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STRONGER TOGETHER: Choosing You—Saying No to Others and Yes to Yourself

Last updated: 11/12/2023

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses the journey of prioritising yourself, setting boundaries, and saying 'no'.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

In recent years, I've come to appreciate the delicate balance between giving and preserving my own well-being. For the longest time, I wore the badge of a people pleaser proudly, always saying yes even when my plate was already overflowing. It took a personal revelation and a conscious effort to realise that saying no is not a sign of weakness; rather, it is an assertion of self-worth and a key to maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

In a world that often glorifies the word 'yes,' learning to say no has been a transformative journey for me. The turning point came when I was sitting in front of my computer, watching emails continue to drop in, and suddenly feeling an overwhelming tide of emotion rise within me. Not because I was feeling unsafe, unhappy, or unwell. To put it simply, I was drowning in commitments and obligations. Things that I had chosen to do, to keep others happy or to keep up with the demands of work, family, and personal aspirations. This will not be an unfamiliar story for many of you, yet many of us continue this merry go round of emotion until we reach the inevitable – burnout.

So, what is the secret to putting clear boundaries in place and saying no without feeling guilty? 

Embarking on the journey of prioritising yourself through saying no can be challenging, especially in the beginning. One of the keys to saying no assertively lies in understanding your priorities. Recognise your limits and be honest with yourself about what you can realistically handle. This self-awareness is crucial for maintaining your mental and emotional well-being.

Crafting a polite yet firm refusal is an essential skill. Instead of a flat-out rejection, consider expressing gratitude for the opportunity and then politely declining. For example, you could say, "I appreciate your trust in me for this project, but my current commitments won't allow me to give it the attention it deserves. I hope you understand." Or “Thank you for thinking of me, but I’ll have to pass this time.”

It's also essential to remember that saying no is not a rejection of the person making the request; it's a decision based on your own needs and priorities. Be assertive but empathetic, and most people will appreciate your honesty.

Creating a buffer is another effective strategy. If you find it challenging to say no outright, consider buying yourself some time. Respond with, "Let me check my schedule and get back to you." This gives you the opportunity to evaluate your commitments and make an informed decision.

Saying no is not about closing doors; it's about choosing the ones that lead to a balanced and fulfilling life. Embrace the power of no, set boundaries, and watch as your newfound assertiveness enhances both your personal and professional relationships.

Remember, by saying no, you are not just prioritising yourself; you are ensuring that when you do say yes, it is a commitment you can wholeheartedly fulfill.

Please note: This website may contain references to, or feature images, videos, and voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have passed away.

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