I never pictured myself as someone who was pushed around or walked over easily, but I will be the first to admit that I do NOT like confrontation. I would rather put up with something I’m not happy about, than cause a rift by saying no- or at least, that’s how I used to be.
The thought of upsetting someone by sharing my opinion or declining their request was enough to send my anxiety into overdrive.
Would saying no be selfish?
What would they think of me?
How would that make them feel?
What if they became upset or angry with me?
How can I keep them happy?
Talk about a full on panic attack.
Nope, that wouldn’t be me.
I would be Miss Dependable- the one that everyone could count on.
The one that never says no.
The one that never causes a rift.
And ultimately, the one that never stands up or speaks up for herself (though that part was never intentional).
Now, let’s be honest. Saying no is downright scary, and really, really freaking hard. Why is this? Well, we often associate saying no with the idea that we are disappointing someone or hurting their feelings, which can cause an intense feeling of guilt. And we don’t want to let anyone down or inconvenience them, so we think in our heads that it is easier to just say yes to make them happy.
And generally, being a people-pleaser IS easy. We tend to get comfortable never being uncomfortable.
What we don’t realize though, is that this habit of saying yes is actually correlated with poorer health. You see, when we are acting in a way that does not serve us, like the inauthenticity of saying yes to something we don’t want to do to avoid feeling guilty- we are instead fostering resentment and regret.
Overtime, the build up of these emotions cause us to be more critical of ourselves (and others), leading to a rise in negative self-talk, emotional burn out, frustration, and even a drastic increase in symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Yep, you got it.
Saying ‘yes’ to avoid dealing with your anxiety actually causes an increase in anxiety.
And as it turns out, saying ‘no’ actually:
• Increases your energy
• Makes you more productive
• Improves your overall life satisfaction
• Makes you happier
• Increases feelings of gratitude
• Gives you more time
• And even earns you more respect (from others AND yourself)
If you’re like I was, avoiding confrontation and always saying yes, then chances are you might be thinking, “okay, I get that it’s good to say ‘no’ more often. But how you do you say no WITHOUT feeling guilty?”.
Ugh, good question.
When I started to experiment with saying no a few years ago, this was by far the biggest challenge I faced. I mean, I understood that saying no was important for setting boundaries and that I needed to put my health as a priority… but try as I might, that feeling of guilt for saying no would not go away!
That is, of course, until I learned about the power of perception. Often, feelings of guilt are not based off an actual feeling or circumstance- they are actually based off of our PERCEPTION of it. For instance, turning down an invite to a get together on a work night to prioritize sleep might cause you to feel guilty, as you picture your friend being upset or offended. When in reality, they haven’t even responded in that way. Instead, you’ve overanalyzed their response in a negative way, creating a belief in your subconscious mind that they are upset, and thus, you allow yourself to feel guilty because of this.
Once you get a grip on your mindset and start thinking in a positive way, thus, eliminating your negative ‘perceptions’, you will discover that saying no is actually easier than you thought it was. And surprisingly, it feels dam good to place yourself and your needs as priority #1.
So, if you’ve been a yes-er most of your life, or if you are noticing that certain circumstances are causing unwanted emotions for you- like anger, annoyance or frustration, then you might want to consider saying no more often. Here are five simple ways you can do just that, in a healthy and guilt-free way:
1. Check in with your body.
Are you noticing any uncomfortable feelings come up for you when you are being asked to do certain things? For me, this is always the case. In situations where I am not happy or have been asked to do something I do not want to do, I can feel my body reacting. Sometimes it’s a knot in my stomach, sometimes it’s flushing of the skin, and sometimes, it’s actually a migraine or body ache that occurs. Remember, your gut reaction or intuition is never wrong- and if your body is sending you signs that something isn’t right, it is best to speak up and say no.
2. Be honest with yourself.
Sometimes, as I mentioned above, it can honestly just be easier to say yes then it is to go through the implications or consequences of saying no. When this happens, we often like to lie to ourselves and convince ourselves that saying yes isn’t that bad. We can even try to trick ourselves into believing that we WANT to do it! Yikes!
To assess whether or not this is the case in your reality, try consciously asking yourself, “Do I really want to do this?” Instead of coming at it from the angle of why you should or how it’s easier to do so, honestly assessing your feelings can be the easiest way to determine if you should say no. If your answer to that question is anything but ‘hell yes’, it should be a ‘hell no’.
3. Take time before answering.
There is no golden rule that says you have to answer on the spot. If the question or request is a big one, and you aren’t entirely sure how you feel about it, take time to figure it out. Sometimes things can be sprung on us without warning or preparation, and in those circumstances, we can definitely feel pressured to answer quickly.
Get into the habit of saying “thanks so much for the offer, let me think about it and get back to you.” When you start respecting yourself and give yourself the opportunity to assess whether or not it aligns with your goals, others will begin to respect you more as well.
4. Start by saying no to the little things.
If you have a really hard time with saying no to anything at all, then I urge you to try saying no to the little things to start! Ask for no ice in your water at the restaurant, or no to a bag at the grocery store. Don’t be afraid to play around with it and use the word no for those seemingly small things- it can actually be quite fun! Not to mention, it really does help to build up your confidence and get you comfortable using the word on a regular basis.
5. Don’t give excuses or apologize.
This is by far the most important tip I want to encourage you to use. You don’t need to provide an elaborate excuse when you say no- there doesn’t need to be a reason behind it. Instead of saying why you can’t, where you’ll be instead and how sorry you are, just simply say no. You can throw in a ‘thank you’, but definitely avoid apologizing. You have no reason to feel sorry for saying no- it is not a bad thing and you should not feel guilty for doing so. In fact, that is exactly what we are trying to avoid! Apologizing implies that you have done something wrong, and is a negative connotation, so try to eliminate that from your vocabulary.
I hope these tips help give you the confidence you need to start saying no or to say it more confidently moving forward! I encourage you to start applying some of them into your daily routine immediately, and I invite you to check in on Facebook or Instagram to let me know which ones you are trying.
Best of luck! Xo