“No, no, no!” we hear busy parents of toddlers screaming often. “No, I don’t want the guacamole on my burrito” easily flows out of our mouth at lunchtime. “Just say NO” is a famous phrase we have taught generations of youth when it relates to drugs.

No. Such a simple, tiny, two-letter word that is often one of the first babies learn. However, it may be the most difficult word to say when it comes to defining boundaries.

There is never enough time for ME is a common complaint of all adults. Why do we find ourselves in this hamster wheel of not managing our own needs and possibly feeling resentful? Likely because you are prioritizing your spouse, your kids, your boss, your parents, your friends, and so on, before your own self-care.

There is an easy fix to this problem. SAY NO. But that simple fix isn’t so simple, is it? Why is it so hard for people to say no?

1. You’re a pleaser.

You always want to make everyone happy and by saying no you might disappoint someone. You feel bad you aren’t giving yourself to someone else.

2. It feels confrontational.

Telling someone no could trigger them to be angry with you and thus brings on conflict, which you avoid at all costs.

3. You want to show that you are dedicated or committed to someone.

Saying no feels like you are turning your back on those you care about. If you say no, are you really devoted to those you love and treasure?

4. You’re worried it could hurt you in the future.

If you say no to a coworker or boss will it affect your prospects in the future? Will you be overlooked for promotions and other incentives because you are not viewed as a team player? 

Ultimately, this mindset is only hurting YOU. When we don’t say no and set boundaries for what we take on in our lives, we are unable to give 100% to anything. That means that everyone suffers. If you are not able to give a full commitment because you lack the time for self-care, you are not doing anyone any favors.

How can you work on changing your mindset so saying no feels like a favor to yourself rather than a negative, nasty word?

Start small. Sometimes it’s as simple as savoring your morning coffee for a few minutes longer before you wake the rest of the family. Ruminate in that extra minute by taking a deep breath and acknowledging that you took a moment of self-care time. From there, start by saying yes to yourself. This is easier than saying no to others. For example, say yes to allowing yourself to get to that mid-day spin class you’ve been wanting to try. Or, say yes to yourself to that solo vacation you’ve been dreaming about.

Once you have mastered saying yes to yourself, you can more easily say no to others. When posed with a question, favor, or commitment that would pull you too thin, take a moment to reflect before you respond. It is ok to say “let me get back to you on that.” When you take a moment prior to responding, you have an opportunity to evaluate if committing is the right choice or not. If you determine that the answer is no, remind yourself…no is a complete sentence. No one can do it all and the only way to do anything well is to say no to some things.

Ultimately, if it doesn’t feel like it serves you, the simple, but not so simple answer is no. Saying no is hard, there is no question about that, but it’s often the right thing to do. If you find yourself struggling to end the sentence with no, here are a few simple suggestions that might make it feel a bit better, but still get the same message across.

  1. No, I can’t, but thank you.
  2. My schedule is booked right now.
  3. I have a prior commitment.
  4. I wish I could make it work.
  5. Unfortunately, it’s not a good time.
  6. I’m not comfortable doing that.

Just remember, you are entitled to set boundaries and while saying no might feel uncomfortable in the short-term, it’s going to make you feel better about your life overall!

*Originally published on Brainz Magazine. 

Joanna Hakimi is a proud entrepreneur and can often be found singing in the car with her two kids. Starting her first successful business when she was 17 and being president of the Young Entrepreneur’s Society at the University of Georgia, she never closed the door on opportunity. She then went on to Northwestern University and attained her Masters in Science, becoming a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. After being a successful LMFT in the northern suburbs of Chicago for more than 15 years while simultaneously running a mindful goods boutique for 5 years and accomplishing a 200 hour yoga teaching certification, Joanna was itching for a new adventure. After a phone conversation with a friend in California discussing ways to grow her Life Coaching business, the idea came about that independent professionals, such as Life Coaches, Health and Wellness Coaches and other similar people in the life changing business, needed a resource to connect potential clients with the LifeChanger they were seeking. That’s how her newest venture, LifeChangers.Info was born. LifeChangers has a mission to connect professionals with a new client base using a simple and inclusive site. When she’s not seeing clients or working to grow LifeChangers.Info, you can find Joanna hiking, making terrariums or, well, singing in the car with her kids…likely to Billy Joel or Indigo Girls. You can follow Joanna on Instagram.


Image courtesy of Polina Tankilevitch.