How I stopped saying Yes, when I wanted to say NO

learning how to say NO,  it seems like one of the easiest life lessons to learn.
One word two letters what could be simpler than that?

For some, it is the easiest thing- knowing how to say no to things or to people. But for me, it’s not. I often wondered how is it that my six years old daughter can do it very assertively and confidently and I couldn’t.
The truthful answer is that I don’t know. I have no idea why, but ever since I could remember, I hated feeling like I was letting someone down. Avoiding confrontations at all cost became a habit, causing me to choose walking away and to let things cool off over hashing it out in an uncomfortable conversation.stop saying yes when yu want to say no

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During my early twenties, I managed to stay out of uncomfortable situations as much as I possibly could. For me, the introduction of text messages into to the dating scene was a blessing! No more post first date awkward “it’s not you, it’s me” phone calls. When I met my forever guy and married him, He realized pretty early on that I got seriously anxious and physically ill when I had to be argumentative or turn down a request from someone I cared about. In the assignments of roles that often happens in a marriage, he became the one who handles the more confrontational situations that occur at times in adult life, and I was content to let him deal with it.

Then I became a mother, and I had to “woman up” and fight my way through at times.

I hadn’t realized it before, but once you have a baby that can’t express his needs and wants, you need to become an advocate for him/her. At times, that includes fighting for them, fighting to get them what you believe they deserve and need. Sometimes you have to stand up to people who try to steer you away from what your instincts tell you is right for your child. My eldest child needed a lot of medical attention, and at times I had to demand it, fight for his rights. That was when I realized I could actually do that. I had an assertive person hiding inside of me.

Now, I have to reiterate, I was not the kind of person people walked over, I just tried not to put myself in situations where I had to be combative. If I had to choose between being a little uncomfortable, and refusing someone something, often I would choose to be uncomfortable. Things really changed when on top of being a mother of 3, I became a business owner.
I just couldn’t do that anymore, I could either twist myself up like a pretzel in order to not let anyone down, or I could be successful in my business. The two could not co-exist. I had to learn how to say NO clearly, to people and to things.


“When you say yes to others, make sure you are not saying no to yourself.” Paulo Coelho

The key turning point was when I focused on my own needs, my immediate family needs, and my business goals. I had to sit myself down and admit that I can not do it all and be everything to everyone.
I had to admit to myself that I only had a certain amount of energy that had to split and prioritized. So if another mom needs me to take her kids for the afternoon and I have a work deadline, I should just say “No” I’m sorry but today I can’t”.  I practiced saying “no” clearly and simply and at first, I had to talk myself out of feeling guilty over it.  I also had to be ok with saying no to job offers that weren’t advancing my business in any way. If someone offers me a small project that will grant me an immediate pay but is unrelated to my actual business, it’s ok to say no. Sure, it’s money coming in, but in the long term, it wouldn’t further me o in any way and it will take precious time away from the business I was trying to grow.

I also had to learn to say NO to the naysayers. The ones that put doubts and their own fears in my head.

It’s ok to not always be the nice one that patiently listens to people who needed to tell me why their way was right and mine was wrong.  I am allowed to pick and choose and to want to spend my precious – and yes it’s PRECIOUS with people who bring positivity into my life. I read once that we become the average of the 5 people we spend our time with, and I wanted to be a brave positive successful person. So I started saying NO to spending my time with people who were dragging me away from that.
I had to break my own patterns and in the process – the people around me also had to get used to the new less compliant me. I started setting boundaries and say NO when people tried to cross them. It was a little like discovering this whole new me that lay dormant all these years. And you know what? it benefited my business but it also benefited my loved ones, who got a much more relaxed version of me, instead of the one running around stressed and passive aggressive all the time.

I managed to do this when I realized I had to simplify my life, clear out the noise and stick to these 4 principles

  •  Set goals – Know what I was working toward and where I wanted to be, and remember it when I’m asked for something that deters me from those goals.
  • Stay focused – figure out what was pushing me forward in life and in business and refuse whatever was not
  • Recognize my limits – time and energy limits, and decide on who and on what I want to spend both then prioritize accordingly.
  • Be clear and send a un-conflicting message when I had to say no- without squirming, stuttering or sugarcoating, a simple – No will do.

