When “No” is a Complete Sentence but No One Listens

When people become aware of Self Care as something they need to be proactive about, they get all kinds of advice. Some of the big ones include: “Put your oxygen mask on before you help others” and “You can’t drink from a dry well”. Meaning in order to be of use to anyone, you first need to be happy, healthy, and balanced.

Another favored axiom in the Self Care world is “No is a complete sentence.” This isn’t aiming to be negative; just the opposite. Saying “no” to something that you don’t want to do, or have, or be, or experience is honoring your own needs and boundaries. Far too many of us say yes just to please others and end up exhausted and burnt out.

Saying no, or even no thank you, means I hear what you are saying but this isn’t in my best needs right now.

The problem – and I think a great many of you will “get” this – is that nine times out of 10, you say “no”, all proud that you’re sticking up for yourself only to be hounded for reasons why and increasingly aggressive attempts to get you to change your mind.

And you, having come from a place of fragility and newness at finding your own voice, panic. “They said it was a one word sentence! They said I didn’t have to explain myself! Why do they keep pushing me and hounding me and IT WAS EASIER TO SAY YES.”

That’s the kicker they don’t tell you about… just because you are honoring your boundaries doesn’t mean others will. You have run head-first in to yet another Self-Care axiom:

Givers need to set limits because takers rarely do.

When you start saying no after years of saying yes, people get confused. They get angry because you are putting your needs first, not theirs. So, you better have a darned good reason as to why you think you are more important in your life than they are.

But here’s the secret, it gets easier. The more you say “no” to the things that do not serve you, the less they will push. Sure, it will take some time and you will have to say it more than once. But eventually, those who can’t take “no” for an answer will fall away. Because when your boundaries are strong, users have no use for you. They move on.

Yes, no is a one-word sentence. But sometimes, that sentence is a run-on sentence: “No. No thank you. No. No. No, thank you anyway. No. Thanks for thinking of me but no. No.”