The "N" word

Why is it so difficult to say "no"?

Do you get an impulsive urge to agree to do things for people that ultimately leave you feeling resentful and stressed out, leaving little room on your plate to do the things you enjoy doing?

Have you ever stopped to consider why it is that you neglect your own needs to meet those of others?

Are you afraid that you may appear rude, unkind, hurt someone's feelings, disappoint someone or even make them angry?

Having people think negatively of you may feel to you like the ultimate rejection. Could the urge to say yes come from a lack of self-value and self-confidence?

Have you ever considered where these beliefs come from?

As a child saying no to your parents, teachers, grandparents etc would probably have been considered as being rude, and you may have been told off for asserting yourself in such a way.

Sadly, we can hold onto our childhood beliefs and continue to associate saying no with being bad mannered, selfish and unkind. By saying no, we will feel humiliated, guilty and ashamed. The fear of being alone, rejected and abandoned can evoke a knee-jerk 'yes' response.

Developing conditions such as generalised anxiety, depression, OCD and Panic disorder are all very real side-effects that can occur from the inability to say no and implement healthy boundaries.

How can setting boundaries help?

Saying no is just the tip of the iceberg into establishing personal boundaries. Healthy boundaries can help you demonstrate, to others as well as yourself, limitations as to what you will and won't accept within these relationships. The ability to set boundaries will promote relationships to be built on mutual respect, understanding, support and genuine care. You will find that the feelings of resentment and frustration begin to diffuse and the symptoms such as anxiety and depression lessen.

Seeking therapeutic support via accessing counselling and psychotherapy is a great place to begin to explore difficult feelings and emotions that are inhibiting you from establishing personal boundaries. Identifying where the value and belief system came from that makes it difficult for you to set clear personal boundaries can facilitate you to consider if this still fits into your own belief system as an adult.

An experienced therapist will provide you with a reflective space to consider how you might begin to change your behaviour to begin to implement this new way of being, and that by learning to say no isn't such a bad thing after all.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

Share this article with a friend
St. Neots PE19 & Bedford MK40
Written by Donna West, MBACP (Accred)ACTO (Snr) Psychotherapist/Clinical supervisor
St. Neots PE19 & Bedford MK40

I have worked with an array of clients whom have accessed counselling for varying reasons that they feel are inhibiting them from living an authentic life. My role within the therapeutic relationship is to work alongside an individual to facilitate self-exploration and consider alternative routes that may lay before them.

Show comments

Find the right counsellor or therapist for you

All therapists are verified professionals

All therapists are verified professionals