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The Psychology of Saying Yes Too Much

By Chris Brown

In the 2008 movie Yes Man, Jim Carrey plays a negative guy who becomes determined to change his life around by saying "yes" to everything. This change has immediate positive results: he learns new skills, experiences adventures, and meets a beautiful love interest. This movie feeds on the vicarious desire of us all to not miss out on our life possibilities or regret declining lost opportunities. But it makes one wonder, is it healthy to agree to too many things? While giving yourself the freedom to say "yes" to anything is a powerful tool for getting the most out of life, it can also be a psychologically harmful mentality.

The Power of Yes

There is a power to always being open to experiencing new things. Many of us find patterns we like and stick to them. It's somewhat inevitable to be attracted to the safety of familiarity. But that familiarity can prevent you from new experiences that may just change your life for the better. Saying "yes" more often brings new opportunities which might otherwise be avoided through fear of the unknown or embarrassment. For example, you might not want to volunteer to present your project at the company board meeting, but saying "yes" could greatly benefit your career and provide a confidence boost. This openness to "yes" is key for improving your life, but at what point do too many agreements hit diminishing returns?

When Saying "Yes" Starts Becoming "No" to Yourself

As Jim Carrey's character soon learns, agreeing to do anything has its negatives. He found that constant agreement led to dangerous situations, dealings with shady characters, and burnout. One cannot simply agree to everything in life from a limited time perspective and doing so leads to people taking advantage of you.

There is also a psychological reason why saying "yes" too much is not a healthy impulse. A 2017 article in Forbes quoted research that found people who have trouble saying "no" were more anxious and felt less in control of their lives. These people were less clear on their own priorities in life and had lower self-esteems. Their constant agreements tended to come less from a place of adventure, as the movie version portrayed, and more often from an unhealthy desire for approval. For those who always say "yes," finding a "no" can be the healthiest self-improvement goal.

The Fine Line Between the Healthy and Unhealthy "Yes"

Knowing the right balance between being open to new experiences and taking care of your individual needs is highly specific for each person. One needs to perform an honest self-evaluation to see where their weaknesses may lie and adjust their yes-no scale accordingly. They may find in the end, just as Jim Carrey's character, that balance is the most important.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Mountain Brook, Ala.

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