I once went out with this guy who couldn’t take no for an answer. When I or anyone else disagreed with him or made alternative suggestions, he became enraged and accusatory. We could get into a discussion on exactly what type of privilege or personality disorder this response stemmed from, but I honestly didn’t care why he thought I didn’t have the right to say no to him.
I cared that I felt like I shouldn’t say no to him even though I wanted to.
When you’re raised in a way that encourages avoiding conflict and doing whatever you can to accommodate others, you come to view “no” as a bad word. You learn that boundaries mean you’re selfish and that you should unquestioningly put the needs of others before your own needs. You learn that your purpose in life is to serve others. This isn’t always a bad thing, but it is unsustainable if there is no balance.
You learn that you’re not allowed to say no.
If you never learned how to say no or even that you’re allowed to say no, then you’ve likely lived a life of resentment and burnout, wondering why people keep piling responsibilities on you when you cannot possibly carry anything more. You may feel angry that the people around you can’t see that you’re struggling, drowning. Why do they ask so much of you?
You teach people how you expect to be treated. When you constantly say yes, even when you know you should say no, you teach people that you will always compromise your own wellbeing to serve others. This is why the people in your life ask so much of you. They might not know you’re overwhelmed. It is your responsibility to let people know when you need help. One way to do this is by giving yourself permission to say no when you need to.
You’re allowed to set boundaries. You’re allowed to say no.
Saying no can be really uncomfortable at first. You may experience some guilt. You’re used to being everything for everyone, so when you set and enforce boundaries, it can feel like you’re doing something wrong. You’re not. You are doing what you need to do to keep yourself from burning out. You’re doing what you need to do to make sure you can commit to the things you choose to say yes to.
You may feel some anxiety, wondering how saying no will impact the people who have come to depend on you. You might wonder what your purpose is in life if it’s not to be an unwavering servant to others. This contributes to codependent relationships, and saying no will help foster healthy, genuine connections with people.
When you allow yourself to say no, you begin creating a life that is sustainable, balanced, and enjoyable. When you allow yourself to say no, you see that the people in your life understand and want to help support you. When you allow yourself to say no, you are taking the first step towards a life that serves both you and others.