“My first thought is usually, ‘Well I AM free…'”

When to say no

I’m a people-pleaser. Like, big time. I’m Monica on Friends (my absolute favorite TV show), on the phone with an irate Mrs. Green, saying, “Oh my God, my ass is sweating!”

It’s so hard for me to let people down. When I know someone’s disappointed and it’s my fault, I feel extremely guilty. And this is correlated to the size of the let-down.

Probably the most difficult thing is when others ask us for little favors, which may not seem like a lot of effort on our part. It could be a simple, “Hey, can you switch shifts with me?” or maybe a, “Could you volunteer at this event?” My first thought is usually, Well I AM free…

But sometimes it’s followed by, But shoot, I was planning to do _____ then. Oftentimes, I’ll take the little inconvenience if I can do something to help someone out.

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I recently heard of a concept called decision fatigue.

Have you heard of it? It pretty much means that the more decisions you have to make in a certain span of time, the more prone you are to mental exhaustion from them. This leads to making poor/rushed decisions, increased anxiety from the overwhelm, and eventually a feeling of unhappiness.

I think the same principle applies to favors and propositions.

The more we’re asked of, the more we struggle to balance. While in the moment they may seem small, these demands can eventually catch up to us and cause a number of harmful things: panic attacks, depression, a hurtful confrontation between friends/coworkers, etc.

“Don’t get caught in favor fatigue. When you want to, say no.”


By the way, if what you need is HOW to say no, here are two best-selling books for just that (and a new book by Rachel Hollis, the best-selling author of Girl, Wash Your Face):

When to say no…

Like I said, I usually am a “yes” person. “Sure, I can do that real quick.” “Yeah, I don’t mind taking that on.” But the little things add up. #favorfatigue

So when should you say no?

You certainly shouldn’t say no to everything. Life would be pretty boring if you didn’t ever add responsibilities or experiences. You wouldn’t get far at work if you refused to take on new projects or learn a new skill. And your friends probably wouldn’t feel they could rely on you if you never agreed to water their plants while away or showed up to support their achievements.

So where do you draw the line?

1. When it will mentally exhaust you

Stress and anxiety are increasing in society. They continue to build every day as more things are expected of us. I attribute this to the growth of social media and the pressures put on younger generations by older generations about what it means to “adult.” (But that’s a topic for another day.)

We’re supposed to “have it all together.”

Nice outfits, perfect hair, full face of make-up, white teeth, physically fit, eat healthy, cook at home, take cute photos, be witty on social media, do house chores, pay bills on time, pay credit card on time, put money in savings, put money in retirement, have a prestigious job, be a go-getter at said job, make lots of money at said job, get plenty of sleep, drink lots of water…GAH, I feel like I’m writing my own to-do list and I’m already mentally wiped.

With everything on our plates, it’s so hard to not get bogged down just by daily life.

When you feel things catching up to you mentally, it’s a sign that you can’t take more on at the moment.

Example: new project at work, but you already feel overwhelmed.

Talk to your manager. If the project is an option and you don’t have to take it, don’t! Seriously, sometimes you have to put your health and well-being first. If it’s more of an assignment but you know you can’t handle it, a good manager will listen to your concerns and help figure out a way to make it work. Don’t settle for less.

Example: a friend asks you to dog sit for the weekend, but your kids are sick, your husband’s going out of town, and you have so many errands to run/chores to do.

It’s okay to say no. Good friends will have your best interests at heart and understand. And if you can, try helping them find an alternative.

My only caveat to this is if you’ve already agreed to do something, try your hardest to stick to it. If your weekends are usually mayhem and you know something’s already going to make it more challenging (husband is gone), say you can’t from the get-go!

2. When it will physically exhaust you

Overextending yourself physically is the worst! We’ve all done it, too. You’re so freaking tired, but you still volunteer to direct runners at a 7AM 5k. And even though you’ve been up since dawn, you agree to support a friend who’s playing at a coffee house that night. You barely make it to bed before passing out from sheer exhaustion, and completely forget to set your alarm for work in the morning.

In college I was a coxswain on the men’s rowing team my freshman year. Every week day I was up at 4:45am. Can you guess how well I juggled my practices, classes, exercise, social life, and sleep? Here’s a hint: I would find myself falling asleep in my statistics class more often than not. My body suffered from those early mornings. Although being a coxswain was a very rewarding experience, I couldn’t continue it past freshman year.

Learn from my mistakes. If you think that something will leave you falling asleep at inopportune times, it’s an appropriate time to say no.

3. When someone’s asking for the wrong reasons

If you don’t trust the person doing the asking or they don’t seem to have the best intentions, question whether you should say yes. While I like to believe the best in people, don’t agree if someone seems to be deliberately setting you up for failure.

Likewise, if a friend or coworker is continuously asking you for favors without thinking of the toll it could have on you, consider letting them know. We all know how important self-care is nowadays. You can’t care for others if you don’t care for yourself first.

4. When it doesn’t excite you

If an opportunity or commitment doesn’t really excite you, say no! More often than not, you’ll regret your uncertain acceptance down the road.

This especially goes for long-term agreements. Don’t be a Sunday School teacher at church if you don’t think you’d enjoy it. Don’t join the PTA if meeting attendance sounds more like a chore. For one, you’ll have more strain with less fulfillment; and two, you won’t even have the passion to give it your all.

Not an enthusiastic yes? Then no thanks!

Ever struggled with saying yes vs. no? Share your experience and what you learned from it in the comments!

For more like this, check out my post Have to Choose Between Money Vs. Happiness? Here’s What to Do!


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