How to say No (and not feel guilty about it)

How to say No.

This is a tough one that I’ve struggled with for years.

Lately, though, No has become a consistent word in my vocabulary (and it feels great once the guilt wears off).

One problem is that I love to learn. Another is that I'm always looking for more. I have huge dreams and plenty of smaller goals that I believe will pave the way to said dreams if I achieve them according to plan.

At the same time, one of my daily fears is letting people down. I care so much that it often too much. Even though I'm learning my limits, I still care a little more than average. I feel deeply in situations where others might be able to turn off. I’ve been practicing turning off, though. I think I’m better at drawing lines in the sand. Marking my boundaries.

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The stress that comes with Yes

A little while ago, I started to notice the stress I subject myself to when I take on too much. I guess always knew it was there, but I ignored it because being busy is noble. If you’re busy, it means you’re going somewhere. Making something of yourself. We’ve glorified being busy so much that between this social standard, and the standards I’ve set myself as a self-proclaimed perfectionist, I have very little left. And this is where the challenge lies.

The good thing about being aware of your challenges is that it’s easier to overcome them. Obvious—right? Well, it’s true. Accepting a weakness is the first step to gaining strength. If you face those things that scare you the most, you will end up a better version of yourself in the long run.

Saying No was one of my fears. Now it doesn’t feel so scary.

Here’s how I worked through this challenge:

1. Legitimize your reasoning to yourself

Saying No is a me problem. To overcome this problem, I learned to legitimize the No side of the debate, versus the Yes side. It’s easier to argue for Yes: more money, more experience, more exercise, better education, etcetera, etcetera.

When arguing for No, it looks a little more like: I need time. I’m feeling tired and uninspired. It’s outside of my scope. I don’t feel comfortable. Legitimize these reasons for yourself. Convince yourself that it is okay to feel tired sometimes. The solution to exhaustion is rest, and rest is okay. After we sleep well at night, most of us wake in the morning ready to conquer the world. If this is true in our daily routines, why do some of us fear resting in the big picture?

2. Be firm with your decision

Don’t say No then say Yes because someone doesn’t like your response. If a friend, family member, or client can’t accept your limits, then they might not be worth your time at all. If you can’t respect your own decision, then you need to revisit your core values. Hold yourself accountable in all aspects of your life. Hold yourself accountable for younot them.

3. Trust your intuition

Intuition might be a bit of a woo-woo word these days, but I think it’s real. Intuition is a valuable tool that we all carry with us everywhere we go. It’s that little feeling that normally lives in your gut, but sometimes it moves to your mind to be heard.

In my opinion, intuition trumps all when it comes to a serious debate. I’m new to this, but so far, the success rate is proving my suspicion right. Trust yourself. When intuition feels like you need to take a break, you should take a break.

And if you can’t say No, say Not Yet

This is a legitimate response as well. If you’re strapped for time one week, push the commitment in question to the next. If you’re not ready to take the next step in your business, in your life, in your education, wait until it feels right.

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Now, don’t feel guilty about No

The number one reason why so many people never use the word is because they feel guilty when they do—right? Over time, I’ve learned how to feel less guilty about saying No, no matter the situation.

Here’s the thought process I walk myself through when faced with an internal Do I Do It? debate.

1. Consider yourself

There’s billions of people in the world. While I like to believe that most of these people are good and kind and have your best intentions at heart, it’s naïve to think this is how humans act. The human condition makes us emotional and selfish creatures just as much as it makes us selfless sometimes. There is negativity in the world and the best way to overcome it is to emit positivity wherever possible, but you need to consider yourself first.

There’s only one of you, so take care of yourself.

2. Put your own well-being first

It’s not enough to recognize yourself. You need to revisit your priorities and learn to place yourself at the top. It’s impossible to give to others when you have nothing to give. If you only have 2$ in your pocket and two people ask you for $2 each, you would have to say No to someone, right? Think of yourself in the same way.

There’s only one of you, so know your limits.

3. Understand the benefits to saying No

Rest is okay. Vacation is okay. Saying No is okay if it means that you will complete each task at hand with 100 percent of your power and your undivided attention. You will benefit from saying no because you will likely have more time, and time is our most valuable commodity. You will benefit from saying No because you will be full. You will feel rested. I can guarantee your work and relationships and general well-being will see the rewards.


Do you have a hard time with saying No? How do you work through it? Let's talk about it in the comments below!

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