A few weeks ago, I went to visit my godbabies. As life—and by "life", I mean God—would have it, all of us are Geminis which automatically makes us bonded in some pretty significant ways that only other fellow Geminis can even begin to comprehend. Anyway, as I was bonding with one who is right at three months and another who is 25—my bad, eight-years-old (she really is waaaaay beyond her years, though)—I was reminded of something that I truly believe about children—they come into this world with the ability to love unconditionally, to be remarkably creative and to be totally unapologetic when it comes to their "yes" and "no". It is our job as adults to nurture those abilities. Unfortunately, a lot of us…don't.
And since all of us were children at one point, this means that we also came into the world with these things. Some of us got them disciplined (in this case what I mean is beat) out of us (hurt people, hurt people…sometimes those "people" are our very own parents). Some of us were pressured to do and be anything but creative. And then there are those of us who had so many of our boundaries violated that, to this day, we don't know how to say "no"—or we feel guilty for wanting to.
I have always related to the quote, "Adulthood is about surviving childhood." Not that I think it should be that way, but it's simply the reality for a lot of us. But you know what? There's no time like the present to tend to the "inner child" and let her know what it is OK to love fully, live creativity and be fine with saying "yes" and with saying "no". "No" to what exactly? Let's start with this list right here.
Someone Disrespecting Your Boundaries
An author by the name of Suzette R. Hinton (who happens to be a Black woman which makes me like the quote even more) once said, "If the person you're talking with continues to press you for more or can't seem to accept your answer, then you are being harassed. I know that sounds hard for people-pleasers to accept, but it's true. No means no." Amen. Something that I'm very careful and cautious about, when it comes to my godchildren and children in general, really, is honoring their boundaries. I don't just scoop them up. I don't force affection on them. I try and put myself in their position and give them their space to come to me in their own time.
I think a part of the reason why I'm this way is because my boundaries—which are limits—were disrespected on so many levels while I was growing up. I didn't get the right to say "no" or if I did, I was treated like I was wrong for saying it or I was, as Ms. Hinton put it, harassed to the point of changing my mind.
Now? Don't even try it. Case in point, I was recently staying at someone's house and they asked me if I wanted to go out to eat early the following morning. I said "no". Boy, they spent a solid 15 minutes talking about the restaurant, how rise and shine time wasn't "that early" and why I should want to do it. Goodness. I said no. People tend to push past our limits so much that we don't even realize how much they are dishonoring us when they do. But even the Bible has your back on this—"But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No.' For whatever is more than these is from the evil one." (Matthew 5:37—NKJV)
Always remember—the same people who dishonor your "no" would have a fit if you did the same thing to them. "No" isn't being mean. It's simply a form of honoring yourself. Anyone who has a problem with that, has a real problem.
Abuse. Of ANY Kind.
Physical abuse. Emotional abuse. Mental abuse. Spiritual abuse (if you wonder what that looks like, check out "25 Signs Of Spiritual Abuse"). Professional abuse (there's a good read on that here). Platonic abuse (toxic friends are abusive ones). Neglect. There's no simpler way to put it—you should not tolerate abuse of any kind. Ever and period.
By definition, abuse is "to treat in a harmful, injurious, or offensive way" or to malign or misuse. But I'll be honest with you. As I shared in an article about date rape, if you have to wonder if you are being abused by someone, something is automatically really unhealthy. There are definitely some things that you should be putting your foot down on and saying "no" to. Anything that even mildly mimics abuse is one of them.
Toxicity. Of ANY Kind.
If there's one thing that we try and nip in the bud over here at xoNecole, it's toxicity. If you don't believe me, check out "The Self-Care Of Ghosting Toxic Girlfriends", "We've Said A Word About Toxic Fathers, But Who's Talking About Toxic Mothers?", "Why You Should Be Unapologetic About Setting Boundaries With Toxic Family Members" and "Blac Chyna & Tokyo Toni Are Proof That Your Parents Can Be Toxic Too". I think the reason why it's so important to have a profound aversion to toxic behavior and people is because when something is toxic, it is harmful, poisonous and malicious.
