Here’s the Thing with Saying Yes

Jillian Barns
3 min readJan 2, 2021

Not to “snowflake” you, or anything, but I was absolutely one of the kids who was in their school’s gifted program and wound up completely overwhelmed by real life. It’s your classic story of a lifetime of hearing the words, “Wow, is there anything you can’t take on? You’re amazing!” until you slowly but surely start to believe getting that feedback is all that matters.

It wasn’t my parent’s fault. They did their best to keep me realistic, humble. But sometimes the most influential people in your young life are the ones you barely know. They’re the ones you have just enough contact with for you to respect their opinion of you, but not enough that you’re able to see their flaws.

In psych you learn a lot about operant conditioning. Remember when Jim gave Dwight a mint every time he made that noise on his computer? And soon, Dwight started to hold his hand out in expectation when he heard the sound?

B.F. Skinner theorized that over time you can reinforce behavior (and increase the likelihood of it occurring again) just by providing some kind of reward. Growing up and doing normal things (like doing well on your timed math tests even though you couldn’t really help how well you memorized multiples of 7, or that somehow, the cramming-last-minute study method actually turned out to be ideal for you) and then receiving praise your entire life for those things reinforced the correlation between knowing you did a good job and the need to have somebody tell you so.

Before long, people start noticing. Your grandparents, your teachers (oh man, the teachers), that random lady who met you once when you were like 3. People start to see that you do great at school. You ace your tests, you’re polite and helpful. You offer to rake leaves. You try to do everything right because that’s what you do. But at a certain point, and I don’t know when it happens, it becomes you.

So you take on more. You think, last time I said yes to that, I was exhausted and it sucked, but they were so happy. They said no one else could’ve done what I did. Which arguably feels great. It trains you to say yes to anything and everything asked of you because now you can reason, “I’ve made it work before, I’ll make it work again.”

Jillian Barns

I’ve been described as “an opinion on everything” type of person. Enjoy.