The Life-Changing Power of Saying ‘No’

Black woman saying "no"
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You guys, saying no is hard. It’s something we’re not taught to readily do. Especially as women. But something amazing happens when you start practicing. It becomes a little easier each time you do it.

It’s uncomfortable at first, no doubt, but it’s important to safeguard your own energy. Because when it comes down to it, you’re the only one who can.

Let’s take a look at a few reasons learning to say no could be one of the best things you can do for your health and wellbeing.

In Your Work/Life Balance

Gather around children, and let me regale you with a story. My first job out of college was at an advertising agency. And since I was the new kid, I was convinced that I needed to make myself absolutely indispensable to everyone at that company.

So, I looked for ways I could help other people out with their work. I kept my eyes peeled for opportunities to pitch in or do favors. If co-workers seemed overworked or stressed, I’d offer to grab them coffee or pick up lunch for them. I often stayed late and worked over weekends. That sort of thing. Team player and all that, right?

I was so busy making sure I said yes to every errand and favor, that I never noticed that held me back. Instead, five years in, if I stood up from my desk around lunchtime, people still gave me their lunch orders. And it was assumed that I ran all the errands, even when we had new interns showing up every summer.

I’d become a door mat, and never even saw it happening.

Obviously, if you start off a new job saying no every time your boss tells you to do something, you’re not going to have that job for long. But establishing boundaries with co-workers who’re only too willing to take advantage of every nicety you show them is essential.

On the flip side, sometimes saying no is key to getting ahead in your chosen profession. Like saying no to a night out when you know it will affect your job performance the next day. Or holding off on making plans over the weekend so you can pursue freelance opportunities or professional development. Or saying no to other work that comes up so you can focus on your day job.

It’s a balancing act, for sure. But one that’ll be essential to maintain a good work/life balance.

With Your Friends and Family

This is usually the stickiest category because our friends and family don’t always understand when we establish boundaries with them. Especially if we haven’t been so great at setting those boundaries up until now. But it’s important to be able to say no to those you love.

For instance, by not engaging in difficult or toxic patterns that have been ingrained in you since childhood. Or not participating in gossip, or being pulled into taking sides in a spat.

Or saying no to a fun day with friends when it means shirking your responsibilities to your family or job.

And lastly, not allowing yourself to be guilted into giving more of yourself than you can or want to. Just remember, you never need a reason to say no. You’re turning down a request, not rejecting a person. And if someone gives you a hard time for that, maybe they’re not as supportive as they need to be.

For Your Mental, Physical, and Emotional Health

And so we come to perhaps the most pertinent category of our discussion today. Because it’s absolutely essential for your health to say no to some social engagements right now. But not everyone has the same views about our current health crisis. So you may be pushed into things, and ridiculed or guilted for not participating.

This will be especially true during the holidays when many families would never dream of not gathering together. But cases are on the rise. And making some tough decisions to protect everyone’s health may be necessary.

It’s also important to know your own threshold for social interaction in order to avoid burnout. Introverts and Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) are especially prone to this and need time alone in order to recharge. Saying no to an outing or event might not make much sense to others. But they also aren’t the ones who’ll have to deal with the repercussions.

And lastly, know when to say no to yourself. Because things like a late night out with friends, overindulging in food or alcohol, or even rage scrolling through Instagram (don’t act like you haven’t done it) are tempting but will hurt you in the long run.

Above all, the exercise of saying no is not to deny yourself, but to help you thrive. And like every other form of self-care, it may take some effort, but is oh, so worth it.

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