Perhaps one of my biggest character flaws, or worst personality traits, is to immediately say yes to something … and then back out later. In the parlance of the youth, we call that “flaking.” In my head, I’ve always chalked this whiplash up to social anxiety and introversion (two different things, as I’ve pointed out on the blog before). And quite frankly, it’s always made me feel like an asshole when I’ve done that! When I’ve backed out. To be fair, though, I’ve “backed out” on myself, too.
Case in point: I recently bought tickets to WWE Monday Night Raw when they came through Cincinnati a couple of months ago. It would have been my first live professional wrestling show since WrestleMania 35 in New York City back in 2019. But as it got closer to the event, I ended up re-selling them on Ticketmaster (at a loss, no less) because I didn’t want to go on a Monday night. My reasoning? I’m old now, and I don’t want to have to be up that late and doing things on a Monday night when I gotta work the next day. WHO AM I.
An external, recent example: Tonight, another Monday as it happens, I was signed up to do virtual Yoga with Laughter, one of the many group events available on Meetup, the app that helps you connect with people of shared interests n your area. It was free, with an intriguing premise (yoga with laughter?!), and it was virtual, so all I had to do was walk 10 feet from my recliner to my kitchen and plop down. I looked at it, saw that it technically went for a full hour (and maybe it doesn’t actually, who knows), and canceled my RSVP. Womp womp.
I do that sort of, “Yes!” … “Actually, never mind,” thing all of the time. Part of the initial, “Yes!” is me being a people-pleaser personality type, I think. I want to please people. I want to do the things they want to do. I want to “be present” for others. The other part is knowing that it’s good for me to do external things outside of myself with family, friends and even strangers. In fact, I try to tell myself that there has rarely ever been a situation where I said, “Yes!” to doing something and regretted having done it after the fact. And yet.
As for why the, “Actually, never mind,” part of it, I surmise that it’s a nice heaping stew of social anxiety (even virtually!), preferring my comfort zone of what I would be doing in the alternative, fearing money costs, maybe even being a little lazy, and to be fair to myself, maybe there really were occasions where I impulsively said “yes” to something and my rational brain kicked in later to say, “Actually, never mind, and here are X, Y and Z reasons for backing out.” So, backing out isn’t always bad, but I would think the vast majority of the time I have, it’s due to the other reasons.
I’ve been like this going back to my early teenager years. I used to get in arguments with friends because in the middle of a social thing, when I felt like I had my fill as an introvert, I’d be ready to leave and these extroverted kids could go hours longer playing and being around each other. No, thank you. Bye. Or I’d simply want to be doing something else after a certain point, like reading.
This sort of “yes!” and then “Actually, never mind,” would get more pronounced as the years went on, and my social anxiety (and depression) went untreated and got worse. It began affecting my day-to-day, as such clinical things tend to do, in terms of jobs I flaked on, or to use another youthful word, “ghosted,” or classes I would sign up for and then immediately drop out of in college, and so on.
It’s interesting. I think you hear a lot about learning the power of, “No,” in our society that demands us to say, “Yes,” and I can get that, especially if you’re overdoing the people-pleasing personality to the detriment of your own well-being and mental wellness, but also, there is absolutely power in saying, “Yes.” As I mentioned, I rarely have regretted it, and most regret when I think back on moments in my life stem from the backing out, not the coming in.
Most recently, I said “yes” to a hiking adventure with two people I had previously connected with through my work as a journalist. Of course, the usual thoughts about backing out entered my mind because they always do, but I decided to stick with it and go. I like hiking! I like deep talks! And they weren’t complete strangers to me. I think those “pros” were able to outweigh my usual rationales for backing out.
And as the theme of this post would suggest: No, I did not regret it. It was a lovely hike with gracious people, beautiful views and one of my favorite things: those deep discussions that get beyond the usual shallow pleasantries and small talk we humans often engage in.
Here is one photo from the walk:
What about you? Do you find yourself being a people-pleaser? A yes-person? Or are you always saying no? Or are you like me, yes and then no? Or somewhere in between?
I am a people pleaser but have some of that as I have aged. It’s hard because I like to be involved in all things and use to be but no more and you know what???? I missed nothing.