It is one of the first words we ever say and it only seems to get more difficult to say as time passes. In fact, as a child, we say "Yes" to pretty much anything. Yes to checking out the pool before we know how to swim, yes to sharing an ice cream cone with the dog, yes to chasing the Nerf ball (do they still make those?) into I-85. We are open to any possibility, and naturally possess what I like to call the “yes stance.”
Spend just a moment with anyone whose age is a single digit and you won’t be able to miss their yesness to everything around them. Swings! New friend! Rocks! Donuts! It is contagious. You can’t help but be swept up with the bright enthusiasm they possess about practically everything. And many of them have never met a stranger. How many times have an eager pair of eyes you have never encountered looked up at you and said something like, “My mom says when there’s corn in my poop it means I don’t chew my food enough.” Then they start wondering why you are in a laughing heap on the floor, because this kind of commentary is just par for the course for them.
So what happened? How did all this bright-eyed possibility become this shoulder slumping person we see in the mirror that won’t look the strangers we pass on the street in the eye? Break-ups. High school. Rejection. Loss. We keep hearing and experiencing “No!” And no piled on top of a pile of no’s.
All of these no’s cause our yes stance to get beaten back so far that it’s just too scary for us too show up with it anymore. The million amazing things we had to say in elementary school were usually met with “Sit down and be quiet!” Falling in love every 2 weeks (or every 2 days, yeah I was there too) in middle school started to become more and more frightening the more times the note came back the “No” box checked. In high school peers were busy making up stories about us behind our backs, belittling our endeavors, and ridiculing us outright, often in front of a crowd. As adulthood unfolded, ex’s started telling us that we are useless, irresponsible, uncaring, scum with nothing to offer the world. After hearing those words so many times, we started believing many of them.
With each literal and figurative “No,” our shoulders began slumping forward a little more and our hearts became a little more closed. We began guarding the vulnerable part of our physical and emotional selves–our heart–out of fear of more injury. Life experiences have taught us that showing up with a yes stance just results in pain, so we reactively respond in the best way we know how to avoid more.