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Why Saying 'No' Benefits Your Mental Health

For so many years, I was the person who would say yes to everything.

Socially, it was fear of missing out. Professionally, it was fear of missing a promotion. (Note that the key word here is fear). I justified saying yes to everything, because I could. Saying yes to people in my life was very important to show that I cared about them. Saying yes to things at work was very important to show that I was willing to do the work it took to be successful. These things are still important to me; however, by saying yes to everything and everyone else, I was ultimately saying no to myself.

If this is something that resonates with you, going through a mental checklist of things to consider before saying yes can help.

Here are some items you should consider asking yourself before fully committing:

Mental Health Checklist: Ask Yourself These Questions 

1. What Else?

Consider your other commitments before agreeing to yet another bullet on your to-do list. Also, consider that when you say yes to something, the people in your life are saying yes as well. How is your decision going to affect them? Also, by saying yes to this, what will you need to say no to? When you say yes to something, you are also saying no to something else.

2. What Does My Gut Say?

Listen to that initial feeling you get when approached about the subject. Was this something that you felt excited about or something that you had immediate reservations about? Does this align with your values? Is this something you need to talk yourself into? Pay attention to that and try to dissect it a little more. It’s okay to be unsure of a decision. Being honest with yourself and others is important. Asking for time to think about a decision is okay as well.

3. Is There an Opportunity for Growth?

Consider your opportunities personally and professionally. Will this provide you with growth or will this hinder it? Weigh the opportunity cost of saying yes, knowing that little tasks add up. And keep in mind that leaving your comfort zone is okay and shouldn’t be the main reason for not taking an opportunity. Often times, the best growth happens when you leave your comfort zone.  

4. Is This Realistic?

Take a look at what you have on your plate, then ask yourself if it’s realistic. Are you the subject matter expert for this or is there an alternative person you could recommend? Is this something you can offer some help to, not requiring you to fully commit? What will happen if you say no?

What I learned is, just because you can, doesn’t mean that you must. When you say yes to things, it should be out of joy, not because there’s fear or an obligation. At the end of the day, what’s most important is that you are always saying yes to you. Keeping this mental health checklist in mind can help with that.