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Easily Pick Up the Art of Saying No

Easily Pick Up the Art of Saying No

I used to suck at saying no, but trust me: when you say yes too often and your life no longer feels like your own, you learn really fast!

For me, it wasn’t so much a fear of disappointing people that fueled my “Sure, why not?” attitude–it was my nonexistent sense of individuality. Saying yes was my way of figuring out what I did and didn’t want, like and don’t like. But when it came time to set boundaries, what felt like a gradual shift to me was sudden and shocking to everyone else.

Here’s why saying no is important:

  • If you say yes too much, the quality of every aspect of your life will suffer.
  • You’ll become scattered, stressed, and unable to focus on what’s truly important to you.
  • People will start to consider you enthusiastic, but unreliable.
  • Feelings of overwhelm, inadequacy, guilt and frustration will consume you.
  • Follow-through? What’s that? You’ll completely lose faith in your ability to reach your goals.

Regardless of why you always say yes, the most important thing you can do is equip yourself with ways to say no that won’t hurt or offend anyone. This is especially crucial in the beginning, since no one will be used to you saying no. Eventually, as you establish your boundaries, it will get easier on both sides.

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Ease Into Saying No

When I first started saying no, it wasn’t pretty. At first it was more of a “Nnnyes.” When I was finally able to get the entire word out, I wasn’t prepared for the second half of the equation: the part where I’d spend so much time justifying my “no,” I’d be too exhausted to accomplish what I wanted to with that time.

If you really suck at saying no, the best thing you can do in the moment is say, “Let me get back to you.” This will give you the opportunity to make an informed decision and practice a concise, firm “no” beforehand.

When it comes to the actual act of saying no, here are my favorite strategies to help you get a grip on your life again:

Saying No at Work

With the level of job insecurity flying around these days, it’s completely understandable to feel as if saying no at work will negatively impact your career. As it turns out, the opposite is true! By focusing on quality over quantity on the job, it shows you care about not only the outcome of the projects others are trying to add to your plate, but also about the overall reputation of your company.

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Start off by showing you understand the importance of what they want you to do, or appreciation for being thought of:

  • “I’d love to help you out, but…”
  • “It sounds like a fantastic project, however…”

Then let them know why you’re saying no:

  • “I already have several time-sensitive projects on the go…”
  • “It’s not my area of expertise…”

End with offering them a back-up plan:

  • “I could put you in touch with…”
  • “Debbie in PR is well-connected to the companies you’d like to partner with. Here’s her cell.”

There will be times when you really do want to work with the person in the future, so let them know you hope to be free for their next project (don’t say you definitely will–you don’t want to make a promise you can’t keep).

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Saying No at Home

Saying no to friends and family is especially tricky; you don’t want to hurt their feelings or disappoint them, but at the same time it’s important to voice your wants and needs and do things that are important to you too.

There are those friends and family members who are consistent when it comes to returning the favor, so you can easily say to them, “Sorry, I already have plans,” or, “Work wiped me, I really need to recharge,” and ask for a rain check. They’ll understand and appreciate the give-and-take of your relationship as much as you do.

Then there are those who are dramatic and needy by nature. It’s pretty much guaranteed that they won’t accept an answer like the above–they’ll want to make new plans right on the spot or try to talk you into doing what they want anyway. Remain firm with your answer, and don’t feel the need to continue justifying your reasons. Trust me, they’ll try to counteract everything you say just to get their way. They’ll get the picture eventually. If they don’t, respectfully say, “This is who I am. Take it or leave it.” If they “leave it,” it’s their loss.

The hardest part of saying no? The unavoidable guilt as your family member or friend gives you the “humane society” face–the big eyes, the chin quiver, the crack in their voice that makes you feel like the biggest tool on Earth. But here’s the thing: you’ve said no respectfully, and for good reason. It’s your time to do exactly what you want with, so why settle for anything less?

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The only thing worse than someone being disappointed in you is being disappointed in yourself.

How has saying no changed your life for the better?

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Krissy Brady

A women's health & wellness writer with a short-term goal to leave women feeling a little more empowered and a little less verklempt.

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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