Posted on Oct 26, 2022

“Saying no to small things means saying yes to big things.”  ― Amit Kalantri

I Said “no” and Felt SOOOO Scared and Guilty—What’s Happening to me?”

The dreaded “no.” It's only one syllable and two letters, yet it can carry so much energy!

Can you recall a time when “no” was at the tip of your tongue, yet stubbornly the word would just not come out? Perhaps you feared what would happen once the word left your mouth.  I know I have had this experience and so many of my clients share the same story.

When you’re not accustomed to saying no, the word holds a lot of weight, especially with the people closest to you with whom you struggle most to be honest. 

Since this is such an important and prevalent topic, I want to break down the reason some of us carry guilt and worry when we speak our truth. I’ll also share a few ways to move towards a path of self-worth, so you can *finally* find joy in honoring your boundaries. 

Why Saying “No” Brings All The Feels

What conditions you to feel anxious, nervous, and guilty when you say what we want? There are many patterns that can be developed, all are meant to keep you safe.  Do you relate to any of these? 

  • It could be that you’ve been historically easy-going and malleable, so you are deeply concerned with what others will think of you.  (“Are they going to think I’m rude? Will I lose them as a friend? Am I asking for too much?”)
  • It might be that you were learned to be overly obedient and that meant not stating your opinion so you could be seen as polite.
  • Or you have a habit of biting your tongue on decisions in your relationship so that your partner feels in control or satisfied.  
  • Negative feelings might be what you first associate with saying “no.” Maybe you were always told it's not ok to say no or disagree with a care giver.  

On a superficial level, you might feel guilt and fear when you say “no”, but it could be associated with something deeper: rejection, alienation, and abandonment. 

Reframing “no” and Letting go of Guilt  

Letting go of the guilty “no” is a practice. It takes repetition and several mindset re-boots. Here’s a way to begin. 

First and most important step is to recognize how saying no has been keeping you safe (such as some of the above examples) and reassure yourself that you are safe.  Then you can move on to the options below.

Reframe the act of standing up for you to something positive. Once you place less importance on others’ responses and prioritize YOUR well-being, you are well on our way to self-acceptance.  

Let’s break down a few ways we can use reframing as a tool here. 

  1. Look at “no” as a form of self-empowerment. By being authentic to yourself, you are representing yourself as who you truly are. Embodying what you value is a relief and will feel new but good (plus, it will help your guilt fade over time.)  It will reinforce the belief that your needs matter!
  2. Reflect and journal why you may feel bad when you say “no.” Observe what comes up. What do you fear? What assumptions do you have about how others will respond? 
  3. Acknowledge that you might not have stood up for yourself enough, and that’s okay. It’s possible that you didn’t have a role model or were not encouraged to see setting boundaries as an act of self-love. It’s never too late to start and restart. Forgive yourself for buying into the beliefs that your needs are not important.
  4. See “no” as a way of having a say in your life. It is a journey of you allowing yourself to make decisions in your day-to-day life that honor what you need to flourish.  See how your relationships change in favor of these needs when you begin speaking up. (And keep reading for what to do when everyone’s not so happy about your “no.”) 
  5. Saying no is the opportunity to say yes to something else.

How to Prepare for Pushback (with examples)

When people first hear you say “no,” they WILL push back. They may not be happy with your new and empowered voice. They may question you or wonder what happened to “that nice person you used to be.” 

Setting boundaries can be daunting, no matter how confident or shy you are.  Expect that there will be conflict when you change your behavior and start setting limits with people you love (and know that this doesn’t have to be a bad thing).

To help get comfortable with saying “no,” you can practice responses that both honor your boundaries and offer empathy. It could sound like this: 

  • “I would love to hang out with you but I feel maxed out right now. If that changes, I’ll let you know.”
  • “As much as I look forward to seeing you after work, I am super exhausted. I need 30 minutes of alone time before I can be with you.”
  • “I won’t be able to make the cookies but I know a GREAT bakery by your event I can recommend for your needs.” 

It may be frustrating and annoying to hold firm on your “no” some days. But as you practice using your “no” muscles, you will see that putting yourself first is crucial to your overall health.  It is possible to keep the gifts you gained from the people pleasing pattern , such as compassion and kindness, AND move into a more self-honoring and supportive strategy for interacting with others

In my upcoming self-worth workshop on November 2nd, I will be covering some powerful exercises and strategies that allow you to create a new self-honoring version of yourself and show you how saying no can be used as an act of self-love. 

Additionally, be sure to check out this week's video as we discuss our own journeys with self-worth.

I hope you’ll join me there and find the support you need to live life on your terms. Stop by our website to enroll now and receive a few great bonuses for joining me live.


Be well,