13 Ways to Say No (Without Hurting Anyone’s Feelings)

I used to hate saying no. Personally and professionally, it made me so unbelievably uncomfortable. I was constantly over-committing myself, agreeing to work on projects that I didn’t have time for, and forcing myself to go to social events that I really didn’t want to go to. My anxiety about saying no outweighed my self-preservation and self-care, and it was exhausting. I got so wrapped up in what I “should” be doing, whether it was work, volunteer work, socializing, or anything else, that I completely failed to advocate for or take care of myself.

When things got really bad for me last year, learning to say no was no longer optional. Every day felt like an uphill battle, and I had to carefully guard what little energy I had. I couldn’t work on extra projects or socialize every night of the week, even if I wanted to (which I didn’t). Even though it made my skin crawl every time I did it, I kept finding new and different ways to say no.

I really wasn’t prepared for what happened next: people were super understanding. With the exception of a few people who aren’t in my life anymore (and those two things are definitely related), all of my friends, family, and coworkers responded really well. No one yelled at me or made me feel guilty, and little by little, I started to get more comfortable saying no. Let me tell you, the first time I turned down an invite to a party I really didn’t want to go to and instead ordered takeout and watched a movie at home, it was like Holy crap. Saying no is awesome.

Now? I love saying no! I’ve gotten to know myself so much better and I’ve upped my self-care game enough that I know pretty much right away whether something will be good for me, or whether I should give it a big “thanks, but no thanks” and move on with my life. That being said, this didn’t happen overnight. I struggled with saying no for a lot of reasons, but one of them was that I didn’t want to hurt the feelings of the people I love and respect and I didn’t want to isolate myself or keep myself from getting invited to things in the future.

So I (somewhat unintentionally) came up with this list of ways to say no that stay true to myself and my needs without hurting anyone’s feelings:

13 Ways to Say No

  1. “I can’t commit to being in charge of this project, but I would really like to be a part of it. Is there a smaller way I could contribute?”
  2. “I don’t have the energy to go out to dinner. Do you want to come over and order takeout with me instead?”
  3. “I’m sorry, I’m just not up for hanging out right now.”
  4. “I really can’t take on another project right now, but I bet [insert competent colleague’s name here] would be able to help.”
  5. “I’m not feeling well, can we get together another time?” (Note: don’t lie about being sick, but if you’re feeling depressed, anxious, or just plain worn out, those are equally valid ways to not feel well.)
  6. “I’m sorry, I’m not going to be able to make it to your party. How can I make it up to you?”
  7. “I’m going to pass this time, but thanks for thinking of me!”
  8. “I need some time by myself. Can we do something next week instead?”
  9. “I’m going to stay in tonight, but have fun!”
  10. “That sounds like a great [project/idea/trip/outing], but I just don’t have time for it right now.”
  11. “That just doesn’t sound like it’s going to be fun for me. I’m going to pass.” (This one’s best to use with family and very close friends who know you well enough to know this isn’t a slight, just the truth.)
  12. “I don’t think it’s going to work out this time. Maybe next time!”
  13. “No, thanks!” Simple, but effective.

Saying no isn’t complicated, but it isn’t easy either. Be as honest as you feel comfortable being, and don’t make up excuses. It’s always okay to make the decision that is best for you and your mental health, even if other people don’t like it. Don’t let the guilt and “shoulds” overshadow that. If the people in your life care for and respect you, they’ll understand. And if they don’t, maybe you need to find better people.

As usual, let me know how you’re doing via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or email at findingthewaytowell@gmail.com. Keep fighting the good fight and take care of yourselves!!

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Tomorrow Really is a New Day (And how to make yourself believe that)

As you may or may not have noticed, FTWTW went on a brief (and largely unintentional) hiatus. My last real post was over a month ago. I got really sick, then I went on vacation, then it had been a couple weeks and I started stressing myself out about the need to get a post written and it just sort of got away from me.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, first of all, if you’re someone who follows my blog, I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to disappear on you. Second of all, it brings me to my next post, which is…

Tomorrow is a New Day

I know you’ve had that day. You know, the one where you had eighteen things on your To Do List and only managed to accomplished two and a half. The day where you started out vowing to eat healthy and go to the gym and instead you polished off an entire package of Oreos and binge watched Say Yes to the Dress. Or maybe you swore you were finally going to get started on that big project that’s been overwhelming you for months (cleaning out your closet, for instance), and instead you played Candy Crush for four consecutive hours.

Yeah.

I feel like I’ve had a lot of those days lately. Like, a lot.

I don’t know about you, but when I have a day like that, I beat myself up so much that the guilt and shame I feel about it is worse than not getting the thing accomplished in the first place. In reality, the fact that I didn’t start cleaning out my closet today just isn’t that big a deal. No one died, nothing bad happened, I’ll just have to start it another day. But my brain has different ideas. My brain uses that failure to follow through as evidence that there’s something wrong with me. I’m lazy, I’m unorganized, I don’t manage my time well, I’m a slob — there is no shortage of nasty things my brain can turn that into.

Does anyone else’s brain do that to them?

This isn’t exactly a foolproof method, but here’s what I started doing to fight off those thoughts. I sat down after a day where I laid on the couch for six hours and watched TV instead of doing anything productive, and I struggled to come up with four different mantras to repeat to myself on days like that.

  1. Nothing truly bad happened as a result of my choices today.
  2. My body and mind needed to take it easy today and by doing that, I honored myself and my needs.
  3. My choices today do not define me as a human being.
  4. Tomorrow really is a new day. Nothing bad will happen if I follow through tomorrow instead of today.

It might sound a little cheesy, but by repeating these things to myself over and over, I can usually pull myself out of that nasty shame spiral.

Now it’s your turn!

You can use mine if you want, or you can come up with your own. Either way, write them down. Don’t worry, I’ll wait…

Now that you have your mantras written down, you can either post them somewhere visible or stash them somewhere safe. Just make sure that they’re easily accessible when you start to get sucked into that shame spiral. Read them (out loud) over and over again when you start to get down on yourself. It might sound silly, but hearing yourself say those things — even if you don’t believe them right away — can really help.

At the end of the day, you have to remember that you are so much more than the sum of your bad choices for the day. It’s okay to rest and veg out when you need it. It’s okay to eat like crap and not workout every now and then. You’re going to be just fine, it’s just a question of convincing your brain of that.

As always, let me know how you’re doing via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or via email at findingthewaytowell@gmail.com. Keep fighting the good fight, and take care of yourselves!