How can I say ‘no’ without feeling guilty?

love yourself enough to set boundaries. your time and energy are precious.

If you have a hard time saying ‘no’ to people, it can end up having a real impact on your self-esteem. I’ve been feeling this a lot recently – since I met my other half, life has become incredibly busy. Now I not only have my own friends, family and hobbies to fit into the small amount of hours I have outside of work, but also my other half’s friends and family, and of course I want to spend time with my other half too. And God forbid if I want to have some time to myself!

This desperation to make time for everything has led to hours scrutinising my (now famous among friends and family) ‘wall chart’ in the kitchen, syncing up calendars on iPhones, completing Doodle polls and endless attempts by my other half and I to keep some weekends free for ourselves. This inevitably leads to tiredness, irritability and eventually not even looking forward to the plans you’ve made because all you want is to wake up and do your own thing for a day.

So since last year, I promised myself I would say ‘no’ more to plans. Last year it went okay, but plans still slipped in when I couldn’t bring myself to say no and this year I am trying again.

Unfortunately, saying ‘no’ to people can lead to a feeling of low self-esteem and guilt. Sometimes I end up beating myself up internally for days, telling myself I’m a bad person and selfish for letting the person down. This really destroys the whole point of saying no in the first place, which was self care!

So how can we say ‘no’ to someone without feeling this harmful guilt? Here are my three tips (I am still learning too!):

  • Reverse it – imagine it was the other way around. If this is a good friend, or family member, would you really think they were selfish for spending some time taking care of themselves? Doubtful – we tend to be far meaner to ourselves than anyone else, so reversing it puts things into perspective.
  • Be honest – sometimes it seems easier to tell a little white lie when we’re saying no and pretend we are working late or busy. This can worsen the feeling of guilt – be honest and tell the person that you need some time to yourself – if they’re a decent person, they should understand.
  • Take your time – if you’re not used to saying ‘no’, it can be easy to panic when you’re put on the spot. It’s okay to delay your response so you have more time to think about how to word it – say ‘I’ll check my diary and get back to you’, ‘I’m not sure at the moment but I’ll let you know soon’ or ‘Let me check with my wife/husband/housemate/mum/dad and get back to you’.

Would love to hear other tips – please comment below!

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