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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Amherst chapter.

“When you say yes to others, make sure you are not saying no to yourself,” said Paulo Coelho, a Brazilian author most known for his book The Alchemist. This quote by Coelho is embedded in the framework I now use to assess when it’s best to say no to my friends despite feelings of guilt or FOMO ( fear of missing out). For example, if saying yes to an impromptu walk at 1 A.M. during winter means saying no to my beauty sleep and warmth, the walk can wait. However, when making these decisions, the factors that come into play aren’t always so linear or straightforward. Maybe my friend had a bad day and needed someone to talk to, and in this case, I would probably want to comfort my friend. But perhaps I have to work at 6 A.M and also have to consider that. Being able to say no and set boundaries with loved ones should also accompany an understanding of oneself and priorities. Maybe quality time with loved ones is a priority for you, and other factors are secondary. If this is the case, you should go on that walk. Sleep and warmth take precedence for me; no, I’m not going on a walk at 1 A.M. during winter.

It has taken me a while to accept that it is okay to say no to my friends and loved ones. After all, these are individuals who I care about and whose relationships I value. The word NO, mainly directed towards a loved one, carried negative connotations of refusal and denial, which made me feel guilty. As a young girl growing up, I learned that I should always be there for my loved ones, that to love meant to be present and readily accessible. I felt saying no to a friend would make them think I did not value spending time with them. I thought my inaccessibility at times would signal I was apathetic to maintaining my relationships with my loved ones, and it felt like I would be disappointing them. Disappointing my loved ones is one of my biggest fears. However, when I did say yes to my friends, when I needed to say no, sometimes things turned out fine, and other times, it would affect my work, thus rendering me more stressed and eroding my emotional well-being. It’s important to remember that your loved ones aren’t minds readers, and setting firm boundaries communicates to them your capacities and breaking points in a given moment.

I recently had an epiphany; if I can’t say no to and set boundaries with my loved ones, how can I expect to set boundaries in other aspects of my life, especially in a work environment. Contrary to what you may think, your friends will not hate you because you can’t make it to game night or dinner. Yes, maybe they would be disappointed, but it wouldn’t change how they feel about you. If saying no to hanging out or dinner plans affects your relationship with a friend, maybe you need to reconsider if you want to continue being friends with that person. Your friends and loved ones have your best interests in mind and understand that life gets busy and complicated. They understand that when you say no, your response is related to the specific tasks or questions, they asked of you. Saying “NO” is not a projection about your love or commitment to them. (Except when you do say no to being in a relationship with them, that’s cool too).

Of course, it’s always easier said than done. Sometimes you can’t help the guilt of FOMO that comes with saying no, but this shouldn’t deter you from doing so if you believe saying no is what’s best for you. Saying NO and setting boundaries with loved ones is refreshing and gives one back the autonomy over their lives and decisions. Yes, spending time and doing things for our loved ones is essential but as Coelho mentioned in the quote, “when you say yes to others, make sure you are not saying no to yourself, ” it should never feel burdensome and especially not at the cost of mental health and well-being.

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Konah Brownell

U Mass Amherst '23

Konah is a Political Science and Journalism major at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She cares deeply about issues relating to race, gender, immigration, education, and the environment. Outside of Her Campus, Konah enjoys writing poetry and runs a poetry account on Instagram @sunflower.seed.s_