Saying No Without Guilt

For many of us, being able to say “no” without feeling guilty is like as novelist Stephen King puts it… “Crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a bathtub. There’s plenty of opportunity for self-doubt.”    

Being able to say no requires skills such as establishing boundaries, articulating them to others, and holding yourself and others accountable to those boundaries.

The good news is that these skills can be learned even if they don’t come naturally.

I’m sorry to say that I learned the importance of being able to say no way too late in life.

However, in my mind, I had good reasons for being a “yes” person. You see, I love putting others first and creating a home where friends and family want to come and enjoy. I find joy in delighting my customers, and helping people and organizations become the next best version of themselves.

Does any of this resonate with you…

Are you the mom who everyone counts on?  Or the fun dad that every kid wants to be their dad because you go the extra mile? Are you the team member whose hand shoots up when the boss is asking for a volunteer? Do you have the reputation in your community or church as the “go-to” person to get things done?

There is no doubt that these are good traits, however, the question we need to ask ourselves is “what is the price of being everyone’s everything?”

I have a good friend who is quite successful and has a broad scope of responsibility. He is the “go-to” person for his family, his partner, his team, his clients, his friends, and quite frankly, to just about anyone who is needing something.

He gives and gives and gives. That’s the good news. The bad news is that others are now conditioned to do the continuous “ask.”

Why? Because he delivers.  He’s the “go-to” person whenever there’s a work issue, a personal issue, a career coaching need, or to provide mentoring.

Although he loves to give, the challenge arises when his tank is dry and there is no more to give.

Because he is a “giver” at heart, he has a hard time saying no, and if he does, he often feels guilty.

Over the years, I’ve seen him continue to give, but at what price?

  • What is the price of mental, emotional and physical health?
  • What is the price of a missed opportunity to be with friends or to just “BE” long enough to re-charge?
  • What is the price of creative, innovative thinking that takes time and energy?

We have an obligation to ourselves, to those we love, and to those who love us, to put our mask on first as the flight attendants announce.

Dr. Seuss says, “BE who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

Those who truly matter will not only understand that you need to take care of yourself, they will actually encourage you to do it!

Do you have a success story about setting and keeping boundaries? Please share it with me at or here with our readers in the comments section.


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