Don’t say maybe when you mean no’. 

Of all the quotes I have shared over the last few months- this one got the biggest reaction from people. It really got me thinking about why so many of us suffer from the inability to say no and how we can get better at honoring our own needs.

So why is it so hard to say no in the first place?

  • You are yet to figure out what you want from life

When did you last sit and think about what YOU like to do in your spare time? A lot of our behaviours and actions are merely socially accepted habits we picked up, often without any intentional thought. For example: in my college, going to the pub and drinking was what you did with your time. I never really questioned it. I just did it. As I have gotten older, I have started to think about how I want to spend my time and who I want to spend it with. Who do I feel valued and safe around? What do I love to do? Reflecting on these types of questions helps you get a greater understanding of yourself and in turn, makes it easier to say no to opportunities/events/people that no longer serve you.

  • You feel afraid of rejection or being left out if you say no

Firstly we are social beings and are biologically wired to try and ‘fit in’ with our tribe. This can often feel like we can’t say no, especially if we fear punishment from the group for not going along or taking part. We also may not have seen our caregivers communicating their need for a break or rest. Instead, we saw our parents/families go along with things for the sake of ‘a quiet life’. Therefore it can often feel safer to start with a maybe.

So how can I get better at saying no?

Well there are a few things that are important to keep in mind as you explore using this word more often.

  • Practice saying no. Sometimes it can be hard to express to people that we need a break or rest or a total change. Communicating that need is a real skill and something we are rarely taught. Therefore we need to practice it so that we feel more comfortable with it, so start of by saying ‘no’ to smaller events/offers.
  • Be ok with any uncomfortable feelings that arise. Remember our mind likes us to stick with our habitual thoughts. It can take time to catch up with the new ideas or behaviours that you are trying to implement. Saying no can often stir up some pretty anxious feelings in the body especially if you are a natural people pleaser. This is where meditation, journaling or even simply taking a few slow deep breaths can help calm the nervous system.
  • Remember saying no to someone else means you are saying yes to your needs. By honoring your needs and saying no, you free up time for the people and things you want to invest your time and energy in. We only get one shot at life, so spend it on things that bring you joy
  • Make your choices based on love for yourself. A lot of books and blogs talk about getting clear on your boundaries and identifying what you will and won’t accept. In the past when I thought of setting boundaries, I imagined creating fences around me to keep things/people out. However, I recently learnt that if you love and care for yourself, you don’t need to ‘build’ these boundaries. Instead, you make decisions based on what you want to bring into your life, not what you want to keep out. In other words, if you love yourself enough, then you will do what you need to do to care for your body and mind.
  • You don’t have to be ‘on’ or ‘available all the time. We live in a world that honors the hustle or the social butterfly. It is nearly a badge of honor to be ‘flat out’ or ‘up the walls’. However, this is not good for our physical and mental health and there are no prizes for burning out. It is actually more honorable to take time for yourself so you can rest and reset. You will also be a better friend/family member if you make this commitment to yourself.

So how do I actually say no instead of maybe?

So the next time you are asked to do something that you feel unsure about, take a moment to reflect on whether this is what your body and mind needs today. These phrases below can be handy when you are trying to construct that text or email. Just keep it short and to the point.

  • That sounds like a great idea but I am going to sit this one out’
  • ‘Thanks for thinking of me, but I can’t at the moment’
  • ‘At this point, I am working on X&Y, so I wouldn’t be able to take on Z as well and complete it to a high standard today/this week’
  • This does sound like an exciting project, but perhaps we could meet to discuss my current workload first as I would be unable to commit to something new right now’

Remember, personal growth happens in those uncomfortable moments when we begin to create new thought patterns and habits. It’s time to get off the ‘maybe’ fence and just say no.