Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Why is it so hard for women to say no? As women, we have been socialized that being compliant makes us more likable. 

I spent most of my life unable to say no. Even when I wanted so desperately to say no. Even when it went against my best interest to say no. Even when I was terribly inconvenienced. I would grit my teeth, say yes, and then be mad as you know what.

bouquet of roses

I remember when my second husband asked me to marry him. I wanted to say no, I meant to say no, but he had the ring and he looked so pathetic hopeful. I mean I couldn't hurt his feelings, could I? 

Don't get me wrong, I have two incredible daughters and three amazing grandchildren who I wouldn't trade for anything, and I mean anything. However, what made me put his interests above my own well-being?

It wasn't just big things that I couldn't say no to. It was also small everyday things. It was as if I had a sign taped to my back that said ASK LAURA SHE CAN"T SAY NO. 

butterfly on flower

I have gotten up out of my sick bed and run to the store because someone needed something and apparently I was the only one capable of getting it. I have walked to a store in a blizzard, with bad knees, uphill both ways (okay, slight exaggeration) because no one else could get the milk. I have stood in front of a crowd of people at a podium, leading a conference, even though I was quaking in my shoes and didn't want to do it. I have.......well I'm sure you get the picture.

A few years ago I learned to say no. I remember when my mom told me that my brother, who we hadn't seen in five years, had decided to come for Thanksgiving and cook our dinner. Isn't that wonderful she said. I told him you would clean up the kitchen after the meal. 

NO, NO, NO!!!!! 

angry woman

After that little incident, I turned in my Thanksgiving kitchen duties. I decided to eat out at a fancy restaurant, let someone else cook the dinner, or just stay at home and eat a cheese sandwich.

One time my sister asked if I would drive her to the grocery because she didn't feel like driving. Okay, I said, because I could pick up a couple of things for myself. When it was time to go she showed up at my bedroom door, credit card in hand, and said she didn't feel like going so could I just pick up her things as I was already dressed with my makeup on. (we have been down this same road so many times I've lost track) 

NO, NO, NO!!! 

When I first learned to say no I would spend forever explaining why I said no. It was as if I thought I was going to fall out of favor with the requesting person. Ummmm!!! if that person stopped liking me because I said no, then do I really want to have them in my life? 

learn to say no without explaining yourself

So now I am learning to just say no, and if the person starts asking me why not, I no longer feel like I have to explain my answer. No means no, and I have found that the more I do it the easier it gets, and when I do say yes I think the yes carries a lot more meaning.

It hasn't been easy making the transition from yes to no, but it gets easier each time I do it. It doesn't mean I won't do anything for people, but it does mean I won't allow myself to be taken advantage of, and that seems like a pretty good thing to me.

Saying yes when you mean no affects both your emotional and physical well-being. Pay attention to signs of stress in your body when you utter that no. 

Are your muscles tense, your teeth clenched? Do you develop a headache, feel resentful? Do you feel that you are being taken advantage of?

healthy habits: just say no

Just saying no when you don't want to do something is a healthy habit that will lead to greater self-esteem and a happier you. 

Read more Healthy Habits posts.

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  1. I still feel guilt over saying no....earlier this year! lol But it's not as big of a problem for me now as when I was younger. I have support with this one though. Thanks for another wonderful article in this series. I look forward to it every week!

  2. Saying no is always so hard. I have felt guilty many times throughout life to say no. As I am getting older I can say no more now than I did when I was younger. Great post Laura. This is a topic I think we all struggle with. Have a great day today. xoxo

  3. Laura, I love this post! It is me as well. Always saying yes when I mean no. It is hell on our minds and body, this stress of not being able to say no. Your examples were right on target for me.

  4. Oh, boy, is this me! I am not good at saying no! The guilt gets me every time, but then, yes, clenched teeth and feeling resentful. Fantastic post, Laura.

  5. For sone reason as woman we feel guilty saying no. I do it now that I'm older. Sometimes it's just NO.

    Great posts you have been sharing

  6. I think as females, we were taught growing up to people pleasers. Of course, as we get older, we learn what a disservice it is not to use our voices how WE please! I have been able to say no much easier now that I'm older.

  7. Great post Laura! That is ME to a "T" also... for many many years! Got into two marriages saying yes, when I should have said NO.. and I knew in my gut and heart I should have said no! Saying yes to things your gut says you should say no to, has led me to many regrets and unpleasant things that I wish I could change now. I'm learning too, as I get older, to say no, but I still find it hard and feel I have to explain it.. and I may agonize for days over how to say no and explain it, and not feel like I'm disappointing that person! I've been a people pleaser all my life, but the last few years, I go more with my gut, and if it says NO, then I say no! It is so unhealthy to stress over it too. Thanks for your great insights! Marilyn

  8. You wrote once about second sister moving to third sister - and leaving you to clear HER home and look after your mother. (I can still hear the echoes of my indignant NO) So glad you have well earned your happier and kinder life now.

    Much later I had my own round of saying no to my middle sister.


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