The Struggle to Say “No” to Commitments


Bella Klucevek

A student’s planner is packed with obligations during a busy school year.

Jesuit’s student body has high participation in AP courses, sports, and other activities such as clubs and the arts. With so many opportunities at their fingertips, many students want to sign up for as much as they can. The hard part is having to make sacrifices.

School counselor Mr. Jason Lowery believes that students who come to him for advice are far from alone.

“We have a high-achieving population and a lot of access to opportunities,” Lowery said. “So, when you combine those two, people might try [to do] too much at once.”

In addition to balancing courses and activities, students need to have time for social lives, jobs, family responsibilities, and for themselves. In those cases, too, teens often find themselves overwhelmed.

This overwhelming feeling takes a toll: According to a survey by Pew Research, teens are spending more time doing homework and getting their needed rest, and, in turn, less time socializing and working for a job.

This leads to the question: Why can’t we just say no?

Junior Chloe Heller wakes up on a weekend morning and heads off to choir. They then attend rehearsal for the play while also trying to squeeze in a shift at work and finish all their homework, including the notorious junior paper. They get home exhausted and, at this point, time with friends is off the table. This is the typical life of a student involved in multiple activities, but still Heller misses playing a sport. 

“I wanted to do both,” Heller said in an interview. “I still want to do both. I would love to go back to volleyball, but I picked music instead. There have been moments where I worry my choice was a mistake and I should go back to sports, but it’s too late. In the end, though, I’m happy.”

Junior Elliot Hunt, also involved with choir and theater, struggles to find a balance in his social life. 

“I’m a people pleaser,” Hunt said. “Whenever my friends ask me for something I’ll tend to say yes, even if I don’t always feel like it.”

Hunt and Heller agree that one cause of their “yes” attitudes is expectation, whether from friends, parents, or teachers. They want to be reliable to those around them.

“I didn’t want to feel like I was letting anyone down by quitting [sports],” Heller said. “especially my mom.”

An article from lists fear as a major component as well. It prevents us from forming safe and healthy boundaries with both social and academic engagements.

Hunt believes that forming boundaries is a valuable skill, especially for teens.

“You don’t have to push yourself past your limits,” Hunt said. “Part of high school and part of growing up is learning what you can and can’t spend time on, and if you’re not able to do something at the age of sixteen or seventeen that should be okay.”

Lowery believes that self-discipline is a helpful tool for setting boundaries with yourself.

“Life is about organization and prioritizing, so if you just keep those two in mind, you will have more time to do what you want,” Lowery said. “If you do have more on your plate than you have time for, you need to reevaluate.”