The Power of Saying “No”

By Felicity Dineen, LCPC

A statement I often hear from my clients is, “I don’t feel like I’m appreciated.” Feeling appreciated is one of the most rewarding, warm feelings a person can experience. On the other hand, a lack of appreciation often leads to feelings of sadness, anger, or resentment. On a daily basis we encounter our partner, children, and co-workers, all of whom have the capacity to make us feel appreciated and respected, or very much the opposite. Most commonly, when this feeling arises it is standard to place blame on the person who has elicited this feeling in us and feel it is their problem for creating the disconnect or resentment. However, I would encourage you to look inward for a moment and try to discover how your actions, behaviors, and words may have contributed to this lack of appreciation from others. 

It is a common belief that taking care of others and putting others needs before your own leads to feelings of satisfaction and love. This is certainly true, to an extent. There is no greater joy then seeing a loved one light up from excitement at random acts of kindness, taking a responsibility off their plate after a long day, hearing the word “yes,” and so forth. However, often times these random acts of kindness turn into expectations. Suddenly many people find themselves completing all of the household chores or being met with an aggressive outburst after hearing “no” rather then the typical “yes.” Your original intention of pleasing your partner, children, or co-worker appears to have backfired and you now feel overwhelmed and taken advantage of. The good news is you are not alone and there is always a way to work toward reestablishing a balance in your household or work place. It is a matter of asserting healthy boundaries and acknowledging the power of “no.”

“No” is often perceived as a dirty or mean word that gets met with a negative response.  As children we are often scolded or punished for using the word no, leading us to believe we are obligated to say yes even when we don’t want to.  I would encourage you to rethink your perception of the word no and begin to appreciate it for the power it has in giving you freedom to make your own decisions and assert your boundaries. It may seem foreign and even frightening at first to say no to things you have instinctively said yes to out of fear of others thinking negatively about you. You may, for example, receive backlash from your children who may suddenly have a list of responsibilities or expectations they are required to complete before socializing with their friends. Despite these seemingly negative responses, I would encourage you to soldier on and continue reserving the right to say no, because as time goes on it will become the new expectation.

I often ask my clients to think of the person they respect most in their lives and describe them during our session. Typically, I hear words such as strong, assertive, and firm but fair. These are all characteristics of someone who has healthy boundaries and can acknowledge that their needs are just as important, if not more, than those of the people they surround themselves with. In order to have a respectful, appreciative relationship with others, one must first respect and appreciate oneself.

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