life balance,  mindfulness,  self-care,  wellness

Saying No: An Act of Self-Care and Self-Respect and It Doesn’t Have to Be Hard.

Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash


Imagine a stream of water. Its source begins at the top of a mountain.

Down it travels toward the sea; its water supply renewed by rain and melted snow. The stream winds through villages and towns and soon it takes the form of a strong, plentiful river.

The people who live along its banks use the water to grow their crops and sustain themselves.

They’re grateful, but soon, they begin to take the river and its abundance for granted. They’ve come to believe that the river will be there forever, filled with cool, clean water for them to use and support their lives.

Then, things begin to change.

There’s a long period of drought and the river is not renewed.

In the meantime, the villagers continue to draw water as usual. Their needs are met.

This goes on for some time, until the river becomes a stream, a trickle, and finally dries out. Now what?

What if I were to tell you that you’re the river?

And . . . if you’re the river, whose responsibility is it to nourish and renew you?

You’d think the villagers — the same ones who’ve benefited from the river’s presence in their lives — would try to change their habits and make sure it doesn’t dry out. You’d think.

Unfortunately, it isn’t so.

Once you get used to taking, it’s hard to switch to giving. Sure, here and there some will rise above and try to do something different from their fellow villagers. Will it be enough though? Will it be in time?

You know what they say . . . It takes a village.

Here’s a question for you.

Do you really want to depend on other people for your well-being and nourishment? How has this worked for you so far?

If you’re a perpetual and committed caretaker, chances are you’re really good at saying Yes most of the time and you consider helping and supporting others as part of your life’s purpose.

Saying No probably makes you feel selfish, self-centered, or both.

What happens when you ignore your personal needs?

You may begin to feel resentful and even angry when you consistently give in to other people’s demands and ignore your personal needs. Not only that, but, eventually, you begin to blame others for taking you for granted. You may even lash out.

When you act against what you know to be good for you, there is a feeling of being let down, a sinking of the heart, a small voice whispering . . . “Did you have to do this? What about me?”

Every time you say Yes when you meant to say No, every time you ignore your instincts, you lose a little bit of your self-respect.

Being clear about your wants, needs, and boundaries, allows you to say No — before things get out of hand.

Have you ever thought how saying no translates to saying yes to what’s important to you?

Saying no is an act of self-care and self-respect. Although it may not come natural to many of us, it doesn’t have to be hard.

There is a way to say no gracefully — if you don’t let things go too far. No — coming from a place of solid and quiet conviction — becomes a simple answer instead of an emotionally charged response.

People may not like hearing no. They don’t have to like it; but they do have to accept it. Some may even respect your newly found clarity and conviction.

Those who can’t accept or respect your needs may express their displeasure or bow out of your life. If they express their disapproval of the “new you,” you can choose to reply or not. If you do, make it short and sweet. No apologies needed.

If they choose to bow out . . . remember that all you asked for was their respect and acceptance of your needs. You want people in your life who can do that.

You may find that old habits die hard and they tend to fight back. You may find yourself going weak-at-the-knees and coming up with a thousand excuses why it may be best if you went back to being the way you used to be.

This is how you sabotage yourself. Say no anyway!

Like everything, learning to be protective of your time, energy, and well-being, begins with commitment. It becomes a habit by practice and practice makes better. Practice away!

How I wish I were a fly on the wall or a mind reader. What’s happening in that brilliant mind of yours right now and . . . what’s your heart telling you?

My wish for you is to find that one starting point, where you can take what I shared and make it real for you.

You’re the only one who can keep your river flowing abundantly. Sometimes you need people to remind you of this truth.

I invite you to comment on this post and share your experience. Let’s get the conversation going.

Yota works with women who are in the midst of personal and professional changes and milestones. Her approach is deeply influenced by her cultural roots, work and life experience, and her long-term practice of mindfulness meditation. In addition to her work with individual clients, Yota speaks and writes on mindful living, overcoming self-doubt, and the art of letting go.


  • Melanie

    It’s so easy for anyone to fall into the trap of giving to others all the time while leaving your own soul unattended. I know I’m guilty!

