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Black Minds Matter

Why Is It Important to Say No?

March 23 2021

Written by

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Alkeme Health

Dig into the power of setting boundaries and saying 'no'

You’re finally off work and receive a text from a friend. There’s this one thing they could use your assistance with. “It won’t take long,” you tell yourself. “It should only take five minutes.” But you are exhausted after a long day, and still have to pick up groceries. After all, five minutes can quickly turn into thirty. So you hesitate. Should you say “yes” or “no”? This question is something we all struggle with.

Lending a helping hand to friends and family is a rewarding part of life. But there is a line between showing love to those close to us, and overextending ourselves.

We lean on family and friends more than ever because of the pandemic. So how can we balance being a good friend or family member, while simultaneously respecting our own boundaries?

Alkeme Health spoke with therapist Paul B. Williams, LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) on the importance of boundaries and saying “no.”

“So many struggle with saying ‘no’ because no meant we couldn’t do something,” says Williams. “When we were younger, ‘no’ was described as a punishment and was often given without an explanation. The word ‘no’ wasn’t empowered in the form of a boundary. We have creatively found ways to decline without saying the scary word ‘no’ as if it were a forbidden word tied to our value.”

Does, “let me get back to you” or “my bad, I was asleep” sound familiar? For some reason just saying ‘no’ isn’t as comfortable. Instead, we come up with excuses or beat around the bush. While this may feel easier in the moment, this detaches us from the importance of how we expel our energy and the power in being definitive about our availability.

Because of this discomfort, establishing boundaries is often an evolving process. We first must learn our boundaries in order to respect them. Our relationship with the words “yes” and “no” go hand-in-hand as they relate to our self-respect. However, sometimes even our own families can make this difficult.

“Our family sometimes attaches value to yes and when we don’t say it, they tell us we aren’t worthy. Saying yes becomes too much when we are taken advantage of and we don’t have any time, space, or care for ourselves,” says Williams. “We start to feel stretched and there is no balance between what we give and what we receive. Not saying no and establishing boundaries can be draining emotionally, psychologically, mentally and physically.”

The boundaries we create for ourselves inform what we will allow in any given situation. The goal of saying “no” isn’t to enact a loss. It increases the space we are able to give to ourselves so that we can fulfill our own needs.

It can be difficult to take the step and do what’s best for you because it is often accompanied with guilt. It is important to see past this step because there is a stark difference between the guilt we feel for saying no and shame.

“Guilt is tied to what and why we do the things we do and shame is tied to who we are because we tell ourselves we are what we do,” says Williams. “This keeps us stuck in our behavior thinking we can’t do or be better. We get to decide what ‘no’ means to us and this is a way of empowering the word. No is a word of self-advocacy and self-care. Embrace it!”

Putting ourselves first is something a lot of us have to work toward. It is important that we don’t equate our self-worth with our availability to those around us. We won’t be of much help to others if we are spread too thin, tired, or irritable with the tasks at hand.

Taking the space you need is necessary. Self-care is so much more than a moment of peace. We have to prioritize, give time to, and protect our peace. The guilt that accompanies our boundaries will minimize so long as we recognize the betterment of ourselves. It won’t be easy, and it won’t happen overnight. But recognizing it and starting to take the initial steps is moving in the right direction, and that is something we should be proud of.



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Alkeme Health

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