5 reasons why saying “no” could be the key to your success

The hustle culture we live in usually means saying a resounding, unequivocal “yes” to everything. 

We think that saying yes to taking on that extra assignment this week will get us closer to the promotion we want.

We think saying yes to that last-minute business trip will get us in the new boss’ good books.

It’s not just on the job: hustle culture also has a way of permeating our personal lives. 

For example, we think saying yes to being a bridesmaid for our friend’s wedding—even though we don’t have the bandwidth—will show our bestie that no matter how much we have going on, we’re ready to drop everything when they need us. 

While you may get that promotion, get in the good graces of your boss, and have your bestie over the moon—you could also be left with burnout, stress, anxiety, and depression. 

Slowing down and saying no to some things can not only be a whole lot better for your physical and mental health, but it might also be the secret to your own personal brand of success. 

How is this possible, you might ask?

Here are five suggestions on the power of saying “no”.

1) Saying “no” is a way to set healthy boundaries

We are all expected to do things in the revolving roles we play in life: this could be in parenting and family dynamics, at work, and in social obligations, says Abigail Fagan from Psychology Today. 

“These roles can challenge our abilities to set boundaries. Learning about yourself and finding your inner power is crucial to your health and well-being.”

For instance, if it is important to you to create and maintain a work-life balance, then committing to saying no to a call or meeting outside of your regular work hours is essential. The success is in sticking to the boundary because your work life is intruding on your home life. 

Similarly, not responding to texts and calls from friends and family past a certain hour (unless of course, it’s an emergency or about something out of the ordinary) because you want to spend say 8:00 pm onwards with your spouse, is another boundary you can enforce. 

Of course, this also applies to social media. Not everyone you know or remotely know has to be your “friend”. “It’s okay to say no to a friend request,” emphasizes Fagan. 

“If you are uncomfortable with certain posts from followers perhaps you can tailor as much as possible what comes across your feeds,” she adds. “Sometimes these small steps towards setting boundaries can dramatically improve your mental health.”

2) Saying “no” is a sign of self-care

The act of saying no is actually a form of self-care, adds Fagan.

“Saying no to certain things can be an act of self-care by creating time or energy for things that help you feel better about yourself, your relationships, or your overall experience in this world.”

Saying no to an invitation, for example, even when it’s something you want to attend, but are stretched thin—gives you the chance to have more energy for it as well as less stress. 

I have to admit that like many people, this is something I find a bit challenging. I tend to take on too much because I really do want to do it all.

I figure I’ll just find time to rest after this “crazy period,” which is probably not the best way of pacing myself. 

3) Saying “no” allows us to more ability to make decisions for ourselves

The people at Synergy Health Solutions say that the power of saying no really comes down to the effects it has on our brains. 

“When we say no more often, we shift the way our brain thinks and reacts to situations, allowing us more ability to make decisions for ourselves,” they say. 

When you’re in the habit of saying yes, most—if not all—of the time, you’re teaching other people how to treat you. They’ll feel they have the right to ask you—even demand from you—to do things for them whenever they need. 

Saying no teaches people how you want to be treated, and it helps you to take care of you

“This has a tremendous effect on our mental health, as it allows us to value ourselves more. It also helps us to prioritize ourselves, and can even lead us to new opportunities that wouldn’t have been achievable by saying yes.”

4) Saying “no” can be a way to deal with our FOMO

people who avoid difficult conversations usually have these traits 5 reasons why saying “no” could be the key to your success

Many of us go-getters have FOMO—a fear of missing out.

We feel that if we say no to something—especially something we really want to do—then we’ll miss out on the experience and be bummed out about it. 

I remember interviewing MSNBC anchor Katy Tur last year when she was releasing her memoir. 

The journalist covered presidential contender Donald Trump during the 2016 election campaign. By the time the next election cycle rolled around four years later, Tur planned her pregnancy around it.

“I got pregnant around the midterms knowing when I got back from maternity leave that the campaign would really start to pick up,” she told me, laughing. 

“I would come back in the fall and that’s when the narrowed-down debates would begin followed by the primaries, so I would get the full scope of the campaign and not miss too much.”

Turns out the drama arrived early—by this I mean the Mueller Report. The report was based on the Special Council’s findings on Russia’s possible interference in the 2016 election. 

Tur wanted to be part of the big story so much that she entertained thoughts of putting off getting induced to avoid a C-section until the findings of the report were fully revealed. 

“I had covered the William Barr summary and wanted to cover the report itself—I knew it was coming out soon but I didn’t know when,” she said. “I was hoping it was before I left for maternity leave but I wasn’t so lucky.”

Turned out that the report was disclosed a couple of days after Tur gave birth. 

“I was bleeding from the incision and could barely stand up straight. I had this five-day child in my arms; I was sweaty and leaking and on heavy doses of Motrin and Tylenol but I remember texting the President of MSNBC and pleading with him to let me come in for one hour and cover the report,” she said. 

“He texted back to tell me that I was crazy. But I really wanted to come in for just a day and be part of that story.”

The moral of the story?

We don’t have to run ourselves ragged to be a part of everything. It’s okay to let go of things that we do want as much as the things that we don’t want. 

Your brain and your body will thank you. 

5) Saying “no” makes us less compulsive 

Sometimes we say yes all the time out of a sense of being compulsive. 

“People [might] feel naturally compelled to overdo it and say yes to any situation out of a compulsive nature,” says Synergy Health Solutions. 

This could be rooted in childhood when you “weren’t allowed” to say no to what was asked of you—particularly by controlling parents. 

Now, in adulthood, you continue the people-pleasing behavior as a way to be agreeable, keep the peace, and be liked by everyone.

It is okay for people to be annoyed with you. Actually, if they really care about you, they will understand. 

Take it from Hazel M. from UniteStudents who for years had a compulsion to say yes to the people in her life. 

Even when she did turn people down she would feel an immense sense of guilt for days afterwards. 

“But when you’re trying to juggle work, family, friends, and your general daily life, something has to give. And, for me, it did.”

She realized a couple of things. 

“Firstly, those people I was making a lot of effort for weren’t necessarily saying yes to me all the time, even if I was saying yes to them,” she says. 

Secondly, Hazel found that people were more understanding than she thought. That’s when saying yes took on a whole new meaning for her.

“Did I really need to manage a friend’s social media for free, just because they didn’t want to pay someone? Absolutely not. I already had a full-time job and it was adding unnecessary stress.”

Hazel says it took her a while to learn to say no, but her mental health is all the happier for it. 

When it comes to your personal spiritual journey, which toxic habits have you unknowingly picked up?

Is it the need to be positive all the time? Is it a sense of superiority over those who lack spiritual awareness? Or, as we talked about in this article, is it a compulsion to say yes all the time—even at your own expense?

The truth is that well-meaning gurus and experts can get it wrong. 

The result is that you end up achieving the opposite of what you’re searching for. You do more to harm yourself than to heal. 

In this eye-opening video, the shaman Rudá Iandé explains how so many of us fall into the toxic spirituality trap. He himself went through a similar experience at the start of his journey. 

As he mentions in the video, spirituality should be about empowering yourself. Not suppressing emotions, not judging others, but forming a pure connection with who you are at your core. 

If this is what you’d like to achieve, click here to watch the free video.

Even if you’re well into your spiritual journey, it’s never too late to unlearn the myths you’ve bought for truth!

Wendy Kaur

Wendy Kaur

Wendy Kaur is a Toronto-based journalist whose work has been published by The Globe & Mail, ELLE USA, ELLE Canada, British Vogue, Town & Country, and others.

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