How to Say No Without Feeling Shame

Set boundaries and say no with confidence.

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Photo by Isaiah Rustad on Unsplash

All my life I have struggled with saying .

Because I grew up in an abusive house I quickly learned to not voice what I wanted or what I needed.

I also quickly learned that me saying wasn’t heard or respected. I feared the consequences greatly if I stood up for myself.

If I told my father NO the consequences were scary.

I was name called.

I was criticized and told I would be nothing in the world.

I was blamed and accused for instigating his sexual attraction to me.

He would say it was my fault for his actions and feelings.

Therefore NO wasn’t a safe word for me. And when it came for me to go out in the world I struggled with saying NO.

I became a people pleaser. I became someone who was passive aggressive.

I exploded on people after ignoring my feelings and needs.

I scared people because I was unstable in my communication. I was rocky in setting boundaries. I sent mixed messages.

These were my coping mechanisms because of my fear around saying no.

I was trying to protect myself from the consequences of the past happening again.

I was afraid to be taken advantage of, manipulated, attacked or harassed.

So in essence I totally get it when someone tells me they struggle with saying NO.

They become people pleasers and empaths where they take on more than they can handle or need to from others.

This is a tough habit to break. It is scary to practice saying NO and setting boundaries.

But I swear the moment you do there is a sense of freedom and liberation.

You become yourself. You live from a place of being authentically you.

How I am learning to say NO without feeling shame:

  1. Pause before speaking. Literally take a moment and let that person know you need a sec to think about it. This practice of taking space gives you an opportunity to check in with what you need before operating from a place of autopilot.
  2. Check in with your body. If you feel yourself naturally contracting, your shoulders hunching, anxiety in your chest; listen. That’s your body trying to communicate exactly what you need which is also an indication that you may need to say NO.
  3. Decline: Politely decline with a thank you.
  4. Let go of explanations. Often times when we say NO we want to explain ourselves or WHY. Try to practice saying NO without having to explain yourself. See what happens. You may be pleasantly surprised that it is easier than you thought.
  5. Give yourself a pep talk or an affirmative statement. This statement can be a reminder of why you need to say NO without feeling bad or shaming yourself. This statement can be “I am honoring my boundaries and practicing self-respect”.

Saying no is a practice. Setting boundaries is a practice.

It is like any other skill. It has to be learned and practiced for us to realize it is okay to say NO without feeling bad about it.

Trust your intuition. Listen to your body and let your voice be heard. You deserve it.

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Self-help & mental health writer. Can't do small talk. Mama. Yogi. Coffee lover. Nature explorer. Get my free meditation mini-course here:

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