An Ordinary No?


Two words keep repeating in my mind since I heard them in a podcast a number of weeks ago: Ordinary no.

The podcast is The Secret Live of Black Women. The interview was with writer/journalist, Bim Adewunmi.

Bim was describing an application she both wanted to submit and was terrified to submit.

“So, Bim, if they don’t accept you, it’s just no?” her mom asks during their discussion about it.


“Is someone going to come and beat you?”

“No.” (Here, Bim admits to doing some eye-rolling.)

“So it’s just no? No beating? An ordinary no?”

An Ordinary No.

Our brains, for all their awe-inspiring complexity and capability, cannot distinguish the difference between physical and emotional fear, at least not until we kick the consideration into our frontal cortices with intention.

Understandable eye-rolling aside, Bim’s mom’s reminder to trace her fears to their worst-case scenarios is invaluable.

Spoiler: What we find there is almost never dying of starvation in a back alley.

Go for the promotion or job or client and don’t get it? Probably won’t die of starvation in a back alley.

Get a no from someone you ask on a date? Probably won’t die of starvation in a back alley.

Share your deepest fear and desires with your partner and they freeze or full on shut you down? Probably won’t die of starvation in a back alley.

Yes, any one of these things would feel awful, absolutely rotten. Maybe even devastating for a time. But, as the meme so wisely reminds us, you’ve survived every moment of emotional devastation you’ve encountered so far. There’s no reason to expect it won’t be the same for the next one… or six.

Caveat: Bad feelings actually can lead some of us to die of starvation in a back alley; depression can, in fact, be that powerful. Building resilience through gratitude practices, social connections, and great self-care matters enormously. And sometimes, some of us just need a talented therapist and prescription for something to get our neurochemistry back on track. There’s only courage in seeking and accepting whatever level of support we need at various times in our lives, not an ounce of shame in sight.

In their Monday email, the Bigger Badder Crew will get some posts from the archive that build on this theme, some tools to deepen this idea of dealing with Ordinary Nos, among other bonuses. They also have a standing invite to my weekly web-based gathering of community, Chomp & Chat. Remember: Community is a wonderful tool for building resilience. Click here to join us there.