I will end with a quote from a very meaningful book I love, by
Stephanie Lahart  (Overcoming Life’s Obstacles: Enlighten-Encourage-Empower ) words:

“Give yourself permission to say NO without feeling guilty, mean, or selfish. Anybody who gets upset and/or expects you to say YES all of the time clearly doesn’t have your best interest at heart. Always remember: You have a right to say NO without having to explain yourself. Be at peace with your decisions.”

Learn how to say no

33 thoughts on “How I stopped saying Yes, when I wanted to say NO

  1. Recognising limits! YES. I have done that so much more in the last year and I feel healthier in my mind because of it. Really glad to see others pointing out the value in saying no, it doesn’t always make you selfish!

    1. I actually ment to write that and it got away from me – no it doesn’t make you selfish, it makes you someone who practice self care. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

  2. Oh my goodness, that quote by Paulo Coelho rings so true! I need to write that down as a reminder. I’m a total people pleaser and have such a hard saying no but my new years resolution is to start saying no more!

    1. Right there with you on that:) a people pleaser is a great way to term it. and Yes, Paulo Coelho makes words are usually amazing:)

  3. What a great article, I’ve found since starting my business, I’m getting better at saying no. I started saying yes to everything for fear of missing opportunities but I soon realised not every offer is a good opportunity and learnt to say no if it’s in my best interest.

  4. I’m completely the same as you used to be, I hate confrontation and I don’t like letting people down. If I’m asked to cover a shift at work when it’s my only half day that week and I’ve already made plans I always feel guilty saying no, I’d much rather reschedule my plans just to keep everyone at work happy which shouldn’t be the way it is at all! This was a great post and it’s made me realise I could do with changing a little bit!

    Jess //

    1. There are so many of us out there:) Being aware of it is a great first step, and we are always growing and changing, right:) thank you for reading and sharing.

  5. After years of forcing myself to do things I didnt want to, now I have the courage to say No to things that dont please me. A lot of people dont realize how important this it. Thanks for sharing

  6. I seriosuly have to start learning how to say no. I agree to everything, fill my diary up and run around after people just burning myself out in the end!

    Lola Mia x

  7. ““When you say yes to others, make sure you are not saying no to yourself.” Paulo Coelho”
    This, 100%.
    my friends have slowly gotten used to the fact that when I say “no” to social events, I am not mad at them, I am just socially exhausted. being an introvert sucks sometimes. i am more than happy to chat over text and e-mail all day long, but oftentimes my dayjob has sucked out every ounce of social energy i have, so i just want to be home where it is quiet.

    1. Wow – I rmember that so well. Before I started working wrom home, I became almost antisocial, I barely had the energy to talk to my partner when he came home because I was just all “talked out”. I’m glad you are putting yourself first. thank you for sharing!

  8. This is such a great post Madi. I think saying no is so important, especially in the blogging world, as saying yes to every opportunity will only burn us out. I really love the Paulo Coelho quote, that is such a great reminder. Thank you for sharing, fab post <3 xx

    Bexa |

    1. Thank you so much for reading and for your kind words, it really does make my day. And I agree, the burn out is something I am trying really hard to avoide.

  9. I totally need to do this more. You have inspired me with this post to start putting myself first and saying ‘no’ sometimes. Work wise is my issue, I was getting ill with stress and needed to say no

  10. This is actually something that I’ve been working on the last few years about myself. After reading this I realized why I had such a hard time saying no to people and it’s just like you said! Becoming a mom definitely makes you more assertive I feel like. My boundaries are a lot clearer now because my priority is what is good for my family.

    1. I was just having this conversation with a friend today where she said the same thing. I guess it’s a benefit of motherhood I wasn’t aware of before:) Thank you so much for reading.

  11. Saying no can be really hard sometimes, especially when you are afraid that the other person might get hurt. But its important for us say no without sounding too rude or hurting the others.

    1. I tottally agree. It’s also freeing to be able to speak your mind, and I am still working on it:) thank you for reading and commenting.

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