By Brandi Fowler
Updated Dec 27, 2018 @ 11:00 am
Rita Wilson COVID Coronavirus Gayle King Interview
Credit: Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images

There is power in saying no. And if you’re looking around for a New Year’s resolution that’s all about prioritizing your own needs in 2019, practice putting together those two small letters and see what happens.

As women, it is often ingrained in us to say everything. To try to please everyone. But it’s important — and healthy — to learn to say no, to set boundaries, and to not overextend ourselves.

It’s one of the biggest lessons that Rita Wilson, 62, has learned throughout her life, telling us at The Hollywood Reporter’s Power 100 Women breakfast at Milk Studios in Los Angeles earlier this month that it wasn’t always easy.

“I don’t think that, culturally, women, at least in my generation, were brought up to say no,” Wilson, who is a producer and Tom Hanks’ wife, said. “We were people pleasers,” she added. “We grew up in a different period of time until feminism came along, but at 14 years old, I know that there were things that I wanted to say no to professionally, personally, and I felt like I couldn’t say that.”

There are a couple of projects Wilson said yes to that we’re extremely glad she did, like producing Sleepless in Seattle, starring Hanks, five years into their marriage. Or, more recently, appearing on Girls as the hilarious mom to Allison Williams’ Marnie Michaels.

If you’re considering passing up on a project or two yourself this year, Wilson says go for it. “I think saying no allows you to define the things that you want, the way you want to live your life, the kind of artist that you want to be,” she continued. Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, it’s because of the work you have put in — in a way, it’s a result of all the nos and all the yeses along the way, Wilson says. “You’re here doing things because you said yes to this job. There are other things you said no to, to be standing here today, and I think that’s what 'no' means to me, is being able to find yourself by the boundaries that you’re creating.”

As for when she discovered that truth, Wilson said that didn’t happen until later in her life. “I think Nora Ephron was one of the first people that, through her belief in me as an artist, allowed me to look at myself for the first time as an artist,” she said.

“She was the one who kind of mentored me through that, and then I think again with Kara DioGuardi, the songwriter and producer who said to me ‘you can write a song. You have something to say and I’m going to tell you and teach you how to do that.' Through that process, I learned to start saying yes to things and saying no to things, as well.” At a casual glance this is all about setting boundaries, but Wilson’s foray into songwriting has been pushing some of her limits to get get in touch with some emotional moments. She told ET earlier this year that a song on her new album explores her experience with breast cancer, and it’s title, “Tear by Tear,” tells you just how personal she’s begun to get in her work.

Imagine what a few well-placed nos could bring you in the year to come.