How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty

Do you often find yourself saying yes to things when you know deep down you don’t have the time or energy to go through with it? Perhaps you pride yourself in your ability to help others but often neglect your own needs? I’m not here to judge or give you therapist-level advice, but I can give a few tips that have helped me feel more confident in saying no!

1. Know how long certain tasks take you and take things on accordingly.

In the past, I have been guilty of being unable to tell how long certain tasks would take me. When you are unsure of how long tasks will take, it is easy to take on more than what you may be able to handle. For instance, when someone would ask me to edit an essay for them, I used to think that it would only take me fifteen minutes at most. One day, I decided to time how long it took me to edit a standard essay, and I realized that it took me anywhere between thirty minutes to an hour. This might seem like a pretty long time to spend editing someone else’s work, but I want my friends to thrive! After I realized how long editing takes me, I was able to see more clearly if I could fit editing something into my schedule. This is also a great segue into my next point.

2. Help people who also value your time.

I don’t think that you should help people out solely based on the expectation of receiving something in return because that turns your helpful action into a selfish one. But you should be aware of when people are taking advantage of your time and energy. My friends and I often ask each other to edit our work, but we also respect each other’s busy schedules or when we have a lot on our plate. We never get angry if one friend edits one person’s work one day but not the next because we all respect each other’s time.

3. Be a part of organizations that value you.

If you are in a club or work for a company where your superior is constantly giving you more work, it is important for you to communicate how you are feeling with your current workload. People can be more helpful than we realize, but we often have to take that first step of being vulnerable to express that we aren’t in a place to complete a task. This can also apply to your classes and schoolwork too!

4. Say no.

The point we’ve been waiting for. Say no! If you know how much time you can allocate to doing tasks, have communicated with people you know and help out people that value your time, you should be able to start saying no without feeling as guilty.

Being helpful is a really great quality to have, but when you’re someone who prides themselves on their ability to help others, you can start to sacrifice your time and energy on things that aren’t a priority. It’s definitely hard to stop feeling guilty right way, but by acknowledging the tasks you have and validating your emotions, it can get easier! I think the saying that “you can’t pour from an empty cup” sums up the idea that you can’t help others until you are in a place where you can. Or at least, when you are in a place that it is better for yourself!