Saying No in Academia

I can’t tell you how many times I have started my day thinking that if someone were to ask me to be part of a new project or to join a committee I would (and should) say “no.” And usually, that very same day (there must be some cosmic thing going on), someone asks me these exact things. And how do I respond? You guessed it: “Yes”.

So why can’t I say “no”? I say “no” all the time in my personal life and I have no problem with that. But when it comes to my job, several things fight in my head. First, I am convinced that if I don’t join the committee on reevaluating the color of a particular flyer (I am making that one up by the way) or if I am not part of this new project that looks at rebuilding our library underground (again, making it up), then I will be missing out on something great, on networking possibilities, but perhaps more importantly, that I will be denied tenure.

Yes, in my head, I somehow convince myself that saying “no” to yet another thing when I am already burning out from all the work I have will somehow be the reason why I will be denied tenure. Nevermind the fact that I am a hardworking woman who excels at her job (yes, totally flattering myself here) and that being granted tenure depends on so much more than one extra project or committee. Because in my head, I worry that saying “no” might mean passing on a great opportunity and destroy my dreams of being tenured.

But that’s not all. Another reason why I can’t seem to say “no” is because I feel that I am never doing enough. Yes, I am overwhelmed. Yes, I am currently reaching the maximum of my multi-tasking abilities. Yes, I am working on several articles, book chapters, projects, and even a book! But I always feel like I am never doing enough, like my colleagues do so much more than me and therefore that I should do more. This is so unhealthy and so untrue. But it does not matter because the little voice in my head tells me I need to do more, more, more!

I guess the first step is to recognize and admit the problem. The second step will be to learn how to say “no” and not immediately regret it or worry that it might affect my career. This is yet another way in which I am learning to care for myself and my well-being. It won’t be easy but I already feel slightly better writing about this.

 

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