Learning to say “No”

Most of us are taught from an early age, not to talk back to our parents, not even to disagree. Especially those of us in the baby-boomer generation. I think children now are given a little more freedom to voice their opinions, but back then, it was absolutely forbidden. Your parents’ word was the law and if you disagreed verbally, you were punished or reprimanded. You were basically taught that saying “No” was not supposed to be in your vocabulary and you were supposed to agree with everything. You had to please your parents, your teachers, and your elders. Now I’m not saying that having respect for your parents, teachers, and elders are the issue, but always agreeing and forced to agree and acquiesce is the problem. I think a child should learn how to voice their opinions in a calm and rational manner. Teach them how to approach disagreements with facts and reasonable conversation and you will have an adult that can handle stress much more easily.

cleaningAll those years of not being able to voice my opinions or disagreements, I believe led to become triggers in some of my already predisposed illnesses. Those of us with fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome or any of the diseases that stress causes more severe symptoms have encountered the times when the word “No” is important in our vocabulary.

Always trying to please people, whether it be your loved ones, your parents, your husband, wife, partner, children, co-workers or even yourself can be very taxing on a system that is already trying to fight off so many things already. We are coping with pain and fatigue on so many levels all day long. Trying to please others is exhausting. We want to do it, we really do, it’s in our nature, besides being ingrained in us, it makes us happy to see you happy. But, we can’t keep it up. There comes a time when we need to say “No” for ourselves. If we can’t step away and look at our own needs, we get more sick, more tired, and then we can’t help anyone. We get irritable, we lose sleep, the quality of life decreases for us as well as for those we love.

Saved from Grow with Soul, Jaclyn Costello


When we feel obligated to say “yes” to other people’s needs or even what we believe we should be doing on our own, when we are already overwhelmed, or tired, or sick, this just makes us feel more anxious and stressed. Our bodies react adversely to this stress, we get more sick, our muscles ache more, we get migraines, sometimes our eyes get blurry, sometimes we just can’t function at all. But then when we say “NO”, often times we feel guilty. We give explanations for our answer, we try to explain the circumstances, we sometimes lie. This doesn’t help us either. We stress about that!

We have all heard three kinds of “No”. The weak, unassertive “No”, “Well, no, I don’t think so…”, the aggressive “No”, ” No, seriously you want me to do that? I don’t think so!” and the assertive “No”, This “No” is simple, direct and to the point. “No, I won’t be able to help with that”

Remember that “No,” is an honorable response. If you decide that “No,” is the answer that you need to give, then it is authentic and honest for you to say, “No.”

If you say, “Yes,” when you want to say, “No,” this will cost you energy, discomfort and you will find yourself also unhappy while doing what you really didn’t want to do. All this is not necessary if you just say, “No” when you need to.

How do we overcome this conundrum?

There are steps we can take to help us take things more slowly, learn how to say “No” confidently.

  1. Realize that if we are not well enough to cope, we can’t help them sufficiently anyway, saying “No” is best for both parties
  2. Slow down, think about what is necessary to be done.
  3. Live Simply
  4. Do Less
  5. Designate time for certain things,
  6. Do one thing at a time, (for example, only clean one room a day)
  7. Make cleaning a time for meditation.
  8. Create rituals for taking time for yourself.
  9. Remove negativity from your life. Distance yourself from toxic people.
  10. Smile as often as you can.
  11. Read positive affirmations.
  12. Devote time to doing things slowly and deliberately.
  13. Know your limits.
  14. Recognize your triggers.

When you know you have a system for handling your daily tasks and desires, you know what you can easily handle. You know what you can give to those you request your time and efforts. You know that if it’s beyond your limits, you can easily say “No” and it doesn’t require an explanation. It’s just not something you can do today. Maybe it will get done tomorrow, maybe later, or not at all.

We don’t have to please everyone, we have to please ourselves and make ourselves happy first. This does have a spillover effect, though, it does please others. It pleases the people who truly care about us, the ones who truly love us and want our well-being.

Sometimes, I must admit, saying “No” is still difficult for me. The spirit is willing but the body is weak. I want to do things so badly. But I’ve learned to recognize my limits and my triggers. I have overdone and paid the price, with days in bed, no good to anyone. I know the temptation it is to want to do something so badly and not tell a friend or a loved one that you will suffer later if you do it. I don’t think that temptation will ever truly go away when I travel, there’s so much I want to do and see, but I am trying to control myself and my activities. But, I have learned that saying “No” to toxic people and recognizing my limits has greatly increased my mobility and my activity level. My pain level has greatly decreased because of the lack of stress and I’m a much happier person. As a result, friends and loved ones are also much happier to be around me (I’m not such a bitch, anymore).


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