Mastering the Art of Saying No

Taught by my one-year-old.

Whenever my toddler doesn’t want to do something, he shakes his head.

He listens to his body and reacts accordingly.

He knows what he wants and exactly what he doesn't.

It made me wonder, when did I lose this ability?

When did I stop listening to myself?

Why we need to say no

The word NO has a lot of negative press, but it's a good word. Use it wisely.

When we love others, we frequently give all of ourselves and more.

When we care about our jobs, we do our best, often putting work above our health or wellbeing.

The more we give of ourselves, the harder it becomes to draw the line.

We don't want to refuse our time to our family or friends. We don't want to fail at work or be perceived like we're not committed.

So, we give in. We say yes, even though every inch of our body needs us to say no.

Know your limits

According to Psychology Today, "We love others, give to others, cooperate with others, and please others, but we are, always and at the core, distinct and separate selves."

The word No allows us to make space for our needs and wants.

Knowing your limits is about recognizing how far your body can go and how much your mind can resist.

Knowing ourselves and what we need can contribute to strengthening our mental health.

Setting healthy boundaries

I’m a people pleaser, and saying no often comes as a challenge.

I tend to put other people’s needs above my own. I say yes even if deep down I don't want to.

At work, I usually take on more than I can handle. This causes me stress and insomnia.

In my case, trying to please others was and is about feeling accepted and loved in return.

As a result, no matter what I do, it never feels like I'm doing enough.

How do you set healthy boundaries?

To set healthy boundaries, we must figure out what we are okay with and what we are not.

For example:

  • How much money I'm okay with spending on a present for a friend
  • What things I'm willing to try in the bedroom
  • How much time I'm available to help a colleague with a problem

I used to go out for brunch with a former colleague of mine. She'd always order a bunch of things, which she nibbled on but didn't finish. I'd order one thing and sparkling water. When the bill came, we would split it in half, even though I only ate my plate.

I could not bring myself to tell her that I was not okay with paying for her cravings. I began avoiding going out to eat with her. It was an issue I should have been honest about.

When you've lived most of your life doing what others expect you to do, is a lot harder to listen to your inner voice.

Say no, you can do it!

It's impossible to set healthy boundaries unless you know exactly what you are okay with. Take time to figure out what is important to you. Maybe you don't mind splitting the check, but you do care if your roommate uses your toothpaste.

Not setting boundaries leads to resentment. There's nothing wrong with voicing how you feel.

We all have different things we're not okay with. Saying no to others, at times, means saying yes to yourself.

Don't apologize for saying No.

To master the art of saying no, you must stop apologizing for it.

When I do find the strength to say no, I find myself endlessly apologizing and giving explanations. It's not necessary.

Practice being assertive and clear. The clearer you are, the better.

Relationships are complex, and that context plays a role. I can't tell my boss, "no, I'm not doing that report because I don't want to."

However, there are situations in which I can be honest, straightforward, and assertive.

By being in tune with your feelings, you'll avoid resenting the people you don't say no to, even if that's what you want.

If people genuinely love you, they'll respect your boundaries.

We're not more valuable because we put others' needs above our own.

Self-love is about listening to what our minds and bodies need.

Writer. Creative artist. Photographer. Feminist.

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