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how to say “no” in 2021

I’m not going to talk about 2020 anymore, we’re over it, it’s gone. bye. but 2021.. that’s a different story. she is full of hope, anticipation, wonder, possibility and fingers crossed: travel, hugging friends, coffee shops, etc.

in my last post with 21 things to aim for in 2021, I spoke about wanting to have better boundaries at work. I want to preface this by saying I work for an amazing company who values me as an employee and values my mental health. these issues I will be describing are completely and 100% of my own doing. as an empath (and therapist), I often find myself fully booked for a week of clients and having another client call and say there’s an issue and they would like to be seen. me being me, I usually (in the past) would say okay and add them to the beginning or end of a day, thus making my days and weeks much longer and busier. while this happening once in a while isn’t such a bad thing, I was finding myself doing it over and over again- sometimes multiple times a week. in 2021, I am vowing to not overbook myself at work, but this is only one way I am vowing to say no in 2021. I also want to say no to: plans that make me feel stressed or unhappy and things I am not interested in.

in the past, I have agreed to things I didn’t want to do because I felt I had to in order to keep friendships, make friendships, keep my employers or family happy etc. I know i’m not alone in this but I feel like if anything lately, i’ve learned that life is precious and short (not that I didn’t already know that, but it’s been hammered home lately) and that we should be saying yes to things we really WANT to do and no to thing we feel obligated to do. but it’s hard, I understand (obviously, I suffer from Yes syndrome too-haha) so here are some tips i’ve learned along the way on how to say no in 2021.

how to make saying ‘no’ easier
  • understand why you are saying no: I put this first because for me it’s a big one. as someone who also suffers with anxiety, sometimes I say no because I am anxious- not because I don’t want to do it. so I have been trying to examine my reasoning for saying no (hence adding mindfulness to my 21 things to aim for in 2021 <3) would I probably enjoy this experience if I wasn’t anxious about it? if the answer isn’t an absolute “no”, I tend to give it a try, but if it’s something i’m definitely not interested in, it’s a “no” for me.
  • be direct and avoid fluff with your communication: i’m guilty of adding fluff. I try to make the ‘no’ feel less bad, when in reality it may not feel bad to them at all. being direct can be hard for many people because we usually don’t have a lot of practice with good communication. that might sound crazy because we communicate everyday, but as a therapist who has seen a bazillion clients, I can tell you, communication is not usually our strong point.
  • you don’t have to explain yourself, but if it helps you say no then go for it: sometimes I maybe would enjoy the experience but I just don’t have time in my schedule. in situations like this I may explain that I would be up for it another time, if the opportunity comes again, but at the moment, I just can’t make it work.
  • offer other options, if possible: I have learned to do this one a lot with my job. if I am already booked for a week and someone calls wanting an appointment, I simply say, I am all booked for this week, but I can put you on my cancelation list and if someone cancels I will certainly give you a call and offer that appointment time. this makes my Type A/fixer/ personality feel better about a ‘no’.
  • let go of the guilt: i’m ending with another huge one for me. once I say no, I tend to feel bad that I’ve let someone down (I am getting better at this but it’s still there in small doses). I know we’ve all heard that old adage “You can’t fill from an empty cup” “It’s not your responsibility to make others happy” “You can’t be all things to all people” the list can go on and on. point is, you only get one you and only life- let’s not waste it doing things that we can’t stand doing or running ourselves into the ground trying to make others happy (it’s an impossible job incase you haven’t picked that up yet 🙂 ) so let go of the guilt and work to be okay with the boundaries you are setting for yourself.

in conclusion, in 2021, say yes to you and the things that make your spark shine and no to things that you feel obligated to do. let us know below in the comments if you have any other tips for making saying ‘no’ easier.

♥- J


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