One of the most common ways we create more stress for ourselves is by saying “yes” when we really want to say “no.” As women, we are conditioned by society to be helpers and to always want to lend a hand. As women entrepreneurs it’s often even worse because we feel we have to take every job no matter what, if we want our business to succeed.

Girl with hand up in "no" gestureI’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way. You can reduce stress and improve your self-esteem by being assertive and learning to say no like you mean it.

It’s not easy to say no, especially when it’s to someone you care about, or a client you feel you have to please. It’s especially not easy when you’ve already conditioned people to think you’ll always say yes to their requests. Since people are already used to getting what they want from you, you may find yourself wanting to give in just to keep the peace.

Even though you’d really rather say no, there are a few common reasons why you might say yes.

  • A low sense of self-worth leads you to believe that you’ll never get what you want, so it’s just easier to agree, say yes, and be done with it.
  • Arguments and disagreements are a huge source of stress for you, so you think you’re reducing your stress by saying yes to avoid a fight.

In reality, you are creating even more stress for yourself because you just agreed to do something that you don’t want to do for someone who takes you for granted. Your life gets thrown into chaos, leaving you feeling tired, frustrated, and resentful of the people you are helping.

Learning How To Say No

Learning how to say no is an essential skill in living a stress-free life. There is absolutely no need for you to take on extra projects or always be the one everyone calls at the last minute unless that’s truly what you want.

Here are a few tips you can use to make it easier to stand up for yourself and say no so that everyone knows you mean it:

Get your own priorities straight

Instead of always changing to accommodate others’ priorities, make it easy for yourself to say no by getting your own priorities in order. For example, if your first priority is spending time with your family in the evenings, make sure you are clear on that before saying yes to a commitment that will take you out of the house several nights a week. If you decide to accept the commitment, do it only because you want to, and because you are very clear on your own motives for saying yes.

Learn to schedule time for yourself

An easy way to see how much time you are taking to care for yourself is to check your calendar. How many times a week do you spend time caring for your needs, and how much of your time is spent taking care of other peoples’ needs?

You owe it to yourself to make sure you have time to meet your own needs. Because, really, it’s hard to care for everyone else if you’re falling apart at the seams.

If you are used to being accommodating, it’s so easy to let others’ expectations lead you to feelings of guilt and selfishness. Don’t do it!

Instead of automatically saying yes, make it a point to check your calendar and let them know that your schedule is full but you appreciate them thinking of you. If you don’t have your calendar with you, you can always say “I’ll have to check my schedule and get back to you.”

If it’s something you really don’t want to do, then make sure you stand up for yourself and give a flat-out “No. Thank you for the invitation, but that’s not something I can take on right now.” You don’t even have to justify it with a full schedule. You’ll find that most people, while they may initially be surprised at your refusal, will accept you at your word.

There will always be a few who will pressure you to change your mind. Don’t let them push you into saying yes unless it’s something you really want to do. And if you’ve already said no once, chances are it’s not something you should be changing your mind about.

It takes practice to learn to say “no” like you mean it. Stick to your decisions, pay attention to your own needs, and keep practicing. You’ll find that those occasions when you are tempted to give and change your mind are a lot less frequent as people being to understand that you really mean it when you say “no.” You’ll also find that you feel a lot less stress because you are standing up for yourself and making sure your own needs and priorities are met as well.

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