Why It’s Okay to Say No
Learn to say yes to self-care
The problem with being a people-pleaser is that you are putting everyone else’s needs before your own.
Do you often put pressure on yourself to do things you don’t want to do? Things other people expect you to do or things you know you shouldn't do? You say yes, for example, because you want to be liked, it’s easier than confrontation, or you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.
The problem with being a people-pleaser is that you are putting everyone else’s needs before your own; there is a line between giving and over-giving.
The difference between being agreeable and too agreeable
Being agreeable isn’t a bad quality; it means you’re empathetic and easy to get along with. It’s when you’re being too agreeable that others can take advantage of you. Here are some instances when you are being too agreeable:
- Saying yes to things you don’t have time to do. Do you take on more projects at work than you can handle? Do you agree to make cookies for your daughter’s bake sale, even though you’re working late all week?
- Calling a truce when you’re still in pain. When you’ve felt betrayed, do you accept your spouse’s apology simply to end the conflict? Do you lie and say everything is okay, even when it’s not?
- Agreeing with opinions you don’t believe. When someone is gossiping at the office, do you join in, even if you don’t agree with what they’re saying?
In these instances, you may be saying yes at the expense of your happiness, your morals and values, and in some cases, your mental and physical health. Research indicates that the harder it is for someone to say no, the likelier it is they will experience stress, feelings of burnout, and depression.
“We live under this misconception that saying yes, being available, always at the ready for other people, makes us a better person, but in fact it does quite the opposite,” writes Susan Newman, social psychologist and author of The Book of No. “You get stressed and anxious; you’re viewed as a patsy.”
Learn how to say no
When you're afraid to say no, it helps to remember these three principles:
- Stop putting yourself last. If you put everyone else’s needs ahead of your own, you will become mentally and physically drained. By always giving to others and never asking for what you want, you will be unhappy and unfulfilled. Take a bubble bath, start writing that bestseller, take that trip you’ve always wanted—whatever brings you joy; you deserve it. Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish. The key is learning to balance kindness and courteousness without sacrificing your own sense of self-worth.
- Accept that you can’t control others’ opinions of you. It’s human nature to want to be liked by others, but it’s inevitable that you will meet people who dislike you. It’s hard not to take it personally, but you will drive yourself crazy if you waste time and energy trying to change their mind. In these cases, it’s best to simply cut your losses and walk away from those negative relationships.
- Set boundaries. The first step to setting boundaries is to personally validate your own feelings and forget about everyone else’s opinions. If you don’t take yourself seriously, how can you expect anyone else to? Setting boundaries shows that you respect yourself—and others will respect you as a result.
Think about how good it will feel when you are being authentic. Think about how proud you will be of yourself. Now, hold on to that feeling. It’s that feeling that will propel you forward and move you past the fear.
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