Find out if you are lacking this art that is making your life difficult
Do you often feel unhappy, stressed, and exhausted as a result of constantly putting other people’s priorities above your own?
Have you reached a point where you feel as if nobody cares what you need?
Have you started noticing the feeling of resentment in your heart when people don’t show up for you in the way you do for them?
Do you set aside your work or your needs to help someone the moment they ask for it?
You aren't alone
This is the struggle of all people-pleasers; they can't say 'No'. They are unable to deny the request even if it puts them at risk, is terribly taxing them, or even when they are incapable of executing the task.
Look at all the nicest people. They are dependable . They are always ready to help in any capacity that they can, sometimes even pushing their limits or bending over backwards to accommodate the needs of others. They would even abandon their own needs and wants, to prioritize others.
And women especially struggle to say no. As they have been expected to always agree to the demands put on them for ages; so they have learned to put everyone else’s needs before themselves, often with no appreciation. Leading to physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion, unnecessary stress, and even anger issues.
By learning the art of saying 'No' when you need to can make your life better
Saying no is one of the most important skills you’ll ever learn. It enables you to pursue your interests, be it physical, emotional, or professional. To that end, it will increase your productivity tenfold, improve your relationships, and fill you with confidence and peace that may seem foreign to you so far.
The ability to say no is extremely liberating. But most of us struggle with it. After all it requires undoing years of practice to the contrary. For the majority of people-pleasers, it's an unlearning and undoing of a lifetime of conditioning from our parents, teachers, higher authorities, peers, friends, and even family members.
Though being of service to others, helping those in need, being nice is a good virtue, but we often tend to overdo it. We tend to sacrifice our soul and we don't need to do that.
“The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.” - Warren Buffett”
Why do we find it difficult to say no?
Why do we do this disservice to ourselves? Why do we find abandoning ourselves easier than the needs or demands of others?
Fear of abandonment
We feel that if we don’t accommodate people, they will abandon us. We have been taught that saying no is rude and egocentric, self-serving, etc. So we spend our entire childhoods and adult lives trying to embody an image we consider more honorable and respectable.
As a result, we end up saying yes to everyone, while becoming increasingly frustrated, embittered, and resentful.
There are many unhealthy reasons because of which we dread saying no. While some are more obvious than others, recognizing them is the first step toward freeing yourself from the belief that saying no is rude, egotistical, or selfish. Some of them are:
We are afraid of offending people
People often have the habit of taking offense at things that are not meant to offend. They feel entitled to our time and efforts. If we dare to deny a request, they tend to rebuke us, call us rude, etc. As a result, we also start feeling that we have done something wrong and resulting in guilt if we say no to anyone. But at some point, you have to realize there’s no reason to feel that way. As long as you’re being courteous and candid, you’re not responsible for an offense taken by the other person.
We don’t want to disappoint people
People pleasers hate to make others sad. They hate the look of disappointment on their faces. It feels like a failure. They cringe at the possibility of hurting or letting anyone down.
We have to understand we are not responsible for the disappointment felt by people due to their unrealistic or unfair expectations. We must not burden ourselves with guilt over something that’s hardly under our control.
We don’t want to appear selfish
We care a lot about how people perceive us. We have been taught that whenever we choose something for ourselves, it is selfish. And that it makes us bad individuals. But we must understand that in saying yes to one thing, we are saying no to something else; we cannot do everything, no matter how much we want to or even try.
Our time is limited. If we keep spending all of it going by every single whim of others, how will we allocate it for our work and needs? How would we find the energy to cater to our priorities? Self-care isn’t selfish; it is necessary.
We love the feeling we get when we help others
The looks of happiness on their faces give us a feeling of doing something good. Being a good citizen, a virtuous human being. If we bring a smile to even a single person, we feel a sense of satisfaction. But let me remind you.
That feeling is fleeting. Because on some level, you might be sabotaging your own needs. A feeling of unhappiness and discontent is bound to follow. And that’s a terrible way to live. As much as being of service makes us feel good about ourselves, taking care of our needs is more satisfying. Both for us and our inner child.
We struggle with poor self-esteem
This can lead to giving more credence to the opinions and perceptions of others about us than our feelings. We struggle with insecurity, low self-worth, and a sense of shame for not being 'good enough'.
As a result, we start relying on others to make us feel good about ourselves by their affirmative words about our goodness. And for that, we start jumping through figurative hoops to gain approval, going as far as not paying any heed to what we need or feel. And it's more damaging to our psyche.
We want to be liked and cherished by people
The innate desire to be well-liked by everyone is somewhat universal. This desire is hardwired into our psychology. It’s a means for building connections. We try to relate to people, empathize with them, in the hope of gaining their acceptance. But it is an unhealthy way of living. At some point, we have to realize that we cannot please everyone because there’s no end to expectations.
Learning to say no with purpose and poise will raise your worth in the eyes of others. They’ll no longer see you as a doormat or someone that can be trampled on. You’ll earn their respect and inspire their trust.
We succumb to gaslighting and bullying
Some people refuse to take no for an answer. They go to any length to manipulate you to say yes, including using bullying and gaslighting.
Bullies use these tactics to make their victims feel guilt, fear, shame, and embarrassment. As a result, the victim gives in to their demands to avoid feeling such negative emotions. They surrender, saying yes to stop the abuse.
What’s even more baffling is that the bullies know what they’re doing. They realize they’re being manipulative. They understand they’re being rude and unfair to their victims.
When you’re aware that the abuser is knowingly being manipulative, you’ll be less compelled by his or her tactics. You won’t feel ashamed, fearful, guilty, or embarrassed. You’ll recognize the bully’s manipulative behavior is a part of their nature. That’ll make it much easier to be assertive and stand your ground.
We want to avoid conflict
Many people have difficulty saying no because they are afraid of conflict. Confrontations give them anxiety and thus they will do anything to avoid it. For them, saying yes is easier than any potential verbal spat.
The problem is, to avoid conflict at all costs, we subconsciously reinforce the idea that our feelings are less important than those of others. The truth is that they aren’t any less important; we are just being made to feel that way.
If you’re afraid of conflict, there are small things you can do to overcome that fear and anxiety.
1. Firstly, realize that zero conflicts aren’t always possible owing to conflicting opinions, needs, and desires. Therefore, some friction is bound to occur.
2. Second, remind yourself that conflict isn’t necessarily bad. It’s merely the expression of the conflict of interests. How someone reacts to a conflict is an entirely different matter.
3. Third, practice saying no in small steps. Start with situations where confrontations are least likely to occur. By starting with low-risk situations, you’ll build a tolerance for conflict.You’ll eventually grow comfortable with saying no, even when faced with volatile people.
“A 'no' uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a 'yes' merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble. - Mahatma Gandhi”
Thanks for taking the time to read. Which of these are your reasons for not saying No. Let us know by leaving the comment.
In my next blog, I 'm going to tell you, 'How to break the habit of always saying yes'.
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References and resources
 Zahariades, Damon(2017). The Art of Saying No: How to Stand Your Ground, Reclaim Time and Energy, and Refuse to be Taken for Granted
 Ury, William(2007). The Power of a Positive No
Altucher, Claudia and James(2014). The Power of No: Because One Little Word Can Bring Health, Abundance, and Happiness