The Power of “No”: The First Line of Defense for Safeguarding Your Mental Health

The Power of “No”: The First Line of Defense for Safeguarding Your Mental Health

It seems like there’s never enough time in the day to get everything done, especially as we begin to accumulate responsibilities like old clothes in the back of a closet.

Fortunately, you’ve got a lot more control over that than you think.

It’s time to get comfortable with the word “No”.

An oft-forgotten ally in the quest for work-life balance and achieving your goals, a well-timed “no” clears the way for the right pieces to seize center stage. Establish an internal culture that minimizes unnecessary stress and facilitates success.

Excessive people-pleasing and an inability to set strong boundaries are co-conspirators working against your mental health:

“Boundaries” are to “quality of life” as Hydrogen is to water. Boundaries protect goals and relationships; they preserve your sanity as well.
Delineation of priorities, rules of engagement, and forbidden conduct: that’s how you define what you’ll tolerate from yourself and others.
When deciding who and what get your attention, you need hard stances on what you value most, what you’ll prioritize above all else, and what you’ll get to if time and availability allow. Stipulating what behaviors you’ll tolerate from yourself and others; that’s a prerequisite for healthy relationships and high self-esteem.”

Read more on how to set boundaries for yourself here:

Once you’ve mastered the psychological barriers preventing comfort with advocating for your own interests, you can move seamlessly between the obstacles preventing others from doing the same.

I wrote an entire book on the subject:


Start clamping down on thoughtless “yeses” escaping from your lips.

Here’s a simple way to put that into practice:

Say “no” to sacrifices of your time and money that don’t align with your values.

Sometimes, we give just to support someone we care about. Maybe your buddy’s son is doing a bake sale for their little league team or your aunt’s church needs volunteers to get their once-a-month food pantry in order.

You may not be gung-ho about buying brownies or surrendering a sunny Saturday morning, but relationships are important and no (wo)man is an island.

Those are judgment calls.

The crux of the issue is the degree to which you will permit guilt or fear-based emotions to steer you into decisions that conflict with what your spirit is urging you to do.

Whether it’s subtle pressure to respond to your boss’s messages at 9pm or your friend’s insistence on donating money to their latest cause du jour, grant yourself permission to stay true to yourself.

Am I telling you to slam the door on the next Girl Scout troop that comes knocking?  No.

(It takes a steeled resolve to turn down a box of Trefoils.)

Just consider saying “no” if that’s what your heart is telling you to do. 

And that decision-making process becomes easier as you visualize all potential outcomes from your decision tree. 
As you’re reading this, take a few minutes to wrestle with a typical request you receive:
What are all of the potential responses you can offer? What are all of the possible consequences from responses to your answers?
The biggest hurdle preventing most of us from exercising internal integrity is the fear of rejection.
Realize that saying “no” to someone of some importance in your life will not irrevocably damage your relationship. They may complain a bit—especially if they’re accustomed to always getting their way with you—but most relationships involving reasonable people can withstand disagreement.
Your standing as a “good” person doesn’t hinge on accommodating every request that comes your way.

If you’re looking for a word-for-word response to a particularly-persistent solicitor, steal this:

"At any given time, there are millions of causes---not just charities, but individuals as well---who could benefit from your goodwill. I've got a list of some of my favorites that I can share with you: When you've given something to all of these, then you can criticize me for not agreeing to give my [time/money] to [insert cause]."

Don’t let anyone guilt you into feeling like a monster for refusing to go along with something you’re uncomfortable with.

Stop apologizing for choosing yourself first. It will be that much easier to maintain your sanity.

9 thoughts on “The Power of “No”: The First Line of Defense for Safeguarding Your Mental Health”

    1. Appreciate the compliments, Pablo.

      And Trefoils….mild, shortbread taste that just works. I’m a fan of the peanut butter cookies, too.

  1. Good advice for people pleasers–consider the consequences of saying no. It’s not as serious as we sometimes think. The important relationships will hold. Thanks for this thought provoking piece.

  2. This was a great read. A stern reminder to set boundaries and stick to them. People will have to take note and respect you for setting those boundaries.

    1. Thank you, Lerato. Inserting strong boundaries is like adding the proper spice to a dish; without them, the star of the show gets lost in the shuffle.

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