How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty

No. One word. Two letters. For a lot of us, it’s one of the most difficult words to say.

What does learning how to say no without feeling guilty have to do with fitness? Everything. The number one reason why people don’t exercise regularly and eat well is time.

It’s not just fitness, though. We are trapped in a time warp. There isn’t enough of it for anything, let alone to have time to ourselves. We stress ourselves out because we’re trying to get everything done.

Read on to find out more about the power behind saying no and how you can learn to say yes for yourself.

The Problem of Overcommitment

You hear it all the time, I don’t have the time to do this, I don’t have the time to do that.

There are plenty of reasons to feel this way, but at the crux of the problem is overcommitment. No matter what our profession is, we’re constantly busy. We’re busy with family, friends, and life in general. We tend to follow opportunities and find it hard to say no. That opportunity can lead to something big!

So, while we’re chasing down these opportunities, we’re neglecting our health and fitness, and we’re neglecting a powerful connection with ourselves.

Unfortunately, those opportunities that we’re chasing often spiral into nothing but an energy drain.

Why Do We Feel Guilty When We Say No?

We say yes to everything for several reasons. We don’t want to let people down. We fear we could be missing out on a business opportunity, or we feel massive amounts of guilt.
You may feel so guilty, you look for ways to say no without saying no.

Let’s take a look at the emotion behind saying no. For a lot of us, that’s guilt. We feel guilty because we feel like we’re letting others down.

We often don’t feel like we’re empowered in a situation, or there’s an obligation to fulfill.

What Are Your Priorities?

Sometimes, it can be hard to say no because we feel that we could be missing out on a big opportunity. That’s especially true for entrepreneurs. So, you say yes to joining multiple networking groups, volunteer opportunities, and a bunch of other things.

Some people might say that when we say yes to everything, we’re opening ourselves to what the universe has to offer. That divine opportunities appear when we say yes. We’re saying yes to life.

I think there’s a truth to that, but there’s a balance to it as well.

Do you have a mission or purpose? Whether you’re an entrepreneur or not, it helps to have a personal mission. It doesn’t have to be complex, just a couple of sentences that outlines what’s important to you.

This will help you make decisions. When you make decisions from a place of being on purpose and on mission, you will open up other opportunities. If you’re just saying yes to every little thing that comes along, then you’re going to invite more of those things into your life.

How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty or Bad About It

Is it possible to learn how to say no without feeling guilty? It is. It will take practice and patience, but it is possible. Here are some tips on saying no without feeling guilty.

1. Know Why You’re Saying No

When you say no to something, you’re doing it for yourself. You have to be clear as to why you’re saying no.

If you’re not sure why you’re saying no, you can easily get roped into something that doesn’t align with your priorities.

2. Remember Your Priorities

You may want to say yes to something, even if it pulls you in a completely different direction from your personal mission.

Before you say yes, take the opportunity to ask yourself if what you’re saying yes to is on mission or not.

When you’re first practicing (yes, it is something you have to practice) how to say no, you may want to keep a list of your priorities or mission statement nearby. You can keep them in your wallet to look at.

Look at that list. Does what you’re saying yes to fall in line with your priorities?

Then that’s great. Move ahead. If not, move on.

3. Be Firm in Saying No (Even if you have to repeat yourself.)

People around you are probably used to hearing you say yes to everything. You trained them well.

If they hear you say no all of the sudden, they’re going to be a bit confused. You’ve become someone that they can depend on and they probably assume that you’ll say yes.

Hearing no may come as a shock to them. They may plead and beg to get you to say yes. This is your opportunity to practice self-discipline and practice saying no.

Your job is to stay firm in saying no. You may have to repeat yourself, though you don’t need to explain yourself.

4. Set Boundaries

Why is it easier to say no to kids than to other adults? Most likely because you have rules in place. No candy before dinner. Go to bed by 8 pm. These are rules that you stick to when it comes to your kids.

It helps to have other rules in place when you’re dealing with other people. For example, your boss may ask you to finish a report that requires you to work on Sunday.

This is a tough one because you fear that you’ll get fired or your boss will think that you aren’t dependable. At the same time, Sundays are important to you for multiple reasons – family time, church time, etc.

You can respond to your boss with something like “I can work on the report for two hours on Saturday, but my spouse and I have a strict rule of no work on Sundays. It’s important to me to respect that.”

Believe it or not, you’ll probably get more respect from your boss than if you constantly say yes.

If you do say yes, you’re setting up the expectation that you’ll be available to work on weekends.

5. What to Do with Empty Time in Your Schedule?

Have you ever cleaned out your closet, noticed that there’s a lot of empty space, and then went shopping to fill it back up again?

You may be tempted to do the same thing with your schedule.

Seriously, when you first prioritizing your schedule and you suddenly do have time to yourself, you may be tempted to fill up that space with something else.

It will feel awkward and weird because you have a break. Don’t fill it up. Do something for yourself. Go for a walk in the park, take yourself out to the movies, take a nap.

You’re going to have to give yourself a little time to adjust to having more free time. It’s completely normal to feel like you have to fill it up with 10 other things. Resist that urge. Keep practicing saying no.

Try to Say No For Yourself

When you say no, things will open up for you. We say yes because we’re scared that we’ll never get an opportunity again. We operate with a scarcity mentality that closes us off to more opportunities.

When we open up and operate out of abundance, we know that it’s OK to say no.

The end result is that we have more time in our schedule, more opportunities appear, and we can focus on our priorities – like self-care and health and fitness.

The reality is that you say that you don’t have time, but you’re just choosing to do something differently.

If you need the discipline to make that happen, read this post that shows you how to have more discipline.


Heather McDaniel is the founder of Invincible Women Fitness Academy, and a nationally certified fitness and nutrition coach. She helps women over 40 all over the world train their bodies, hearts, and minds so that they can live with confidence and joy.

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