Learning to say no



By Caitlin Kelly

Anyone poorly parented and/or the victim of bullies and narcissists knows how extremely difficult it can be for their victims to say no.


To anyone.

To anything.

To the most absurd and unrelenting demands.


Because what happened after I’ve said no is…abandonment. Estrangement. Rejection. Verbal or physical cruelty. Job loss.

I’ve lived in fear for decades — and readers know I express plenty of strong opinions here and in my writing and books and on social media — of these outcomes in my personal and professional life.

My industry, journalism, is in such utter chaos — with the most job cuts in 2019 since 2008 — that those with jobs will do anything to keep them, and the hell with us freelancers, seen by many as disposable commodities, easily and cheaply replaced with someone, always, terrified and docile.

I have never seen such shitty behavior.

The past two weeks made me snap.

First, a baby editor with zero social skills — who I later found out has been this rude and aggressive with other veteran writers. Then, this week, a source decided it was appropriate to throw me and my skills under the bus.

Then stalk me on Twitter.




In both instances, their entitled behavior — unprovoked and insistent — left me shaking and shaken.

From now on, I’m just walking.

This is,  a great luxury, and a measure of privilege because it’s possible only with the explicit agreement and financial and moral support of my husband and a bank account plundered to make up the lost $1,050 in anticipated/needed income from these two stories.

Most Americans don’t even have the savings to say…I’m gone. I’m not putting up with this.

Because without savings, and the ability to never engage with them again, we’re all left groveling to bullies.



14 thoughts on “Learning to say no

  1. I have suffered from the ‘no’ syndrome as well, and it is an ongoing struggle for me. I am so glad that you were able to say no and walk away from these awful people/situations. done.

      1. I’m sure by now that you are aware of my treasured collection of rusty old saws that still cut. This one’s for you: ” I was looking for a job when I found this one.” Big Big BIG respect to you for not kissing someone’s ass over a paycheck. I’d rather eat dirt. This mindset has cost me a fair amount of money over the course of my life, but I can look at myself in the mirror and so can you. That’s the gift beyond price.

  2. You made a real stand for yourself and you have a partner by your side. You will rise beyond this better and more powerful. Reach back to your network and ask for what you need … they will help and provide. I saw a great post on IG I want to share “ So far you’ve survived 100% of your worst days – you’re doing great! It was great meeting you at Fireside 🔥

    1. Thanks…

      This morning offered a powerful and really moving moment — did a long phone interview w a Canadian journalist I’ve never met who was extremely generous with her insights and ideas, then told me (!) she’s admired my work for years. Wow. That was so lovely.

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