Shonda Taught Me How To Say "Yes"

A few weeks ago, I published a post about learning to say “no,” as an act of self-care. But saying “yes,” can be self-care too.

I’m an introvert. When I was younger, I characterized myself as an extrovert, but then I learned that a person can be outgoing and bubbly, but still an introvert. In college, I realized I’m definitely an introvert - I need a lot of alone time to recharge, being around large groups of people for long periods of time drains me, I learn by watching and I’m fairly self-aware. I’m more of a night in kind of person, enjoying my comfort zone over large social settings.


Recently, I read a book that inspired me to get out of my comfort zone more. Shonda Rhimes’ “Year of Yes,” struck a chord with me immediately. I related to how Shonda characterizes herself - an introvert who prefers to stay in her comfort zone. Through her year of yes, Shonda learned to let go and live her life to the fullest, instead of retreating back into her shell.

It started with the idea of saying “yes” to publicity tours for her shows, talk show appearances and parties, but ended up being something much bigger than leaving the house. Shonda began saying “yes” to her children anytime they wanted to play, even if it meant running late, and saying “yes” to leading a healthier, more active life. Framing everything as a “yes” helped her see the benefits in every choice, from small to major.

Shonda also realized she’d been spending too much time living in her head, hugging the walls at parties, and regretting the things she’d never said. She writes, “If I don’t poke my head out of my shell and show people who I am, all anyone will ever think I am is my shell.” And she’s right. You may have amazing, wonderful things to offer the world, but if you don’t express them, no one will ever know.

I like how the “Year of Yes” not only promotes getting out of your comfort zone, but positivity. If everything is a “yes,” then you can make your day better just by saying, “I say YES to getting a root canal.” It adds a little silver lining to your daily life. And it adds confidence! It puts the power in your hands and makes you feel in control of decisions, even if sometimes, you’re not.

I have adopted Shonda’s philosophy of saying “yes” whenever possible. When someone asks if I want to go out to an improv show, I say yes, instead of falling back on excuses like how long it will take me to drive into the city and find parking. I can re-watch my favorite tv shows and scroll through Twitter later. Sometimes, I have to remind myself, out loud, that I have plenty of “me time,” and that I need more time with other people, out in the world.

After months of saying “yes,” Shonda’s friends and family noticed a change in her. They told her she seemed happy, looked younger, and had better energy. Shonda noticed that change impacted how she saw her friends, too. She calls it badassery, and she makes an excellent point about it: “Badassery, I’m discovering, is a new level of confidence - in both yourself and those around you. I now feel like I can see so many amazing things about myself and people around me…. I’ve started to think we are like mirrors. What you are gets reflected back to you. What you see in yourself, you may see in others, and what others see in you, they may see in themselves.”

In the last few months since I’ve read this book, I’ve been working on being a mirror, saying “yes” more and bringing a positive attitude to whatever I can. One example: Last week, my doctor told me that I have higher cholesterol than she’d like to see in someone my age, so she requested I experiment with being vegan for a month to see if it lowers my levels. I was super grumpy about it for a few days, because I never would’ve chosen to be even a vegetarian of my own volition. I don’t eat dairy, but I love eggs and really love meat. Meat is everything to me. So I’m not jazzed about being a vegan. But I’m trying to say “yes” to veganism - I’m asking my friend for recipes and tips, I’m doing research on yummy vegan restaurants near me, and I’m embracing the clean eating side of it, because I have been trying to eat healthier anyway.

What will you start saying “yes” to?