Hail to the No

“Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough.” ~Josh Billings

Josh Billings was the pen-name of Henry Wheeler Shaw, an 19th century humorist and writer who was well known in his time and often compared to Mark Twain. And if Billings was writing about this 100 years ago, it seems that the ability to say NO to things has a long history – so I’m not alone when I say that I often feel intense pressure to do things I don’t really want to do.

Like a lot of women, I find myself taking on too much. I say “Yes” when I know that I really should decline. Sometimes it’s my son’s school (“Can you chair such-and-such event?”), sometimes it’s work (“Another writer bailed on us and we need a 1,200 word article done by tomorrow morning. Can you do it?”), sometimes it’s family (the latest involved driving two and a half hours each way on a Saturday to New Jersey to attend a baby shower for my husband’s second cousin).

All these commitments overwhelm and drain me even before I’ve had a chance to do anything. I feel stressed and anxious because I feel like I have so much on my plate and then become resentful because I feel like I have to do everything and never have time for me. By saying yes, I am essentially choosing to create anxiety where I could have peace. I feel guilty because I feel that these are things that I SHOULD do, but don’t really WANT to do.

Maybe I need to stand in front of a mirror and practice saying the word, NO and not feel a twinge of guilt after. I need to say “No” without feeling like I need an extremely good excuse (“Sorry, but I’m currently being wheeled into surgery and won’t be available until my anesthesia wears off.”) I need to come to grips with the simple fact that if I say “NO” people may be disappointed, but I will be happier.

“No. I do not have time to run the school spring fundraiser.”


“No. I can’t drive the car pool for the third week in a row.”

hell no

“No. I can’t make it to Suzy’s baby shower.”



Now I just have to put this practice into real life.

Do you ever feel pressured to say “yes” to everything at home, work, and in your social life? How do you say “no” without feeling guilty?


10 thoughts on “Hail to the No

  1. I am dreading the day that my kids enter public schools and all of these committees take form. what you describe is exactly the reason why I took a little “break” from my church – once you say yes, they rope you into everything!

  2. I’ve become REALLY good at saying “no” ~ it’s my way of saying “yes” to myself. Just telling the truth really helped me ~ “no, this doesn’t speak to me,” “no, I need more down-time,” “no, I need to put myself first.” I know I used to say “yes” as a form of people-pleasing but as I got better at saying “NO!” I approved of myself more. Also, people respected me more for having firm boundaries. Someone once said “if it’s not a HELL YES, it’s a HELL NO!” Now I won’t do anything unless is makes me say HELL YES! And I don’t feel guilty one bit. 😉

  3. It is so hard to say no and you don’t realize it until you’re underwater from all the Yes! I think it takes practice and then a little bit of letting go. I feel better knowing that I’m not saying no to everything but only saying yes to what’s really important and lines up with my needs and the needs of my family. I say yes enough. And that’s what I need to remember!

  4. Amen Ann! I find it really hard to say no to things as well but I’m learning that I have to in order to be able to balance life better. I’m already overwhelmed a lot of time with just my normal commitments so adding on anything else at this point just has to be a no-go.

    1. Yup. The day-to-day is enough! If I would stick to those commitments, I’d be ok…it’s all the extra stuff that I say yes to….

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