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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

The word “no” has a pretty negative connotation attached to it. One of the most prominent assumptions that follow this word is rejection– rejection of a person, event, place, object, or idea. However, the word “no” can be a positive thing. It can enforce change, protect values, and set boundaries. Here’s a summary of my journey in learning to say “no.” 

ADDRESS PEOPLE PLEASING

I have struggled with people pleasing. The fear of letting people down is real. Now while it may be a real experience, if not addressed, it can lead to burnout rather quickly. I found myself saying “yes” to every event, every meeting, and every hangout in the organizations I am a part of here at Virginia Tech, and in my relationships. While I wanted to participate, I got into a habit of spreading myself too thin. I feared that if I didn’t show up to everything, I would in some way be letting the people in my life and my organizations down. In my head, I thought I was succeeding by keeping my daily schedule filled to the brim. I had a misconception of accomplishment. I found myself completely overwhelmed and my mental health took a toll as a result. It was crucial that I addressed this desire in me to people please at the expense of my mental health. I had to realize that if I don’t show up for myself that hinders how I show up for those around me. 

SETTING BOUNDARIES

Learning to say “no” to things and people is learning to set boundaries. I had to practice the balance between upholding commitments and taking time to rest. There are certain commitments that you must uphold in relationships, academics, and clubs or organizations. Then there are aspects of those things that are okay to limit. I had to learn that it was okay to decline some events or hangouts for me to relax, rest and refresh by spending some quality time alone. By learning how to incorporate balance into my life, I found myself in a better place physically, mentally, and emotionally. I was less tired, less stressed, and more motivated. A weight had been lifted that I was never meant to carry in the first place. I began to not only show up for others but also show up for myself.

HOW YOU SAY IT

Everyone is familiar with the saying, “It isn’t what you say, but how you say it.” Kindness, transparency, and respect are all keys to the power of your “no”. When we decide to set boundaries and decline certain events or hangouts, it’s essential to do so with care. By being transparent with people, we create an atmosphere of sincerity. A simple “Hey, I can’t make it today. I need some personal rest. I need to get some things done. I am a bit overwhelmed today,” are all great ways to communicate authentically about the why behind our “no.” This is also a reminder to extend the people in our own lives grace when they may need to say “no.” We are all human and humans need rest. Let’s take proactive steps to protect our health across the board with compassion, respect, and sincerity. 

Grasp onto every moment of life, but pace yourself. Sometimes we need to step back, slow down and say “no.” That’s okay. That’s choosing a life of health for yourself and those around you.

Simone Smith

Virginia Tech '25

I am a sophomore at Virginia Tech pursuing a major in communications and a minor in digital marketing. I enjoy reading, painting, dancing, writing, nature, and hanging out with friends.
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