Learning to say “no,” setting limits

September 19, 2014


Learning to say “no.”

Sometimes not so easy.

Girlfriend and I were talking the other day about how hard it can be to set limits.

I’m known as a pretty assertive girl, but still, there are times when I don’t factor in my own needs, forgoing setting limits for being a bit of a –wait for it–PLEASER.

Oh yes, I can see my friends staring in disbelief.

“You? a pleaser? Ha ha….”

But yes, it can happen to even the most assertive of people.

Girlfriend’s no pushover, either.

In her case, an out-of-town friend wanted to stay during an upcoming trip for an event. The timing was going to be bad, but my friend didn’t really want to turn her down. She even had a rationale: that her friend wouldn’t be a burden, was easy to be with, etc.

But none of that changed the fact that it was a really bad time for a visit.

That same day a newer friend called me to say she’d be in town, had a free lunch and wanted to get together later in the week. That day was a busy one for us and since my friend had no transportation, we would have to pick her up and drop her off, as well.

We just didn’t have time that day. But I felt badly about turning her down.

I wanted to give a bunch of excuses, I mean reasons. But I resisted.

Setting limits was a key component of a training I took 25 years ago to prepare to serve as an emotional support volunteer for people with AIDS and HIV. We were taught the importance of taking care of ourselves first, in order to be able to “be there” for our “clients.”

Whether we have clients or not, taking care of ourselves is always important. But as wives, mothers, women? We’re used to putting ourselves last.

It’s such a bad idea.

We need to understand that it’s not selfish when we do things that support our health and well-being. That aren’t stress-inducing.

There’s no need to justify ourselves when we do something to take care of ourselves. We don’t need reasons or excuses.


Because “No.” is a complete sentence.

21 comments on “Learning to say “no,” setting limits
  1. Excellent. ..i needed this. But i cant share your posts 🙁

  2. I love this. I have said “yes” too many times and regretted it. I’m now saying “no” more and no one is mad.

  3. I completely agree that “no” is a complete sentence and we need to take care of our own needs and don’t always need to make excuses. However, my problem isn’t in the saying “no”, necessarily, but living with having let someone down and wondering if there was something I could have done differently to accommodate both of us.

  4. As I’ve gotten older, it’s become way easier for me to say “no!” In fact, I say it quite a lot these days!

  5. Mary says:

    I am just staring to learn it is ok for me to use that little sentence of “no”. I must admit, at times it is still very difficult to get that word out.

  6. Such a hard, but important lesson to learn. I remember the first time I said no to a favor. I wanted so badly to back pedal and offer excuses and even retract the statement and say “Well, I guess I could do it.” My friend and mentor had said “Angela, resist the temptation to say anything more than ‘sorry, I can’t today.”‘ I felt quite accomplished after enduring the discomfort and sticking with my decision.

  7. I used to be a “yes” woman, no matter what the cost was to me. But once I hit my fifties, I started saying “no.” Interesting though how that little word has angered and alienated some people from my life. Guess they don’t like that fact that I am no longer the pushover that I used to be.

  8. Lana says:

    Sigh. I’m bad at this – really, really bad. I’m always trying to make everyone else happy – but it often backfires on me. Awareness is the first step to fixing the problem, right? 🙂

  9. Kimba says:

    When I sometimes feel I need to justify a “no” answer, I go back to one of my favorite quotes: “Never complain, never explain.” This sticks with me. It’s ok to say no just because that’s what you need to do.

  10. Janie Emaus says:

    I have to learn to say NO more often.

  11. Carol Graham says:

    I remember the first time I felt comfortable saying “no” — now it is a lot easier. I have to set priorities and limits or life becomes overwhelming. Thank you Carol

  12. Kim says:

    YES! Great article, Carol. Saying “No” means saying “Yes” to yourself. Definitely something women need to consider saying WAY more often. Thank you 🙂

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