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Columnist Zoami Calles-Rios Sosa educates young college students about the power of the word "no."

Going to college away from family can be an exhilarating experience. There are so many new things happening. You are surrounded by many new people, ideas, experiences, responsibilities and things to do. It can be one of the best (and possibly most confusing and busy) times of your life. I can’t imagine that everyone has the same experiences, but for a good portion of the population, I assume that they do. At least, that’s what we are told we are supposed to be having. “The best time of our life.”

With newfound freedom, it can be hard to know what you want to do. 

If you come with friends, it’s not hard to do or find things to do in college. However, not everyone has that luxury. Some come to college without knowing anyone else. 

And because we are social creatures, we seek out others that are like us. Or, at the very least, others that seem to like (or tolerate) us to have some social connection. 

Given all the angst and excitement happening during these emotional times, it is easy for younger students to want to do what they can to fit in. This is normal, and it’s how we are mostly wired. Because of this reasoning, we make choices that we feel pressured into making.

The world is full of an unlimited amount of opportunities. It is impossible to get to try everything, and I don’t think that’s even possible.

While keeping this in mind, I want to encourage students to try as much as they want (or not) while still setting boundaries. 

Setting boundaries is a healthy habit that we can develop to help us stay healthy and help our relationships flourish. We can start setting boundaries by saying no to things we don’t want to do.

According to social psychologist Dr. Vanessa K. Bohns, “Many people agree to things — even things they would prefer not to do — simply to avoid the considerable discomfort of saying ‘no.’” In all fairness, I’ve lost count of the countless times I had wanted to say no, but instead said yes.

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The decision between "yes" and "no" have consequences. 

I remember when I was invited to a party, but I did not want to go. All I wanted to do was to stay home and rest. My decision to go ended up with me being miserable the entire time I was at said party. I clearly remember thinking to myself at the time, “This is the last time I say yes when I want to say no.” 

Would anyone have cared if I said no? Probably not. 

I used to be scared that others would get mad at me for saying "no." In reality, people that matter don’t mind. They may dislike that you are saying no, but they’ll understand. Anyone that pushes you away or stops being friends with you because you are setting boundaries is someone you don’t need in your life.

So how can you start setting better boundaries?

You just need to start. Next time someone asks you to do something you don’t want to do, say no. You can deliver the "no" any way you want as long as you clearly state it. 

The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. It is that simple.

What about the things that you don’t want to do but are good for you? Can you say "no" to that, too?

We aren’t little kids anymore. Part of growing up means taking responsibility for one’s choices. We can choose not to do certain things that are good for us. These choices have consequences. I think setting boundaries within ourselves is crucial, but that will be for another conversation.

We only have one shot at this life - even if you believe in reincarnation or life after death - we are only living this one life right now. Is it truly worth wasting our time on things that make us miserable? 

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Zoami Calles-Rios Sosa is a senior in civil engineering with a minor in urban studies. 

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(1) comment

Seymour Trout

This is very good advice for dealing with political correctness. Just say no.

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