As a successful Black actress and activist, Yara Shahidi has learned to expertly juggle a number of different jobs and responsibilities. However, sometimes knowing when to say “no” is more important than taking on even more projects.

In an interview with Grazia, the Grown-ish star explained that women, even great ones, are often conditioned to automatically give in to other people’s wants and expectations instead of thinking of themselves first. She said,

“I have been surrounded by powerful women my entire life, but women inherently are people pleasers, and we don’t like to rock the boat.”

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Yara speaking at the 2018 We Vote Next Summit
credit: Eighteenx18 / Instagram

But Yara recently made her own move away from those expectations in a step toward self-gratification and personal growth.

“I had a ‘year of no’ last year, which is now turning into two years of no. And that’s all about being comfortable in asking for what you want and then, as long as whatever you’re asking for is rooted in your personal values, you shouldn’t feel any sort of way about asking for those things. I just wanted to feel more comfortable insisting on the things that I knew I wanted.”

She added that making those decisions can be particularly hard as a woman of color as Black women are quick to be identified as unruly and disobedient when they don’t go along with the status quo.

Yara explained,

“I think, especially as a woman of color, it’s often hard to say no. It’s perceived as disruptive instead of a catalyst to achieve something better. I am down to destigmatize the word no. Sometimes you have to be disruptive. And it really comes down to your duty as a woman to be taking care of yourself as well as you take care of other people. That’s important for women to remember.”

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Yara at Glamour magazine’s 2019 Women of the Year Awards
credit: Eighteenx18 / Instagram

Shahidi really nails it when it comes to female empowerment and the word “no.” It’s especially true for Black women and other women of color who are so often accused of being aggressive or of having an “attitude” when simply stating an opinion. Unfortunately, prejudice and racist stereotyping permeate society, often coloring how we see others without us even realizing it.

Progress can’t be made unless others are willing to question these long-held beliefs and deconstruct them at their base. It’s an action that seems so small, but denying someone their freedom to say “no” and put their best interests at the forefront is essentially denying them their rights as a human being.

Shahidi is right in wanting to take back the narrative so that we can systematically undo all of the damage that’s been caused by these harmful notions. At 20 years old, she has a great opportunity to enact change among her peers and truly put forth a new outlook towards feminism and self-care for a new generation to grab hold onto.

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