It Is Hard To Say No

Why It Is So Hard To Say No

It’s hard to say no!

Does the thought of saying no fill you with dread?

Sure, you enjoy being helpful. You love servicing others. It gives you a warm feeling in your belly…well, it used to.

Recently, you’ve just been so tired and worn out. You feel like you give and give and give without end. And a lot of that comes down to not being able to say no.

I understand. I’m an empath and it pains me to say no. I’m deeply moved by people’s struggles and I yearn to help others. But I was doing so in a way that was unhealthy for my well-being. I ended up feeling miserable, resentful and behaving in a passive-aggressive way. Yep, I honestly hate to admit that. And my big-heart was totally confused. Maybe you feel the same.

It’s confusing because you honestly do want to help others. But the balance has gone out of whack and you’re neglecting yourself to the point of burn-out. So this post aims to dig into 8 of the reasons why it is so hard to say no. We’re going to shine a light on what’s going on behind that tiny word, in an effort to shift the balance back to a healthy place.

Take a look and see if any resonate with you.

1. You’re Scared

It sounds crazy, but one of the main reasons why it is so hard to say no is fear.

  • Rocking the boat
  • Hurting someone’s feelings
  • Disappointing someone
  • Not being a team player
  • People thinking you aren’t such a nice person after all
  • Appearing selfish or rude
  • Abandonment – that Nancy won’t want to be our friend anymore
  • That person’s resulting anger
  • Feeling guilty – and an overwhelming desire to fix everything

So, what happens if you say no and the other person feels disgruntled?

Well, they’ll get over it! Don’t say yes because of pressure or demands – from them or yourself.

Don’t passively comply while you resent it on the inside.

Plus, Nancy will have a better experience with someone else who really wants to do that thing you don’t want to do. If you do say yes, you’re basically lying to her. She’ll sense your lack of enthusiasm and resentment. She might even feel annoyed with you for saying yes.

Letting fear dictate your choices means that you won’t live to your full potential.  So, despite the scariness of it, saying no is essential if you want to take back control of your life.

2. You Want To Help

It’s natural to want to help others and be a good person. We’ve all seen movies of heroes and read stories of famous humanitarians. Those who selflessly sacrifice themselves to contribute to the good of society.

But what we don’t see, behind the scenes, is that these people have usually contributed to themselves first. They took the time to become self-aware and understand their purpose and from there, they were able to help others in such a profound way.

So wanting to help is admirable, but do the groundwork, and take care of yourself first.

3. Saying Yes Gives You Purpose

Another reason why it is so hard to say no is that saying yes gives you purpose. When you have someone to help (or save), it gives you a sense of direction. And it feels pretty good! So, even if you’re already busy and overstretched, you end up saying yes because it will make you feel valuable.

But this only happens when you haven’t taken the time to uncover your real purpose. You don’t have to earn your worth by helping others. You are valuable regardless.

Now, I know the waters are getting murky here. I’m not telling you not to help others. And perhaps helping others really is your life’s purpose. But, I want to prevent you from using helping others as a crutch to make you feel good. It’s important that you look at your own needs and accept that you have value first.

4. You Need Approval

It’s normal to want to be liked and connected with other humans. I believe there are studies which prove this was how we evolved to survive. But what’s not healthy, is the need for constant approval from others.

This is one of the key reasons why it is so hard to say no.

You’re fully capable of many great things and have survived real hardships. So, why do you need to continually earn approval from others in order to feel good about yourself? Could it be that you’ve simply forgotten how awesome you are already? Give yourself time to ponder these questions the next time you feel like you can’t say no.

5. You Want To Impress Others

If you want to understand why it is so hard to say no, ask yourself if you’re afraid of showing weakness. Particularly to other women.

I get it. You want to look like you’ve got it all together. Like you have it all under control. Here’s an example list of a ‘got-it-togetherness’ that I hear from some of my friends. Yours might look totally different, but you understand where I’m going with this.

  • Career on track
  • Hair done daily
  • House looks beautiful
  • Dinner on the table at 6pm
  • Kids are acing school
  • Your nails look perfect
  • You’re wearing designer shoes
  • Fill in your blanks!

My list of ‘got-it-togetherness’, once included Bento-Box style lunches for my kids – to the extent that I ordered star-shaped-egg-moulds from China. Mental.

Now, imagine you’re trying to impress Nancy, by having everything together, when all of a sudden she drops the bombshell.

“Can’t you just put this report together for me by 3pm?”

“Won’t you just throw something together for the bake-sale tomorrow?”

You’re far too busy but are desperate to impress Nancy, so you say…”Yes!”.

Urgh!  Once you free yourself from that self-imposed list of ‘got-it-togetherness’, you will find it FAR easier to say no.

6. You Feel Obliged

Saying no is not the usual response in society – especially for women.We’re taught from a young age that assertive women are difficult, rude or rebellious – and then we wonder why it is so hard to say no. So, you might feel like you have no choice but to say yes. 

Try to remember, that you always have a choice. This is your life and you have limited resources. The person asking of you has a choice too. They can ask someone else, or even feel empowered to help themselves. So, even though it might feel awkward, do not feel obliged to say yes!

7. You Feel Guilty

Feeling guilty sucks. I won’t deny it. And this is perhaps the main reason why it is so hard to say no.

What would you do to avoid the feeling of guilt? Say yes to just about anything – even if you are already busy, or just don’t want to?

Sure, saying no might upset, hurt or inconvenience Nancy. And she probably won’t like it, but she is an adult who is responsible for meeting her own needs. Even if her needs are valid, even if she is desperate, you still have the option to decline.

You’re not selfish for saving some of your time, energy and other resources for yourself. 

Ps. Some people use guilt as a way to control you into doing something that they want from you. (eg ”If you loved me you would…”) See it for what it is and don’t allow it to take your power. 

8. You’re Avoiding Growth

This one will probably feel the worst for you to read – because I’m calling you out. Yes, you and your big heart. Could it be that you dedicate your life to helping everyone else so that you don’t have to admit your own dreams?

“I’d have loved to go back to college, start that business, travel the world, learn to play the piano, but I was so busy helping everyone…”

Why is it so hard to say no? Because then you’d have no excuse for failing to live out your potential?

Ooo, that’s deep. Did it make you feel urgh? Then maybe there’s some truth in it. Sit with it. Journal it. Meditate. Don’t stuff it down!

Take Away

Whether only 1 or all 8 of these reasons resonated with you, there’s a key message that I’d like you to take away from this post.


ARE worthy of your own success and dreams.

Have a PURPOSE beyond helping others.

DON’T have to earn value through sacrifice.

Believe this to be true. When you finally feel comfortable saying no and filling your own cup first, you’ll be in such a place of strength that you’ll be able to help other more than ever before. And it will feel SO good!

The Bottom Line

Understanding why it is so hard to say no will go a long way in helping you to set boundaries. It’s a skill that will become easier with practice. And believe me, it’s worth the effort to learn because it’s the foundation for a more fulfilling life!

If this is something you would like more guidance with, you may find my course useful. It teaches step by step, how to say no and how to set boundaries. You can find more information here.

Thank you for taking the time to read. I’d love to hear which of these reasons why it is so hard to say no resonated with you. Drop me a comment below or find me on social media to discuss! @itslisawelsh

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