How To Say No - And 5 Ways to Set Boundaries in a Healthy Way!
Photo Cred: Shvets | Pexels

Saying NO helps you prioritise yourself and your own energy and healing.


Johannesburg, South Africa (12 January 2023) – What if you declined a dinner invite, said no to an event your ex would be at, or even just said no to anything? This might leave you feeling a little selfish or guilty.

It doesn’t matter that you’re emotionally and physically exhausted or that your mental health is suffering. You might lie awake in bed, thinking about how you should have done something differently or been better in some other way. Saying no feels like a failure, like you’re incompetent or unequipped to handle the situation, and you might worry about how it affects the other person.

But if saying NO helps you prioritise yourself and your own energy and healing, are you really being selfish?

Even though it’s defined as being concerned with only your personal pleasure and profit, as well as lacking consideration for others, we still think of selfishness as the times when we’re simply putting ourselves first. We’re told we need to adjust our own oxygen masks first before helping others in a plane emergency. Or to ensure the scene is safe for you before helping anyone hurt. No one would call us selfish for following those instructions.

Sometimes the right thing is to be “selfish.” Don’t define your actions on other people’s judgements.

Be selfish when:

You need help in any way! – Don’t avoid asking for it! If getting help from a co-worker, psychologist, friend, or companion helps you stress less or feel better, this is going to be good for your stress levels and, ultimately your mental health.

You need to rest – When you’re tired, it doesn’t matter if it’s emotionally, mentally, or physically — it’s time to rest. Sometimes, that just comes down to sleep. Lack of sleep can cause trouble focusing, a weakened immune system, and memory issues, headaches. We often feel like we have to keep going. Sometimes sleep isn’t at the top of our priorities. Forcing yourself to be with others when you’re exhausted is also tiring.

You just need alone time – Social interactions can be exhausting for some people. There’s no shame in taking time for yourself. If you’ve been going nonstop, your mood is all out of whack, or you need to re-evaluate your relationships, now may be a good time to plan some alone time.

It’s time to end a relationship, job, or living situation – It’s never easy breaking up with a significant other, moving to a new city, or quitting a job. If you feel bad when you interact with someone or dread encountering them again, it’s time rethink your relationship. We often stay in friendships or relationships because we’re scared of hurting someone. But when it comes to relationships that are damaging, sometimes you need to put yourself first. It’s not self-sustaining to continue a relationship — or job or anything, especially one that’s in any way abusive — that no longer makes you happy. If something is affecting your well-being, it might be time to say goodbye. The balance of give-and-take is especially important when living with someone. Do you find yourself doing all the errands and chores when you get home from work while they come home and put their feet up? It’s important to have balance to avoid both resentment and fatigue. Depending on the situation, you may choose to talk to them, take a short break to recharge, find a way to schedule or delegate chores or cut them out completely. It’s not selfish to prioritise your own needs over others if the act of giving is causing you more harm.

To avoid burnout, after work or in your personal life – Everyone is susceptible to burnout or work exhaustion. Certain professions can be exceptionally draining. When burnout occurs, it can hurt both your professional and personal life. So when clocking-out time comes, truly clock out. No matter what you do, make sure you have time to separate yourself from work. Creating this work-life balance can help you avoid burnout and bring more happiness to your personal life. Take care of yourself. Don’t neglect yourself and your health to avoid feeling selfish. You can reduce your stress by being a little selfish now and then and practicing some good ol’ self-care.

Here are some ways to set boundaries in a healthy way:

  • First analyse if you want to do the thing suggested or not. If you’re not sure – tell the person you will get back to them.
  • You don’t have to answer anyone immediately – If you don’t know what to say – I tell them I have to rush to the loo and will chat when I get back, then I can think it through without any pressure.
  • Take the word “You” away when answering – make everything about yourself instead – That doesn’t work for me – I need dishes to be done/I think, I want, I feel… instead of saying something like: You’ve left dishes everywhere..
  • Give the other person options that work for you – people are quite lazy and usually go with one option, its’ not often that they will ask for more alternatives: l can’t meet you tonight but I could have coffee with you on Monday or lunch next Sat – what works for you? What do you think?
  • Do some Neurofeedback sessions to handle boundaries better, de-stress, get better sleep and recoup from this hectic year and family stresses over the festive season.

Whatever you do, remember to take care of yourself. And don’t forget, it’s never selfish to do so.

Sources: Kerry Rudman 
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About the Author

Brent Lindeque is the founder and editor in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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