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How to Say No

Photo Credit: Elena Kharichkina/Shutterstock

Learning to say no was one of the best gifts I’ve ever given to myself. At the same time, it was quite an adventure to overcome mindset limits and the feeling of guilt that comes after saying that magical two-letter word.

I was scared to say no to people for most of my life, and I still am at times. But I’m becoming better and better at putting myself first. So what do I eliminate from my daily tasks to make room for self-care and me time?

Here are some of the things I would have said yes to in the past and how I’ve learned to give more consideration before I oblige.

House Chores

I grew up in a world where gender roles were well-defined. The girls were given dollhouses to keep clean and organized, while the boys could play soccer and discuss cars and cartoons. Things have changed since I was a kid, but the mindset hasn't fully been erased. For years, I’ve felt guilty for leaving dishes in the sink or unfolded laundry on the chair.

I still care about these things, and experience a sense of guilt when chaos rules over my house. But I’ve learned to delegate. All family members have specific chores on their to-do list, and we also hire extra help. I may still clean for our cleaning lady, but it still counts as a victory in my book.

My Kids’ Requirements  

Children can be selfish creatures who expect to come first within a family. It can be a battle against tears, tantrums, and mom guilt, but the victory of implementing responsibilities for all family members is worth any initial anxiety or potential embarrassing situations.

I overcame the need to always to be there and meet their needs by telling myself that everybody wins if I can control my feelings. So I’m making room for what I like and what needs to be done while raising kids who will feel less entitled or who take advantage of other peoples' time and energy when they become adults.

Inbox and Instant Messages

Unread emails are one of my worst nightmares, but I had to teach myself to not be available all the time, every time. Instead of answering emails as soon as they arrive, I take time to finish my current tasks. I do the same with WhatsApp messages or social media messages.

The hardest part was to learn to work with FOMO (fear of missing out), but once I became accustomed to the feeling, it became easier to ignore those notifications. The good news is, I accomplish more, faster, and with fewer errors because I no longer jump on and off tasks to manage emails — which eat up about 2.5 hours each day.

Social Media Pressure

During the pandemic, I learned to use the mute button. I found a way to keep in touch with my friends and family without taking on negativity, hate speech, and awkward conversations.

If I want to know more about a topic, I search for facts and relevant opinions on trustworthy sources. I don’t need former high school classmates to spoon-feed me conspiracy theories or celebrity gossip. I may live in a bubble, but it’s a quiet and friendly environment where I find time to take online courses, watch food videos, and build an online business.

Acquaintances and Forced Social Life

Another thing I’ve learned during this pandemic is the real difference between friends and acquaintances. In the past year, I realized I wasn’t interested in joining all the dinners, parties, and Zoom calls, after all.

It’s okay to say no to an invitation that comes at the wrong time. People who care about you will understand you have kids to help with homework, deadlines, and other personal obligations. If you aren't up to going out because, say, you have to catch up with Netflix, respectfully declining and avoiding the need to justify your answer are the right things to do.

New Projects

As a freelancer, I once said yes to every new job opportunity. Refusing a potential client seemed like keeping money away from my business, and it didn’t feel like something I could afford. After a few years in my industry, I finally understood that not all money is good money, and some gigs are simply not worth the effort. Of course, I still feel guilty for saying no sometimes, but overall, I’m happy with my choices. The sooner we embrace this notion, the easier it becomes to connect with the right clients and build long-term relationships.

Saying no and putting yourself and your peace of mind first is something to be finessed over time. Moreover, it’s wise to find the best words to politely refuse invites, tasks, or people. It helps you stay on good terms with your friends and acquaintances and makes it easier for you to keep the habit. The act becomes simpler over time, although not always easy, but it’s worth your peace of mind and quality of life.  

CircleAround is operated by a wholly owned subsidiary of Girl Scouts of the USA. The site serves women nationwide by providing content that is uplifting, thought-provoking, and useful. We make revenue distributions back to GSUSA so they can further their mission of building girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.


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