“No’ – the stuff of nightmares. I often wonder how this word, one of the simplest words we first learn, can be the hardest to say.  The advice we’re often given, that ‘we shouldn’t be afraid of using it’ is usually met with the cliché – ‘easier said than done.’ 

That may be so, but the liberation and pride in finally plucking up that carefully acquired courage to say ‘No’ can be life changing.

For me, there was one question – one that was particularly topical among my friends – that, in saying no to, I let myself open up to a seemingly terrifying deluge of further questioning and ridicule.

‘Do you believe in God?’

”The liberation and pride in finally plucking up that carefully acquired courage to say ‘No’ can be life changing”.

I spent much of my childhood in a very conservative Catholic area of rural Ireland. For years, I attended an equally conservative convent school. The liberal nature of the adolescents I saw on TV was a distant dream for me. The scenes from the ‘Vote Yes’ campaign during the run-up to the Marriage Equality Referendum were met, by my friends, with sheer contempt and disapproving groans. If you didn’t take pride in your Catholicism, you were judged in a rather conspicuous way, despite an outwardly friendly wave from across the street.

I had my doubts for a long time. Unfortunately, I didn’t inherit my mother’s ‘Let them talk’ attitude. The fear of ridicule and of people talking about me was a constant source of worry. I would have done anything to stop their talking – including lying in the face of the aforementioned question, after my no-show at the local church the previous Sunday.

On hindsight, by lying to them, I was denying my true self, squashing my beliefs and any bit of individuality I had, all because I was afraid to say no.

So much of our fear of the word ‘No’ lies within the unknown, the uncharted territory of life after using it. However, once you find the strength to use it, you realise the only regret you’ll have is that you didn’t do it sooner.

Aged seventeen and fed up of hiding who I was and how I felt, I finally plucked up the courage. I stopped belittling my beliefs and spewed them out. I didn’t care if my world was to rip apart. To my surprise, it didn’t. And today, three years later, it still remains very much intact.


Gemma Farrell – Arts & Lifestyle Writer