Healthfully Selfish. It’s A Real Thing.

Think back to when you were little. What was your favorite word?

If you’re like most kids, it was no! — no to taking a nap, no to eating broccoli, no to brushing your teeth.

But these days, people assume you don’t know the word because the only thing that seems to come out of your mouth is the word yes.

A friend asks you to meet for coffee so she can complain about her boyfriend of the week. You say yes.

Your child’s teacher wants you to be classroom mom the week before your sister’s wedding — the wedding you’re helping her plan. Sure, no problem.

Saying <em>yes</em> to everything can backfire.
Saying yes to everything can backfire.

The only person you don’t say yes to is yourself, and your health (both mental and physical) is taking a dive. But you’re so programmed to put everyone else first that even the thought of saying no — and disappointing someone else — scares you.

How can you reclaim your time (and your sanity) and become healthfully selfish? First, you have to understand why you always say yes.

Why We’re Programmed to Say Yes

As people, we “want everyone around [us] to be happy,” Susan Newman, Ph.D, a New Jersey-based social psychologist, told PsychCentral. And for some people, they want to feel they’re important.

You have to understand why you always say yes.

Give Thoughtful Consideration Before Saying Yes

You might think that saying yes to every request will only help you, but it can backfire and often does.

Saying yes to every family function, every friend’s night out or every volunteer opportunity can leave you pulled in so many directions that you are no longer able to fully engage in the moment. It’s difficult to be present when you’re constantly trying to figure out how to budget your time and resources. Your relationships will also suffer.

We all know that one person who is always late, always preoccupied and always canceling prior commitments. Much of this can be avoided by being careful not to overextend yourself. If you’ve had a tough week at work and you want to cuddle up with a good book and a cup of mint tea on Friday night instead of going out for drinks with your co-workers, do it. You may feel some initial guilt about not being a team player, but a team is only as strong as its weakest link and you can’t give it your all when you’re stressed out and over-extended.

It’s difficult to be present when you’re constantly trying to figure out how to budget your time and resources.

How to Say No Without Freaking Out

Saying no is easier said than done, though. Right? Not if you understand how to do it.

  • Understand you’re saying no to the request, not the person. You’re probably worried that the person making the request will resent you for saying no — or think you’re mean. But they probably won’t see it that way. A 2014 study by researchers at Columbia University found that people tend to think they’re more assertive than they really are. So if you think you’re being pushy or mean to the person, you’re probably not coming off that way.
  • Change your language. Another study by researchers at Columbia found that saying I don’t instead of I can’t is one way to effectively extract yourself from commitments. The reason: I don’t sounds more assertive and like a moral conviction, while I can’t seems like it’s up for debate.

Understand you’re saying no to the request, not the person.

Your challenge is to say no to at least one request this week. It might be difficult to be “selfish,” but you’ll feel better — and more empowered — after you do it.

View More
Five Ways To
Unplug And Reconnect
Three Ways To Sneak in
Me Time
Is Forgiveness
A Super Power?