    Even though being “selfless” is considered a respectable and admirable trait, Yota, I’d like to be (maybe the first) to point out the word, “self” in there! Taking care of one’s self is more important, in my opinion, than taking care of anything or anyone else. After all, if you don’t put yourself at the top of your priority list, who will?

    I love your analogy and how we can go about keeping our rivers flowing abundantly. Beautiful and worthwhile message!

    • Yota Schneider

      Hi Melanie,
      It’s complicated, isn’t it? Giving is how we express love. We forget that everyone is involved in the act of giving which means at some point we’ll have to receive. And, yes, we can talk about the word “selfless” for hours:-) Thank you for pointing this out.
      Always good to have you here.

  • Ellen Delap

    What a wonderful analogy! Yes, we need an abundance of fresh energy to conquer new tasks and be mindful of our connections.

    For me saying no starts with feeling the energy of responsibilities. Some of them feel like obligations instead of fun. That has been my starting point for saying no.

    • Yota Schneider

      Good morning Ellen,
      Thank you for stopping by. Obligations . . . yes, we can spend a lifetime responding to those, can’t we? I think it’s all about balance. We can’t totally avoid obligations but we can include and honor our obligation towards the “self”. We matter and, as you mentioned, when it starts feeling like all we do is extend ourselves and having no fun, what’s the point?

  • Linda Samuels

    Oh, Yota! Did you write this post for me? Seriously! You must have been a fly on my wall!

    Self care is always important, especially if we’re usually the care givers and nurturers. Our rivers will surely dry up if we don’t. But knowing this isn’t always enough. We have to purposely seek the moments short and long to do the self-caring.

    For me it can come in the form of a walk, a good night’s sleep, a conversation with a loved one, sitting still, being by, in or near the water…and the list goes on. And there are times when the self care is just a big nudge that says, “Linda…it’s time to just stop.”

    • Yota Schneider

      Good morning Linda,
      Thank you for making the distinction between knowing and acting. As you say, self-care is about being consistent and deliberate. We have to do something every day, big or small it doesn’t matter. I love your list of how you care for yourself and keep your river flowing. I see a part II coming:-)

  • Kathy

    We read you blog aloud last night. Babs question is “how do you resolve the conflict. When you know something would be good for you but you also know helping someone else would be good too. “. I tend to feel it in my body – on overload need a break. I love the saying no creates self respect. Much better than when it creates guilt.

    • Yota Schneider

      Hi Kathy and Babs:-) Thank you for the great question. The first answer that comes to mind is, “Why does it have to be conflict? How can we take good care of ourselves and care for those who need us?”

      Like you say Kathy, it’s always good to follow the signs. A growing sense of irritation, dissatisfaction, and resentment. Physical symptoms such as lack of energy, headaches, not sleeping well, feeling tired more often than not, etc.
      Once you notice, you can ask. “What’s going on? What are these feelings / symptoms telling me? What do I need to do for myself?”
      For instance, you may tend to identify with the “caretaker” in you and you’ve lost sight of who you are outside of this role. You may have put your personal needs in the back burner for so long that you don’t even know where to start. As a result, taking care of others prevents you from taking care of yourself.

      Then, you begin to notice that your health and peace of mind begin to unravel. Ideally, you don’t want to get to that point. Even so, it’s never too late to make different choices.
      Ask yourself . . . How much of what I do needs to be done by me? How can I empower others to take responsibility?
      Who can help me out? What are the resources available to me?

      As you can see, it’s not about resolving a conflict or making the choice between you or the people you care for. It’s about using your creative problem solving skills and being willing to change your ways. It’s about asking for help, building a support system, and making different choices.

      It’s also about standing your ground and being willing to stand up to the perfectionist in you. There is more than one way to get things done.

      Hope this answers your question.

      Thanks for stopping by. Hugs. Y.

  • Kathleen Lauterbach

    Babs wants to know if you have a Nanny Cam.
    She thinks you hit the nail on the head and wants to know how you could describe her perfectly in signs of not taking care of yourself. Perhaps this problem is one that many on this page has experienced!

    We did do a little creative problem solving to get to Vermont. Good to have the time to think together.
    Asking for help is a biggie and your nanny cam friend, Babs, has a hard time with that.
    Will keep working at it.
    Thanks for responding.

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