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Byron Shire
April 23, 2024

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: The kind of girl who can’t say ‘No’

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This soapbox is for all the other people who can’t say ‘No’. It’s a call out to the other people who never say ‘Yes’. If you bastards could start saying ‘Yes’ more often then those of us who never say ‘No’ might be able to have a break.

I’m just a girl who can’t say ‘No’. It’s been my default setting for as long as I can remember.

It’s probably why, when I’m offered a drink, I’ll have six instead of one. Or if I’m offered a piece of chocolate I’ll want the whole block. I’m not a moderate person. I don’t understand moderate people and how they think. How do they so easily set limits for themselves? I tell myself that moderate people live in beige houses and live beige lives. 

I don’t do beige. But do they – really?

Maybe moderate people are just people like me who had to learn another way?

Recently I performed for eight fundraisers in 12 days. Even for me that’s a lot. By the way, none of that is tax deductible. It’s tricky donating services, the government still wants its GST. It’s easier to give money. Sadly I have more services to offer than I do cash – so I offer myself. I like that I can do it. I love to help communities and causes that I align with. It’s a core part of my purpose. I’ve never been driven by money. Making lots of money just seems like a silly and shallow goal unless it’s to pay a bill, or school fees, or car repairs, or to fund a campaign to smash the patriarchy.

I have Viking blood. I’m strong. I can work 16-hour days every day for a few months. And then I can’t. Then I hit a wall. Sometimes I accidentally break myself in the process and I have to re-evaluate how much I say ‘Yes’. But generally, after a rest I feel a bit better and go at it again.

Growing up as the daughter of a single working mother with strong community values I was role-modeled hard work. I was also shown the meaning of engagement and the gentle art of saying ‘Yes’. It’s actually central to who I am. The other day someone said the thing many people say to me when I hit the wall: ‘You have to start saying “No”.’ It makes me feel defensive. Straight away I say ‘But who will say “Yes?” if the people who can’t say “No”, start saying “No”, then who will say “Yes”?’ Community organisations and volunteerism is built on the backs of the people who don’t say ‘No’. Self-care is something they raise money for – for other people, not for themselves.

Whenever I turn up at a function, I marvel at those people; the ones who put out the chairs; who turn up with the barbecue and cook the sausages; who sit on the street taking signatures; who you see at the end of the night, sweeping the floor. These are the people who, like me, can’t say ‘No’. Some of them haven’t said ‘No’ since 1973. They turn up, every time. And maybe, like me they are wearing out too. I notice for the most part they are old. Most of them are older than me. They are going to need backup – soon.

I realise this is an issue. There must be a compromise. Earlier this year I ended up in the covid ward, but I didn’t have covid, I had vertigo. Recently I ended up at the osteopath who said, ‘Congratulations – you’ve won. You have the tensest head, neck and shoulders I’ve ever treated. Except for the woman who couldn’t move her head.’ I am very competitive, so for a minute I thought ‘Wow! What do I win?’ and then I realised, ‘Oooh, it’ not the gold medal anyone should wear…’. A previous partner once called me Martyr 10, which I found insulting because I knew it was accurate. Oh dear. Me and the stiff-neck lady have serious issues. I hope she’s okay. Maybe she was like me, someone who couldn’t say ‘No’ and she put her neck out with the constant nodding, then one day she woke up and it didn’t move. Shit. That could be me. I wonder if she’s learnt to say ‘No’? If I can’t say ‘No’ then my body will make me.

This soapbox is for all the other people who can’t say ‘No’. It’s a call out to the other people who never say ‘Yes’. If you bastards could start saying ‘Yes’ more often then those of us who never say ‘No’ might be able to have a break.

So, me and the other people who can’t say ‘No’ are organising a fundraising morning tea so we can sit down for a bit. Can you come? No? I didn’t think so.

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  1. The Center for Emotional Education says. “…people can’t say no when they are afraid of the judgement of others, when they think they have to earn love, acceptance, and respect from others by putting them first, or when they have a deep seated need to seek approval from others.”
    They go on to say it is a result of parenting that has either a lack of expectations, too many expectations, or the parents involve the child in adult problems.

  2. This is both sad and pathetic. Poor Mandy. I feel sorry for you and others like you. No spine. No strength No power. A stain on the whole project of womanhood.


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