“Just say no.” For those of us who grew up in the eighties, this phrase has a particular connotation. But, saying no can do more for your life than keeping you away from drugs. In fact, learning to say no can be the key to living an intentional and balanced life. But there is a reason Why You Really Can’t Say No!

Nothing so earth-shattering about that, right? We all know that if we say yes to everything we’re asked to do or every opportunity we’re given, we’ll have no time to do the things that really sustain us. But, no matter how many times we hear it, saying no remains a major challenge for most women I know.

Why You Really Can’t Say No

So what gives? Why do we keep doing things we know will leave us frazzled and frustrated? I believe there are three patterns that keep us saying yes at every turn, despite our better judgment.


We’re probably all a little tired of hearing about fear of missing out at this point, but I believe it’s a major reason we struggle with saying no. What if that event you skipped turns out to be the most fun evening of the year? What if the client you’ve been trying to land is at that upcoming conference? What if your boss hands out that important assignment at the next meeting?

We’ve all had moments where we were afraid we might miss out on something if we said no. I’ve certainly spun myself into a “what if” frenzy fretting over the potential of missed opportunities before. This fear and self-doubt is uncomfortable, and we usually have no idea how to handle it. We simply aren’t ready to combat those thoughts when they pop up. And so we find ourselves saying yes, time and time again, even though we’re likely to be frustrated about it in the future.

Feeling Not Quite Good Enough

If I were more organized, I would have time to make it to that party.

If I don’t go to the conference, I will feel like I am not taking my career seriously.

I’ll skip the baby shower at work, but I know I will feel selfish.

When we think about saying no, the chatter in our heads reminds us of all the ways we think we don’t measure up. We’re selfish. We’re unorganized. We should be able to find a way to do it all.

Rather than admit to ourselves we’ll never be able to do it all and listen to our inner critic tell us we aren’t quite good enough, we say yes. Feeling overextended, rushed, and stressed is what we’re used to, and so it is comfortable.

It takes time and commitment to develop a new habit. It takes time to quiet the voice in your head that says you are bad for saying no. For many of us, that process is more than we are ready to take on.

Not Having Clear Priorities

To confidently say no, you must clearly understand what you want to say yes to.

If you don’t have clearly defined priorities, if you don’t know what really matters to you, this picture becomes fuzzy. You lose sight of what saying yes costs you in terms of what is most important.

Knowing yourself and what matters most to you, and prioritizing those things above all else will go a long way to helping you say no to opportunities that just aren’t right for you.

Learning to say no is a process, and it takes some practice. But, freeing up your energy and your schedule for the things that fuel you is life changing.

I’d love to hear from you. What’s one thing you’ve said yes to recently that you wish you’d skipped? Do you believe in Why You Really Can’t Say No?