As I was checking out an article (off of the platform) that someone wrote about toxic individuals, I found it really interesting that aside from mentioning things like jealousy, manipulation, control, backhanded compliments and playing the victim, something else that made the list was "They can't take 'no'". A person who doesn't respect your no is showing signs of being toxic. Wow. Just wow.
Doing Something That Violates Your Values or Principles
A few weeks ago, I watched comedian Corey Holcomb on The Breakfast Club go on about his lack of interest in monogamy. Before he got into all of that, everyone was discussing something that I agree with—the world is getting waaaaaay too sensitive. "Sensitive" to the point of being tyrannical. It's like unless you agree with what someone is saying, you immediately need to apologize or be canceled. That's unfortunate too because a lot of people who feel that way would be HOT if someone demanded the same of them.
We all need to be considerate and compassionate. Hopefully, that goes without saying. But to expect folks to go against their core values, principles, passions or interest, simply because you feel a different way than they do is…dangerous.
That's what this current president of ours is on. It takes courage to do or not do something based on your own core set of beliefs, but if someone tries to bully you into doing just that, while it may not be popular right now, it's still OK to say "no".
Doing Something Before You Are Ready to Do It
One of my favorite quotes of all time is "You'll never be good enough for a man who isn't ready." When someone is ready to do something, it means that they prepared, equipped and in the right condition. On the relationship tip, it is NOT our job as women to "get a man ready". It's actually violating and pretty disrespectful to volunteer to take that role on. I actually know many a man who are now husbands who are pretty miserable because they were "ultimatum-ed into" their marriage; they were pushed to move before they were ready to do so. Not to say that those men don't need to take some personal ownership for being pushed because if you're not ready to do something, you need to say "no". At the same time, the person hearing that needs to either accept the response or move on.
The same thing applies to all other matters. Being ready requires desire, time and focus. I don't care how "ready" someone thinks that you might be, only you know how ready you truly are. If they respect you and your knowledge about yourself (ain't it a trip, how many folks think they know us better than we do?), they will respect your "back up, not yet" or your flat-out no. It really is as simple as that.
Conceding to Compromises That Offend Your Spirit
A writer by the name of Stephanie Lahart once said, "Let today mark a new beginning for you. Give yourself permission to say NO without feeling guilty, mean, or selfish. Anybody who gets upset and/or expects you to say YES all of the time clearly doesn't have your best interest at heart. Always remember: You have a right to say NO without having to explain yourself. Be at peace with your decisions."
There are some things that I will say "no" to, for no other reason than it doesn't sit well with me. Sometimes even my friends will look at me like I am crazy, but if my spirit isn't at peace, I'm not at peace. Peace of mind can keep you out of all sorts of unforeseen or unpredicted foolishness. Don't ever betray your spirit. It's got your back in a way that no one else ever could or would.
Relationships That Lack Reciprocity
Almost every chance that I get, I bring up how important it is to have relationships that are reciprocal. To tell you the truth, when you think about the fact that the root word for relationship is "relate", I'll take it a step further and say that if you're in something where mutuality does not exist, it's not really a relationship anyway.
People who are willing to take without giving in return are users. Not all of them are entirely conscious of this fact, but they still are. And you know what? Your time, resources, and heart are far too valuable to be out here sharing yourself with those who leave you empty in return. The sooner you say an emphatic "NO!" to folks who drain rather than fulfill you, the better off your quality of life will be.
I recently read an article on Inc.'s site that said having a self-deprecating sense of humor is connected to great leadership skills. By looking deeper into the piece, I agreed with this line—"People that can admit to their failures or shortcomings with a smile are more approachable." But it's one thing to not take yourself so seriously, to be self-aware enough to know what your own flaws are. On the other hand, it's a horse of a totally different color when you don't know how to take a compliment, you try and make yourself the butt of every joke and you are constantly speaking negatively about yourself.
