Do you feel guilty when you say no? Sure, sometimes it’s easy to say no without feeling guilty; however, lots of times, it’s not. Sometimes just thinking about saying no can bring up fear and dread. It could be saying to your boyfriend, “No, I don’t want to go out to dinner tonight,’ or telling your mother, “No, we’re not coming for Christmas this year,” or letting your boss know that you can’t work over the weekend. Regardless of whether you’re saying no to something small or something significant, you’re apt to hear a nagging little voice in your head that tells you that you’re doing something wrong.
If you’d like to be able to say no easier, it’s vital to look at the forces at work in your psyche that cause guilt.
Being Labeled as Selfish
For most of us, being called selfish is undesirable. However, it’s essential to understand that you aren’t being selfish by saying no. Taking care of your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs is vital to being happy. Saying no to someone else means saying yes to yourself. Self-care isn’t selfish, and if you’re called selfish, it’s because someone doesn’t understand the concept of self-care. However, the truth is that when you can take care of your needs first, you’ll be able to take better care of others.
Fear of Conflict or Confrontation
Do you avoid saying no because you don’t want to be confronted by your significant other, friend, boss, or a random stranger? Many of us are conflict avoidant and steer clear of confrontation. When we don’t know if the other person will accept our no politely or rage uncontrollably at us, we commonly think the worst will happen – like expecting to see a monster under the bed rather than just a dust-ball. It can be scary!
If you were yelled at and punished as a child, confrontation can trigger the same fearful emotions you felt, so, understandably, you don’t want to repeat those feelings. Rather than avoiding conflict, the healthier action is to let go of the past, stay in the present, and regain your self-confidence. As an adult, you can regard saying no as a sign of your emotional health.
Need for Others’ Approval
If we’re dependent on others for approval and attention, we think that saying yes ensures that we’re liked. When people like us we feel valued, and it feels good. Saying no is risky because the other person may stop liking us, which can crush those of us with fragile self-esteem.
For instance, Mary is an attractive single woman who has no trouble getting dates. Underneath her good looks, she suffers from low self-esteem. Mary needs a man’s attention to feel good about herself. She’s willing to put her own best interests on the back burner to keep her date from disliking her. By trying to please others, Mary’s not being true to herself. Mary can overcome dependence on others by practicing self-acceptance. She’ll be able to lead happier and more authentic choices, even if it means disappointing someone else.
Paulo Coehlo, Author of the Four Agreements, said something we can take to heart:
By saying yes to others, make sure you are not saying no to yourself.
Unhealthy responsibility means not honoring your truth because you think it will upset someone. Unhealthy responsibility exhausts you and burdens you with people who fail to take responsibility for their happiness. Each one of us is responsible for our happiness. Sure, we may feel disappointed when someone says no; however, the other person is not the culprit – it’s how we interpret the “no.” It could mean that we’re not important to some of us, yet some can brush it off and not let it affect our self-esteem.
We’re not responsible for others’ feelings, just as they are not responsible for ours. It’s common to say, “He or she made me feel guilty.” In reality, another person can’t make you feel a certain way; you have to take responsibility for your feelings. Breaking your patterns of unhealthy responsibility means challenging those distortions and becoming clear about what is your job and what is not your job. It is your job to say ‘no’ directly but kindly.
By saying NO, we are saying YES to taking care of ourselves. You can love and support others but still take care of your own needs.
Is it time for you to be able to take care of your needs without feeling guilty? I can help you overcome guilt and take care of your needs in a healthy way while having positive relationships with others. I offer safe and confidential coaching sessions designed to comfort and inspire you. You can contact me at (512) 922-4822 or buildlovingrelationships.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.