Addressing The Culture Of Yes & No Through Play

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This is a Choose Your Own Adventure Article, where the answer to this question determines which path you’d like to explore.

What world do you choose to live in?

  • I Live In A World That Has Been Telling Me No My Entire Life
  • I Live In A World That Is Always Saying Yes (I find it difficult to say No)
  • I Live In A World That Is Not Binary, But Complicated

Go to the section that you relate with the most.

I Live In A World That Has Been Telling Me No My Entire Life

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Excerpt from “What to Say When You Talk To Yourself by Shad Helmstetter, PhD”


How many nos did you hear in your childhood? Do you remember the Nos more than the Yeses? If you grew up in a culture of No, how do you find yourself saying yes?

All sitcoms, cartoons, and books communicate the message “if you believe in yourself, you can achieve anything.” Yet, we are told “no, you can’t do that” on a daily basis.

Can we go play? No. Can I jump off this swing set? No. And that pattern may continue to adulthood. Can I get a raise? No. Can I pursue my passion even though it isn’t practical? No.

Why do we hear so many No’s in life both from others and ourselves? It starts with people that cared for us who are scared. That leads us to internalize this fear. It comes from a loving place, as they are trying to protect us. In the process though, what impact do they have on our ability to say yes? What effect do they have on our ability to believe that we can achieve more?

In addition to all the verbal No’s you hear, how many signs do you see a day that say No?

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In the world of No, shame and blame are prominent, and what eventually drives people is guilt and fear. By no fault of your own, neuropathways have formed in your brain from all the Nos you’ve heard in life.

The fact that you even still believe in yourself from time to time, should be celebrated.

Now you can use your energy to blame the generation before you for lambasting you with No’s. They, too, are dealing with their own historical trauma, dealing with hardships that we can’t even imagine. The question is whether you are willing to slow down the No train and not pass that fear along to yourself and the next generation.

So, what’s the solution?

Is it to embrace the other extreme of saying Yes all the time? Or is it simply to be aware enough to identify which Nos are healthy and which Nos are limiting?

What is a healthy No? The ones that set boundaries and allows you to replenish and not get drained by overcommitting.

What are unhealthy No’s? The ones where your monkey mind whispers to you that you can’t do it. Can I take this leap that both excites and intimidates me? Can I speak my mind without the risk of looking stupid?

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In that 20 seconds, you are bravely choosing yes to both yourself and the moment.


So, if you’d like to put this theory to the test, try this game out.

Count the number of times you say No to yourself a day in comparison to the number of yeses.

Watch the pattern of what you say no to and to what you are willing to say yes to. Are you saying No to what you want to do a lot and saying Yes to a lot of other people’s desires?

What is the dynamic of Nos to Yeses and the meetings that you attend? The No may simply be someone sharing an idea and no one responding to it. At home, it may be a loved one asking to spend time with you and you say maybe later.

The difference between saying the two letter word of No or saying the three letter word of Yes, can alter your state of being, both for you and everyone you come in contact with. What level of agency do you have now knowing this?

I Live In A World That Is Always Saying Yes (I Find It Difficult To Say No)


Some believe that we live in a culture of Yes-O-Mania. We’ve created a culture of saying Yes to things we don’t want and saying No to ourselves. If you look at social media accounts and advertisements, you are bombarded by the You Only Live Once (YOLO) phenomenon. Everyone is living their best life except you. If you simply said yes to life, you’d be just as happy.

What is the danger of yes? Yes can feel good to say and hear. But it is worth exploring what the difference is between a healthy and unhealthy yes.

A healthy yes expands possibilities and makes you feel warm inside. Yes, that’s a great idea. Yes, let’s go on an adventure.

The unhealthy yes though takes energy away from you. How many times have you regretted saying yes? How many commitments do you have that you wish you could break? How much of your life right now are you living for others and what portion is for yourself?


If we live in a culture of too many yeses, the game to play is to identify which yeses you feel good about and which ones you would like to switch to No. How would you feel if you Marie Kondo’d some of those Yeses? Does this Yes bring me joy? If not, don’t agree out of obligation.

There is the technique Yes, No, Yes. Where you say to a person, I’m saying yes to our relationship/friendship. I am saying no to your request, but I want to reiterate that I’m still saying yes to us. It’s easier said than done, as people have feelings, but a true friend will want to respect your boundaries and want you to say hell yes as opposed to an obligatory one.

I Live In A World That Is Not Binary, But Complicated


It’s amazing how complex our world can be. You can feel so many different feelings at the same time, yet society and media present such a binary world. You either are for or against something. You are either a hell Yes or hell No. Why can’t you have multiple emotions at the same time? I remember feeling happy surrounded by my extended family when my father died, while also feeling saddened to be saying goodbye to the man who raised me. We choose a binary thought process because it is easier to navigate the world this way, but then what amazing nuanced adventures do we miss by not embracing the depth of our experience?

When you have traveled and arrive back home, the first question people ask you is “How was it?” Your standard response is “great.” But there was so much more than that. The experience was lonely and exciting, thrilling and disappointing. It was a rollercoaster of emotions. To share those details not only enlivens your adventure but also brings that person on your journey, even if for a brief time. Yet, many times, we choose not to share, either because we don’t believe the person cares or we aren’t willing to be vulnerable enough to trust this story with this person.


If there was a game to embrace this world of nuance, it would be to catch yourself when it comes to binary thinking. How many times a day do you feel you are forced to make a decision that isn’t binary? When you are asked to choose, embrace a more complex answer. This will raise the level of consciousness and experience for both you and the people you interact with.

An example of this would be “should we fire this person or not?” The binary choice is yes, they are bad for the organization or no, let’s give them a second chance. The more complex answer would be, what is it about this person that doesn’t align with our values? Is it simply the issue of this person not living up to our expectations or is it more so that we aren’t living up to these values ourselves? Do we despise this person because they remind us of our shortcomings? If that is the case, regardless of whether or not we get rid of this person, the hypocrisy will continue to exist and we will find ourselves in this situation again with another person. It’s a harder discussion to have, but that is where the deep truths lie.

What Is The Ideal World To Live In?

It’s completely up to you. The truth is we meander between all of these worlds. The trick is being aware of our unconscious patterns that come from the charged words of No and Yes and choosing to live in a world that provides us the most fulfillment and joy.

Written by

Positive Psychology Play Speaker & Coach / Find Ways To Rediscover Your Play at

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