  Taxes, travel, art, business, you name it.  So when it comes to scheduling obligations, we say yes.  We just assume we can handle one more thing.

And the worst part is, we usually can.  We just get stressed and run-down and over-worked in the process.  Obligations take energy, and we’re already running near capacity.  So we can do more, but we’re borrowing against the future. 

We can do more, but we’re borrowing against the future.

This got me thinking.  I started wondering how much better my art would be if I did less.  What if I concentrated on how well I did instead?  So about a year ago, I decided to make my default answer to every new thing “no.”  It doesn’t mean I won’t do it.  It just means that I start at “no” and “yes” requires more scrutiny.  Now I need to have a really good reason to put something on my calendar.  Previously, I had to justify turning it down.

I was terrified to try this.  I thought I needed to jump on every opportunity to stay afloat.  But I didn’t sink, and I’ve noticed that I’m way happier, less stressed, and a better model.

I also make more money.  I’m not quite sure how that works, but I’d imagine it’s because I have more time and energy to invest in larger gigs.  I certainly have more time and resources to say yes to unexpected opportunities, like touring with my best friend in Europe.

But I’ve gotten some weird looks about my “say no” plan, mostly from other models.  I’ve never been able to convince anyone else to try it.  I think they’re worried about sinking too.

I wish I could convince them to try justifying what they do instead of what they don’t, and see what changes.  Even if it was just for a day or a week.  If it worked for them like it worked for me, it might make them a lot happier and more productive. 

Granted, I still need a lot of work on saying no.  If you saw my calendar or my to do list(s), you would never guess that I was trying.  But you should have seen them before.

Even the little bit that I’ve managed has been so helpful that I’m planning in saying “no” in more areas of my life. If I need to have a good reason to write something, will my writing improve?  If I’m conscious about being social, will my friendships deepen?  I’m not sure, but I’m really excited to find out.