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The Power of Saying No

Written By: Veronica Hislop

Say YES to the power of saying NO.

A couple of years ago in the space of a 6-week time frame, my life completely changed. Not only had my life turned upside down, but it had turned inside out. Totally skewed with the extra responsibilities like caregiving, my life had become distorted, uncentered and unbalanced.

For one thing, I had not set boundaries on what I would say “YES” and “NO” to. I took on more and more responsibilities just because it was expected of me. As I tried to navigate my busy lifestyle, I became overwhelmed, overstressed and overextended.

Truth be told, I had lost my way.

Up until then, I had considered myself to be a pretty smart cookie: a Registered Social Worker, Trained Family Therapist, Trauma Counsellor, and Certified Life Relationship Coach, but somewhere along the way, I had missed the class, the one on boundaries, the one where you learn to embrace saying “yes” to the power of saying “no.”

Not only had I missed the class, but I hadn’t learned the lesson.

But as we all know, when we miss the learning from a life lesson, the Universe will continue to send us more experiences until we get it. But like many women, I ignored the signs, dismissed them and put them aside to be dealt with at a more convenient time.

It can happen to the best of us highly competent, caring, kind, compassionate women, strong women, women who have devotedly learned to care for others; after all, it is part of our genetic disposition. We take on too much, expect too little, and forget to set clear boundaries and limits for ourselves. But here’s the thing, if we don’t respect our own boundaries, how can we expect others to respect them or even know what they are?

What are boundaries anyway, you may well ask?

Personal Boundaries are the limits and rules we set for ourselves within our relationships. A person with healthy boundaries can say “no” to others when they want to; they are also comfortable opening themselves up to intimacy and close relationships. People with healthy boundaries know who they are, what they stand for and are able to stand in their power and assert themselves respectfully when needed. They cannot be manipulated and do not struggle with guilt and feeling responsible for other people’s emotions.

Setting healthy boundaries helps us to maintain the right balance in our lives. We show up clearer; we show up healthier; we show up grounded. This allows us to present our best selves to others who benefit from the best that we have to offer.

What I learned from this particular life lesson was simply this. When I set those boundaries for myself by saying “no,” I take responsibility for my mental health, my own sense of wellbeing, and the need for my own self-care.

As Lynda Hall says, “healthy boundaries are the gates and fences that allow you to enjoy the beauty of your own garden.”

When I stopped being angry at myself for not setting clear enough boundaries with the people in my life, I began to take responsibility for managing my stress.

A key component of my stress management plan was to set clearer limits with people and reestablish healthier boundaries in my life.

What do I mean by that?

We are the ones in the driver’s seat of our lives. We are not reactive. We are not victims.

We are the drivers.

We get behind a situation before it gets in front of us.

We take action.

We set limits with the people in our lives.

We set boundaries.

Quietly and calmly, we stand in our own personal power without over-explanation or guilt, knowing that this is vital and necessary for our mental health.

When we fall off the wagon, we get back on quickly.

We know who we are, we know what we stand for, we can articulate it clearly to ourselves, and we can articulate it clearly to others.

We program our own GPS.


“NO.” I’m sorry, but I just don’t have the time.

I don’t want to say “NO,” but I have to.

I don’t want to say yes and then let you down.

I would love to, but my husband and kids would freak out if I take on anything else.

My resolution this year is to start saying “NO “no more often.

“NO.” I’m not comfortable with that.

“NO.” I can’t give you an answer to that right now.

I’m going to say “NO,” but I ‘ll let you know if something changes.

“NO.” I have to pass on that.

“NO.” I can’t say YES.

“NO.” Not right now.

“NO.” Not at this time.

“NO.” Cross me off your list.

“NO.” I just don’t have that to give right now.

Saying “YES” to yourself will often mean saying “NO” to someone else. If we respect who we are, we can do this quietly, calmly, and stand in our power.

Of course, those who are used to us operating from their agenda will always try to push back. They may even try to manipulate us into doing what they want and try to make us feel guilty for asserting our own rights and needs.

If you want to feel more positive and better about yourself, if you want to let go of your struggle with overwhelm and resentment, you had better learn to develop some strong boundaries. The simplest way to start that process is by learning the power of saying “NO.”

Let me ask a few questions.

What problems are weak boundaries creating in your life?

Stop and think as to whether you have people in your life that leave you exhausted, drained after spending time with them. This might be a space where you start to examine your relationships and the state of your boundaries.

Is there anything that holds you back from setting stronger boundaries?

Stop and think as to whether you are involved with relationships where you feel resentful, those relationships where there’s not enough reciprocity. These are the relationships where you are doing too much, the other person is doing very little, and there is not enough give and take.

What do you think will happen if you don’t make any changes to your boundaries?

Stop and think as to whether you are a people pleaser. That is, you always strive to play nice and keep the peace, you don’t want to rock the boat, upset the apple cart, and as a result, you often end up in situations where people take advantage of you.

If you answered YES to any of the above questions, there is only one word for you, BOUNDARIES.

Simply put, any relationship that continuously upsets your wellbeing, peace of mind, self-respect and self-worth is a relationship that needs healthier boundaries.

Understanding the importance of embracing your personal power means taking responsibility for how you allow yourself to be treated by others. It means owning and taking responsibility for your feelings and needs, as well as learning to say “NO” to things that are not beneficial to your mental health and wellbeing. Having healthy boundaries advances your self-esteem, your self-value, your self-confidence, your sense of self-respect, and your self-worth.

To find out more about yourself and your boundaries, Take the Personal Boundary Quiz.

See the link here.

Veronica Hislop Em-Powered-Solutions 416-529-1606

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