The Importance of Saying "No"

We live in a “yes man” society- that is, we say yes to everything.  That includes junk food, alcohol, skipping workouts to be hungover, and making poor health choices in order to appear “normal” to our friends and family.  If you want to reach your potential physically (and mentally), you must get really comfortable with saying no.  And I don’t just mean saying no to friends, family, and other people.  I mean learning to say no to yourself.

In this article I will outline the importance of saying no, followed by 3 steps to implement the behavior into your daily life.

Saying no is largely a matter of daily habit.  I’ve found that personally, if I’ve gone on a bender with friends (especially a vacation), my willpower is greatly diminished.  This dramatically affects my ability to say no, and my brain may even forget that it has this option.  Imagine going to Las Vegas for the weekend, and your friends ask you to get drunk with them and go to every conceivable club.  Are you going to say no and ruin the fun?  Probably not.  But you aren’t on vacation, you’re in your normal routine (most likely), and now is the time to practice.

Saying no means sticking to your higher values.  If you know that you have a problem with sugar, maybe an addiction, then you know in your heart that saying no when that piece of cake is offered to you is the right thing to do.  And yet, everyone is watching, judging you.  You are terrified that by rejecting the cake, you are rejecting the person who is offering it.  We fear rejection so much that many of us say yes to everyone. What really happens is that when you reject that piece of cake, people start to respect you.  They realize they don’t have control over you like they thought they did, and it makes them uncomfortable.  It also makes them realize that they have the option to say no to the cake too, and they start to see that they are making the wrong decisions themselves.

When you say no to a friend when they try to tempt you into doing something unhealthy, one of two things will happen.  1. They will respect your decision and decide to keep being friends with you, admiring your new sense of self.  Or 2.  They will be so uncomfortable that you are improving for the better, that they will disappear slowly from your life.  Those that quit drinking alcohol can strongly attest to this fact.  You lose the friends who weren’t your friends in the first place, and you keep (and make) friends with those who respect you and your health.

Here are some steps to become comfortable saying NO-

  1.  Practice honesty in your daily life.  Saying no and Honesty are closely linked.  Often by saying NO you are reflecting your true or honest interests, not those of other people.  You are finally living to your truth.  Start with small things, like giving an honest response to a text message.  I’ve found that being honest like this is difficult in the beginning, but in the long run pays huge dividends and allows you to be free.
  2. Become AWARE of when you are saying YES when you really want to say NO.  Keep a journal and record every time you made a decision that you felt was wrong.  The more awareness you build, the easier it will be to plan ahead, and the more you will know yourself and your true desires.
  3. Finally, start saying no to strangers.  Strangers are easier to practice with because they don’t know you personally (you are free to create yourself as you go).  Also, practice telling people what you want.  Getting good at knowing and explaining what you want is complimentary to saying no.  Both go well together.  The more you know what you want, the more you know what you don’t want- and so saying no will become easier.

With practice and awareness, you can drastically improve your health by rejecting the things (foods, activities, etc) that go against your ultimate goals.  So say NO when your family teases you with that bowl of ice cream.  It’s not easy, but it’s the right thing to do.