This is a guest blog by Lindsay Thornton: No sounds like the easiest word to say doesn’t it? But studies have found that a high amount of people really struggle with the thought of saying, “No”. Especially to a loved one or in a work environment. But I have to wonder, are we doing more damage than good to ourselves when we continually say, “Yes”?

Are We Benefitting Ourselves Or Others By Saying, Yes?

I’ve spent most of my 38 years agreeing and saying “Yes” to things. Mainly because I don’t want to let others down. It’s never nice to say the word, “No.” It represents so many negative things, like unhelpfulness. Unwillingness to take on that extra task, or add that extra date in the diary. Or do that favour for a friend. But who are we actually benefiting when we are constantly saying, “Yes”? Are we benefitting ourselves or others? 

The last two years have certainly made me stop and take more notice of my own life and wellbeing. I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on certain “Yes” scenarios and realised quite quickly that saying “Yes” all of the time has affected me. At times I have been overwhelmed and exhausted, but I still said “Yes” when what I really needed was some time out.

I felt guilty, despite knowing that I shouldn’t take on any more and so I kept saying “Yes” and feeling more exhausted and overwhelmed. Until I realized I was leaving no energy or time, or anything at all left for myself. I was always putting other peoples needs ahead of my own. This made me wonder, How many people out there feel the same way?

“It’s only by saying “No” that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”

— Steve Jobs, American business magnate

Our own mental health should be our number one priority. So if a tiny word like “Yes” can cause us to feel anxious and stressed about certain situations, then surely it’s better now to change the negative behaviours we feel toward the word, “No”. And replace it with positive, happier feelings, before we risk causing any lasting damage. Or worse, having a complete burnout or mental breakdown.

Prioritising Self-Care

As I approach my 40’s I’ve found part of my own self-care journey has included taking time out for myself. I’m a busy working mum and wife who runs my own two businesses from home. I love to be sociable with family and friends but there was somebody I’d missed over the last few years. That person was me! I’d almost become lost in this busy web of keeping up appearances that I’d forgotten the most important person I needed to be concentrating on. So I decided to learn about The Power of Saying No and start putting it into practice.

At first this was incredibly hard for me. But the more I started to break scenarios down before answering “Yes” or “No”, the easier I found it. So how do we learn and master saying, “No” more freely?

Recognizing Patterns

It’s really important to recognize patterns; Such as associating our feelings of exhaustion and being overwhelmed with taking on too much and needing some time out for ourselves. And learn to understand and teach ourselves that it’s okay to not always be 100% available, 100% of the time.

If you see patterns emerging where constantly saying “Yes” is leaving you with negative emotions, it sounds like it’s time to start saying, “No”. Consider whether your “Yes” will be adding to your life positively or depleting your energy in a negative way.

The Desire To Please Others

We all want to be included and feel a part of something, I think that starts at an early age. Which results in us all having a desire to please others. This is something many people, including myself, have had to live through the highs and lows of in order to gain perspective. As we get older we realise not only more about the choices we make in who we want to please but also more about why we want to please them. We begin to wonder whether pleasing others results in pleasing ourselves.

Choose your own opinion of yourself over others. I’ve learned that if you live your life depending on other people’s approval you will never feel free or truly happy. Before you decide to accept or decline anything, you have to decide if saying, “Yes” is really worth it, for you. 

Saying, “No” Doesn’t Make You a Bad Person

Remember that saying, “No” doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t make you rude, unkind or selfish. These are just a few unhelpful things we believe that make it harder for us to say, “No”. Learning to start saying, “No” shows yourself your own value. That you deserve time and care as much as anyone else. And sometimes this means choosing yourself and prioritizing your needs.

I’m a huge believer in self-care and believe me, by practicing the power of saying the word “No” and becoming more comfortable with saying it is just the start. Saying “No” is a key part of allowing yourself to feel more free when it comes to living your best life. And sometimes that means digging deep, making changes, taking control and focusing on what is really important to you, to create a happier and healthier life.

“Sometimes we all need a little alone time. It doesn’t mean we are mad, upset, shy or anything else. We just all need some space.”

— Unknown

Helpful Tips For Saying No

  • Try to be polite, “Thank you for the invite / offer or Thank you for asking.“ Saying, “No” doesn’t always have to be direct.
  • Don’t over apologize and give all kind of reasons. Be confident that you’ve made the best decision for you at that time. 
  • It’s OK to be direct if needed. Such as “No, I can’t do that” or “No, I don’t want to”.
  • Saying, “No” now will be better for you than resenting it later. It’s not selfish to consider, Is this benefitting you, or burdening you? If it will burden you right now, it is OK to say, “No.”
  • Don’t make up lies to get out of situations. Sometimes we want to say, “No”. But we feel a little white lie is the only way to explain why we can’t do something. This can lead to guilt. And that can lead to making us feeling anxious, which is exactly the feeling we’re trying to avoid. Honesty is the best policy.
  • Don’t delay things further. Delaying a “Yes” or “No” answer will only make you think about it more and cause you anxiety and inner turmoil on your eventual answer. If you don’t want to say, “Yes” then say, “No”.

We live in a modern world where everybody expects everyone and everything to be readily available immediately

But we have to remember we are all humans, not robots. We have to be able to flip that switch from time to time and simply turn off.  It doesn’t mean you’re never going to be available. This is simply a form of saying, “No, sorry, I’m not available right now.” Don’t feel guilty or trapped. It’s time to start feeling free. Take control, feel empowered that you’re taking actions that benefit you and learn The Power of Saying No when you need too to create a happier life.

Have you found benefits to having the power to say, “No”?

By Lindsay Thornton

Lindsay lives in Yorkshire with her husband, Darren and son, Connor. She owns two businesses, one as a Personal Travel Agent in partnership with your Coop. She loves to travel, having spent nearly twenty years in the travel industry, with the highlight being planning her own intimate wedding in Florida. Lindsay enjoys anything to do with fashion and beauty, watching movies, long walks and getaways to the country or coast.

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