Learning to Say No and Setting Boundaries

Growing up and even in my young adulthood I have always had a hard time saying no. Whether it be plans I am not interested in, or a favor for someone that I truthfully did not have time for. 

I often find myself stressing out over obligations I make without thinking about the things I need to do for myself before saying yes. 

Sometimes I will work 12 hour days because I cannot say no, even though I have obligations to myself I should also be prioritizing. 

I have spoken to a ton of people my age about this and I have gotten mixed responses, half say they have the same issue and the other half are comfortable enough to say no when they are unavailable. 

There is a bit of guilt that comes along with saying no or rejecting someones favor, because you really do want to help them but at the same time, you cannot give someone more than you have. 

I never say no, and it has gotten to the point where I get taken advantage of quite a bit. I definitely do not blame the people who in my life for this because I never set boundaries in the first place, which is my own fault. 

The worst part is even after realizing I am being taken advantage of, I didn’t try to change it, I just kind of let it happen which normally ends with me getting overwhelmed and breaking down. 

The other day it felt like everything was going wrong and I got very upset, it took my significant other setting boundaries for me to follow for me to realize I do not owe anyone anything that jeopardizes my health and well being. 

Even after he set boundaries such as…

Not responding to every message

Straight up saying “No”, and asking for something in return

I am still struggling to actually say no. Which seems so silly to say out loud because it is a one syllable word and 9/10 times the person would understand, I just cant do it. 

I have found a few ways to say no without actually saying it!

When someone asks for a favor, I first think to myself if its doable at all. If I do not have the time in my schedule due to prior obligations or I just cant make the timing work, Ill explain I already agreed to something else. This is a lot easier to say than just “no” and I don’t feel as bad because I don’t have the ability to do it, and I am not going to change around other obligations when it is more than likely they can find someone else to do what they need. 

If I do have time but know that it would leave me less time to myself and make me stressed or tired I will weigh the importance of whatever the favor may be. Example, if someone needs their hair and makeup done for a special event…I will change my schedule around; if someone wants to do something different to their hair impulsively, depending on the person, I will have them pick a date where I am more available. 

When it comes to doing family favors I am the worst at saying no. By family I mean people closest to me, whether that be my relatives or my boyfriends family, I have a hard time turning them down. 

This is in part because I feel like I owe these people so much that I always try to make things work, but I ended up wearing myself too thin sometimes. 

The funny part is these are the people I am most comfortable with and my biggest support system, so why wouldn’t they understand when I am unavailable? I am an over thinker and have major anxiety so I always think they will be mad at me, even though I know they would understand.  This is something I will have to work on personally, but thats not going to change over night. 

Depending on where you work, your boss may or may not look to you for a lot…this shows great rapport in your relationship with your boss, therefore success in your career and financial stability. I will always say yes to my boss unless I physically cannot do something, thats okay because during the times where I am working, I am devoted to work, therefore I may time for things I am asked to do. 

I grew up being told to do things without an expectation of the favor being returned. This is a great philosophy but in the real world, you will become a push over. I have always followed this rule as closely as possible, but in doing so, I lost sight in a lot of goals and things I needed in my life. So before you do someone yet another “favor” ask yourself, “Is this worth my while? Will I receive something in return?” You don’t have to expect money or gifts in return, but will that person help you when you’re in need? If not, try your best to separate yourself and your responsibilities from them. 

Once I started paying attention to who was actually “returning the favor”, it made it a lot easier to decide when to say yes and when to say no. 

For example, my boyfriend and I have a very even relationship, where if I do something for him or pay for something, whether it involves money or not, I can expect him to meet me halfway. 

I also have relationships with others where I always have to go the extra mile. These are the relationships where I still have love for the person, but I wont drop everything for them.

Although setting boundaries and saying no to things you do not want to do is important, don’t let this become an unhealthy habit. 

When I first started making my time priority, I turned down important things just because I didn’t want to do them. There is a healthy balance between not wanting to do something and having to do something. For example, as much as I do not want to work 7 days a week, right now I don’t really have a choice. I could have said no to the opportunity for a weekend job, I would have more time for myself if I did, but the extra money and ability to save up some extra money for my future, is important. SO even though you may have a choice, sometimes you don’t actually have a choice. 

If you’re struggling to determine what has to be done and what isn’t necessary you can make a list of 10 yes or no questions…

  1. Do I have time for this?
  2. Will it make me happy?
  3. Does it increase my financial stability?
  4. Will I still have free time?
  5. Will I still have time for other obligations?
  6. Can I handle this mentally?
  7. At the end of the day will I be okay with my decision?
  8. Am I doing this for me?
  9. Am I doing this because I want to?
  10. Do I need this?

If you answered yes more than no, then it is more than likely something you should say yes to. If you answered no to more questions, it probably isn’t worth the extra time and stress. 

At the end of the day it is completely up to you to decide what is best for you. Sometimes change can feel uncomfortable so do not let your desire or lack there of, distract you from what will help you grow. 



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