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The Art of Saying No

Self-care is commonly defined as any intentional actions we take to care for our physical, mental and emotional health. Sounds great, right? Who can argue with taking care of oneself? So, if it’s as non-controversial and agreeable as momma and apple pie, why are so few of us practicing it?

In my experience, one of the major barriers to self-care is our fear of letting people down by saying no to their requests for our time and energy. Afterall, we don’t want to be rude and most of us find it hard to disappoint someone. But, whether it’s a request for two dozen cupcakes for the bake sale, an invitation to a party, or being asked on a date, if we don’t watch out we can end up running in circles with no clear direction.

So, how do we go about protecting our physical, mental and emotional health? One significant step is by getting comfortable with saying no when it needs to be said.

For women in particular,carving out time to take care of ourselves can be a real struggle. We wear so many hats-- career woman, friend, mother, daughter, spouse, volunteer...the list goes on. When we’re juggling all of these things, it is likely that somethihg is going to suffer, and usually it’s our self-care. So, whether we like it or not, learning the art of saying is an important part of staying balanced.

Have you heard the clever little inspirational quote “No is a complete sentence?” Yes, I suppose it is, but how many of us feel comfortable throwing that complete sentence around? From my personal and professional experience, I’d say not very many (myself included).

The thing is, most of us strive to be likeable and going around answering requests with a simple “no” might come off as a little harsh. But, it is important that we learn how to protect our time and energy because every time we say yes to something we are saying no to something else.

I’d like to offer a friendly little amendment to the quote above... How about “No is a complete sentence, but it’s OK to be nice about it.”

So how can we approach “no” in a way that is honest, kind and protective of our time and energy? Here are some helpful hints:

  • Keep It Simple- It is not only unkind, but also way too complicated to make up little white lies to support your answer of no. It’s okay to simply tell the truth... “thank you so much for the invitation, but I am just too swamped right now,” or “I am not going to have time to make the cupcakes for the bake sale this year. I appreciate your understanding.”

  • Honor Your Values - A great filter in deciding whether we should say yes or no to a request is to evaluate it against our top priorities and values. If it doesn’t line up with our values, the most authentic response is to say no. Giving your time or attention to something or someone out of guilt or obligation is not fair to any party involved.

  • Shine Your Light- You are a unique person with your very own constellation of gifts and talents to share with the world. However, if your light is being hidden by piles of obligation and exhaustion, you are cheating the world from basking in your glow. The world needs you to show up in your most energized, authentic way. Don’t cheat us- or yourself- from the fullest experience of you. Say no to the things that drain you so that you can say yes to the things that light you up!

As we approach the hectic holiday season, I hope that you can think of the art of saying no as an important part of your self-care. Getting comfortable with saying no is an important part of creating a life that is congruent with our deepest wishes and desires. And, that’s the kind of life you deserve!

Amanda's Workshop

Having trouble setting healthy boundaries or living out your deepest values? Join me for a women-only workshop where we will identify our values, create vision boards and gain clarity about how we want to spend our time and energy. Sunday, November 8th from 2-4:30PM at Soma Vida. Click here for more info and to sign up!


About the Author

Amanda is a trained Life Coach and holds a Masters degree in Counseling. As a recovering risk-avoiding scaredy cat, she is passionate about empowering women to live and love boldly. She has spent hundreds of hours helping women create lives that are congruent with their deepest values and dreams and her writing has been featured in several on-line journals. To learn more about working with Amanda visit