Learning to say "NO".

For most people that suffer from anxiety and depression self-esteem is a problem. We might often be inclined to put other people’s thoughts and feelings before our own. Deep down, this can  be very damaging. While we might seem to be happier once we have satisfied and gained the acceptance of those around us, in fact we tend to mourn our lost desires and crave control of our lives. In some cases this emotion may manifest as episodes of anxiety, panic or depression.

Like most things in life there is a balance involved. Life does involve some compromises and as mature adults we must remember that we can’t have it all our own way. But while some things in life might be out of our control (tax, the weather, work managers, public transport) many things are within our control.

We don’t have to control everything in life that we can. This is called control freakery and is a very unpleasant character trait. We do need, however, to control some aspects of our day to day lives, and protect them from people who would control us.

Those of us with low self-esteem have a habit of surrendering our independence to dominant friends, colleagues, partners and relatives and giving our own desires secondary importance. However once we have surrendered our independence we then tend to sulk, resent whoever stole our independence, and regret not doing more. This all adds to the cycle of low self-esteem.

Sometimes we have to say “NO” without guilt.

It can be a hard thing to do without practice. But here are some tips to make it easier.

  • Lie

It is OK to lie! Just make it plausible and stick to it. For example: I am too busy, I am too tired, I can’t afford it, I am visiting my grandmother.

  • Be honest

Tell it as it is! Use a loud, matter-of-fact voice and make a statement without a hint of indecision in your voice. For example: I’m not going to do that today, I’m not in the mood, No thank you, I don’t want to, I don’t feel like it.

  • Don’t hesitate

When someone makes you an offer, or gives you an instruction that you don’t want to follow, say “No”. Don’t hesitate or think about it. If you do hesitate you are inviting them to try to persuade you, to guilt trip you into saying yes. 

  • Remember

It is much easier to say “NO” then change your mind and say “yes” when you have thought about it and decided you really want to. It is hard to say “YES” and then change to “NO” later. It causes arguments and resentment. So say “NO” and then think about, and only change your mind if you want to.

  • Guilt

Guilt is a horrible emotion. But you need to learn to ask yourself if your feeling of guilt is reasonable. Why should you sacrifice your own desires for someone else’s? Would they do the same for you day in and day out? Or do they usually do what they want to do? Be a bit militant and indignant. You have the right!


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