• Advice

Do you have Yes-itis?

Do you have Yes-itis?

Hmm, I don’t know! Here’s a quick quiz! When asked to do a task that you do not find enjoyable, you:

a) say no, thank you

b) pause, carefully weighing the pros and cons before you respond

c) are already doing the task, having automatically said “YES” with such enthusiasm that you suspect you blacked out in sheer panic*

Fellow freelancer, if c.) looks even vaguely familiar, you have a serious case of Yes-itis.

What the heck is Yes-itis?

Yes-itis is a conditioned response to stimuli. It’s the tendency to compulsively say “YES” to every single request, whether or not you actually want to do it. It’s generally practiced by perfectly lovely people: team players, givers, perfectionists – all of whom are hurtling down the road to burnout.

Yes-it is also, often, a gendered and cultural issue – those of us who were taught since childhood to go with the flow, to never make a fuss, to consistently sublimate our own needs in favor of others’, tend to have it.

Growing up, I had a family member who had a very common form of Yes-itis; she cooked elaborate, time-consuming dinners every night, always served everyone else first at meals, popped up if anybody needed anything, and would fret about every detail until she took a bite. That poor woman probably never had a hot meal for twenty years. I do not, honestly, know if she even really enjoyed cooking.

Listen to me, fellow Yes-itis sufferers: you deserve the equivalent of a hot meal, professionally and personally. If you don’t say YES to everything immediately and constantly put others’ needs before your own, others will still be fed. They just may occasionally have to walk to the kitchen on their own, or fry their own eggs.

Still wondering if you’re one of the Yes-itis crowd?

You may have Yes-itis if:

  • If you regularly find yourself taking on wayyyy more than your fair share of work (without corresponding compensation).
  • You’re the “responsible one” in every single area of your life – the rock that people unremittingly depend on, personally and professionally
  • You regularly suffer physical side-effects from exhaustion, overwork, and tension
  • You are emotionally burnt-out
  • You find yourself resenting others’ reliance on you or the size of your workload – but you feel trapped
  • You feel like you can’t even identify what tasks you enjoy/don’t enjoy anymore
  • You are very very anxious to please others and make others comfortable – even at the cost of your own comfort
  • You’re chronically busy and unhappy
  • It’s hard to know what you want
  • You shrug off offers for help and cheerfully fib about your well-being: you’re fine, you’re fine

The good news for Yes-itis Sufferers?

You probably have Yes-itis because you are a wonderful, caring person. But it’s time to be a litttttle kinder to your nearest loved one: yourself.

There are ADMIRABLE and WONDERFUL things about being a team player! Collaborators are sorely-needed in this combative world. But moderation is key. Healthy collaboration and team-building does not require you to be a needless automaton, smilingly agreeing to every request. You are allowed to have your own goals and preferences – and learning to follow your own inclinations will ultimately make you a better collaborator, co-worker, and partner.

Yes-itis may FEEL like it’s the right thing to do, but it often leads to resentment and frustration down the road. Everybody has obligations in this life, but nobody has to do EVERYTHING asked of them. Draw healthy boundaries. The world won’t fall apart just because you’re not taking it all on your shoulders.

If you find yourself regularly drowning your own needs in the demands of others – if you feel, in fact, that you scarcely know what your own needs are any more, step back. Take a deep breath.

Next time you’re asked to do something, pause. DO NOT SAY YES automatically. Ask to think about it for a bit (you can smile while you do so). And then don’t be afraid to say “no.”

Kate Shea Kate Shea lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily.