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Tiny Wisdom: It’s OK to Say No

“Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough.” ~Josh Billings

Sometimes I feel immense pressure to do all kinds of things I don’t want to do. The reality is, I often put this pressure on myself. I think about the things I should do. Or the things I think I should want to do. Or the things other people might expect me to do.

And all this thinking can drain me—before I’ve gotten a chance to do anything. This is basically choosing to create anxiety where there could be peace and joy. It’s wasting precious time, feeling conflicted, restricted, and full of angst.

So today I invite you to join me in remembering it’s OK to say no, and our world won’t fall apart because of it.

It’s OK to say no if you don’t feel moved by an opportunity—no matter how exciting it might sound to someone else. Happiness is a choice, but it’s made up of lots of smaller choices we need to make based on what we actually want.

It’s OK to say no if you’d rather relax than go out—no matter how many other people think you should be social. Only we know when we need to recharge and take care of ourselves, so it’s up to us to recognize and honor that.

It’s OK to say no if you’d need to sacrifice your needs to help someone else—even if a part of you feels a little guilty about it. People are always going to have requests. Sometimes we’ll be able to help; sometimes we won’t. We’re still good people regardless.

It’s OK to say no because you don’t have time—even if you don’t know right in this moment when you’ll be more available. We’re allowed to say no without hinting toward a future yes.

It’s OK to say no without a detailed excuse—even if you feel like you should offer one. “This doesn’t feel right for me right now” is a perfectly valid reason.

Lastly, it’s OK to say no even if you’ve already said yes, if you realize you weren’t being true to yourself. It’s far better to make the right decision late than follow through with the wrong one because you think you should.

Photo by permanently scatterbrained

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest bookTiny Buddha's Gratitude Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for purchase. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram..

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  • One of the most powerful things I’ve done in my life lately was to say “no” to a potentially lucrative client who was not aligned with my values nor appreciative of the value that I have to offer. Standing strong on the principles that I believe in was a real personal victory for me in my journey toward my vision. It was also a relief (a good sign) to detach from this “difficult personality.”

  • Alissa

    Wow this resonated on so many levels, thank you for helping me realize I need to listen to my intuition, and do not try to live up to others standards of lifestyle

  • “Happiness is a choice, but it’s made up of lots of smaller choices we need to make based on what we actually want.”  …really loved this line…
    Thanks Lori, Again 🙂

  • Kihera

    This really hit home for me. I said yes to something even as the alarm bells in my head were ringing. I eventually had to go back and say no. I’ve had to deal with a bit of fallout because of it. Thank you for the confirmation that being true to myself was the right thing to do even if it wasn’t the easiest.

  • Mia

    This seems to be a theme today: http://unicornsforsocialism.com/2011/11/02/broken-hearted-humanity-and-how-to-be-kind-when-the-answer-is-no/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=broken-hearted-humanity-and-how-to-be-kind-when-the-answer-is-no

    Thank you for the reminder 🙂

  • Tipperary

    How refreshing! Thank you.

  • Yes!

  • Hi Lori,
    I was once caught up in the cultural conditioning and saying yes to everyone’s requests. Let’s just say I got a lot better at saying ‘No” without the guilt.

  • That’s great Jon! I’ve had many similar experiences myself. For me, it often comes down to the fact that I’m just not that money motivated. There’s a lot that’s lucrative that I just don’t feel personally motivated to do. It’s been very empowering to remind myself that it’s perfectly okay to turn down money if I really don’t care for the opportunity.

  • You’re most well. I’ve had to change my mind quite a few times because I didn’t follow my gut originally. I’m glad you were able to follow your instincts! It’s so much better in the long run. 

  • That’s great Justin. I think like anything, it gets easier with practice.

  • You’re most welcome!

  • Thanks for the link Mia. What a wonderful, thought-provoking post!

  • You’re most welcome Jashan. =)

  • You’re welcome Alissa. That’s something I’m always reminding myself of, because most of what I want in life is actually really simple.

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  • Anonymous

    Thank you, thank you!  I am a people pleaser to a fault and always feel guilty saying no to someone.  But lately I’ve been exercising my “no” muscle and it feels great!  It really is ok to say no!

  • You’re most welcome–and congrats! It’s such a great feeling to say no instead of feeling pressured or guilted into something.

  • Pingback: The Art of Saying No « Art Smoothie()

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  • Lily

    I walked away from a job last week were I was going to have to be working at a very fast and stressful pace for about 10 hours a day…then take work home and keep going (not what they originally “advertised”)….I am just not that money motivated and don’t do well under extreme stress and pressure….I’d rather have a more simple balanced life….some of my friends look at me like I have three heads….it is sometimes very hard to explain to people why I’d rather turn down a higher paying job than live that way….thanks for reminding me that it is ok….

  • You’re most welcome! I’m with you Lily. I’d choose simplicity over stress any day. 

  • Lily

    Thank you Lori! Happy New Year! Thanks for all you do 🙂 

    “You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.” ~ Maya Angelou

  • Thanks so much Lily! Happy 2012 =)

  • Guest

    I know I’m only about 11 months late to comment, but, damn… this is exactly what I needed to read today. You see, I had the lousiest day of this second semester of 2012 because I take the pressure of others too easily. I usually have a strong head, and a good will to do things, but there are still times when people try to make you feel so guilty if you don’t do a certain thing. It’s sad to say I believe some people master this “art”. It’s sad that they think they need to be like this. It’s even sadder when those people succeed. Isn’t this a violation of some kind? I hate selfishness but I guess there is only too much you can donate. Who’s going to help you?

  • patrick

    In many ways, being a good leader is having great abilities to influence others. The strengh of influence of others is also a very strong capability, and you should respect that. But I also fully respect your ability to know thine self in the face of an influential person.

  • Very good article! I recently shared a talk at a local TEDx on the power of saying no to big opportunities in the short term to pave the way for even BIGGER opportunities in the long term utilizing a sword and shield metaphor for the words “yes” and “no.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtPRrn5nwAo

  • So true – and as an added benefit, I usually find a clearer “yes” on the other side of saying “no”. Thanks, Lori!

  • You’re most welcome–and that’s a great point!