“No.” It seems like a simple word but it’s actually quite complex. I work with many patients who struggle with simply saying no.
“Boundaries” is such a hot term lately. It seems like everyone is encouraged to set boundaries or referencing their boundaries. It can be difficult to set boundaries if you’ve been conditioned to always be agreeable.
Often times, children are taught not to question authority. An adult tells you to do something, you do it. You don’t talk back, you don’t ask why and you certainly do not say no. If you say no to the authority figure, then you are punished. Children from these environments grow up to be adults who do not feel comfortable saying no. They don’t feel free to speak up for themselves in compromising situations, or go through life avoiding inevitable conflict and acting like a people pleaser.
It’s okay to say no. In fact, I encourage it. If you tell me no, let’s have a conversation on why you feel uncomfortable and learn new ways to effectively communicate, set and assert boundaries.
No, I don’t want to have sex.
No, I’m not ready to meet your parents.
No, I don’t want to go on a date.
No, I’m not available to work on Friday.
No, I can’t pet sit your cat.
The good news is that we can unlearn behaviours. If saying no feels uncomfortable, let’s practice it in therapy!