For one thing, it seems like you're begging for attention and affirmations which can become exhausting. Secondly, it does a real number on your self-worth and esteem. So, while we're out here talking about all of the things outside of yourself that you should say "no" to, self-deprecation is an internal issue that you should deny, each and every time the temptation to tear yourself to shreds comes to mind.
Cyclic Patterns, Habits and Behaviors
Along the lines of what I just said, sometimes, the main one you need to be saying "no" to is yourself. Whenever you do that, it's called self-control. I once read somewhere that people who can control their appetite for food and sex are empowered in ways that few ever are. I get why they said that because when you can master how not to give into urges, simply because you have them, it trains you to become unstoppable in so many ways and on so many levels.
It's an article within itself to explore what constitutes as an unhealthy—or at the very least, counterproductive—pattern, habit or behavior is. But for the sake of time and space I'll just say, anything that holds you back, keeps you stagnant and encourages you to be the kind of person that you don't want to be or become, that is something you should definitely say "no" to. Right now, please.
Someone Wanting You to “Justify” Your No
I remember being in my late 30s and my mother asking me if I had ever had sex with a particular person that she had known since he and I both were kids. Then she looked at me like, "Well?!" Sometimes, I think people don't realize that receiving any kind of information about someone else is not a right; it is a privilege. This includes parents who want to know the business of their adult children.
Saying "no" doesn't require a follow-up statement. Anyone who feels otherwise, I don't care who they are, they are not honoring the limit that you set by saying "no" in the first place. When you are pushed past your no, when you are expected to defend or justify it, they are basically telling you that they don't respect your limits and you need to provide enough information until they do. That is not even close to being the truth.
Whew. I don't know about you but even writing this has gassed me up to find something to say "no" to (kidding…kinda). Bottom line, "no" is not a bad word. It's an empowering and necessary one. Use it with care, intention and maturity but do use it. Today, if necessary. Tomorrow and the next day too, chile.
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Russell and Nina Westbrook are one of those low-key, unproblematic couples we don’t talk about enough. They met in college and got married in 2015. They also have a beautiful family with three kids. While Russell is an NBA star, Nina is a licensed family and marriage therapist and a mental health advocate.
She recently launched the podcast The Relationship Chronicles with Nina Westbrook, and in the latest episode, she had none other than her husband on as a guest. The college sweethearts dived into important topics from marriage to children and how they navigate it all.
One of the topics they touched on was dealing with resentment in your relationship. The former MVP highlighted the sacrifices his wife has had to make in order for him to pursue a career in the NBA, and that’s why it’s also important for him to support his wife whenever he can.
“For me is respecting and understanding what your partner do and the time it takes,” Russell said. “Not kind of downplaying what they do, understanding the time and energy and effort they're doing to make sure whether it’s their job or making sure home is taken care of, and understanding that, I think that is the challenge of not being resentful.”
Nina agreed and also shared her thoughts on resentment. According to her, one of the best things couples should do is have their own identity and passions outside of the relationship in an effort to be fulfilled.
“I also think that when you’re in a relationship, that’s why it’s so important that each individual kinda pursue their own passions and follow their own dreams as I feel like it only becomes or leads to resentment when one person is not feeling fulfilled in what they're doing in their lives,” she explained.
“And so, they will start to look at the other partner who’s happy or excelling or promoting or moving along in their journey, then they’re left feeling stuck like they sacrificed themselves, their happiness, their career, their future and have not pursued it in the name of the relationship or their partner. So, it’s so much easier to avoid those feelings of resentment when you’re each equally pursuing your passions.”
The couple has many passions that they work on together and separately. Outside of basketball and his family, Russell has become known for his eclectic style and started the fashion brand Honor The Gift. Nina has her podcast, and she also started the mental health website Bene. Together, they run the Why Not? Foundation, which works with kids in underserved communities.
“I’m a firm believer that one person can’t be everything to you, so you have to sort of seek out those different friendships or groups or hobbies or activities that help to fulfill you,” Nina concluded.
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Feature image by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for Religion of Sports