Haifa Varju



Give yourself permission to say “No"

I was once asked in a job interview what my worst quality (or weakness) was. They rounded off the question with “what could you be better at?”. Gulp! What a question!

I thought about it for a minute, took a sip of water and confessed … “I struggle to say ‘no’ and end up overloaded with work”. 

Why is this tiny word so difficult to say? I’m not talking about using the word when your child touches something they shouldn’t. I am talking about saying “no” to grown-ups; your boss, your parents, your best friend, your next-door neighbour.

Oh dear What did I say

I recently read a quote that “women play to get along, whereas men play to win”, and I struggled to disagree with that statement. By nature women are people pleasers, we want everyone to get along. I can only speak for myself on this topic, but I have had my struggles with this pesky, little word, and if I’ve learned anything it’s that “no” is not a negative word. 

No one wants to let down a friend or family member, or miss a career opportunity because they said “no” to their boss.

When you take too much on, you will drop the ball, and waste your time and energy. But more importantly, when you don’t say “no” you can miss out on what’s important or something you want to say "yes" to.

Family and time is important

Let’s take a look at some things we can put into practice to help say “no” …

Give yourself permission to say “no”

Have you ever caught yourself saying “yes” before you’ve even realised what you have committed to? It can often happen when you’re busy. My middle child has clocked that he can successfully get me to say “yes” to things if he asks me while I’m busy or distracted. That’s a knee-jerk response.

The next time someone asks you for a favour, take a breath and say, “Let me get back to you”. This will give you time to think through their request. If you don’t want to do it (or simply don’t have the time) give yourself permission to say “no” and follow through with your decision. If the person who has asked you has a habit of using persuasion techniques, like guilt, then put a barrier between you by sending a text or email with your response.

It’s important to understand that saying “no” after thinking about it protects you, your time and your energy, so give yourself permission to say “no” without needing a reason.

Establish your boundaries

Mother’s already have so much on their plates, so just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. Set yourself personal boundaries and don’t worry about what other people think. 

I hate Mondays. They are always so hectic and full especially with three kids and a small business to run. So last year, I decided that Mondays were going to be my day. When someone asks me if I’m free I tell them “no”. It's liberating and it gives me a sense of calm as I enter a new week. 

Before agreeing to do something, take the time to think about what you can do, and whether you want to do it. 

Remember that you never need a reason for saying “no”.

Boundaries Work life balance

Understand your limits

I learned this valuable lesson three weeks after having my eldest. I didn’t understand my limitations and I took on too much. It was at the expense of my son, and myself, and I learned a valuable lesson. It is better to do one thing well, than many things badly. I still cringe thinking about that "event" nine years later, but I’ve taken the lesson and implemented it in my professional and personal life. 

If this is something you struggle with, I highly recommend an accountability partner. It sounds fancy, but it’s just someone who loves you enough to call you out on things.

To this day, my husband keeps me accountable on this one. When he calls me out on exceeding my limit, I stop and take something off my list. Sometimes it’s begrudgingly, but often I breathe a sigh of relief.

From experience, I know that setting limits will help you avoid things you later regret.                                                     

Stop putting yourself last

Like all good things, this one takes work. I’ve talked about putting on your oxygen mask first before helping others - READ HERE - but gosh, it's hard! We’re mums … we can’t help ourselves, especially when it comes to our loved ones. But if you put everyone else’s needs ahead of your own, you’ll be no good to anyone.

Giving yourself the freedom to spend your time the way you want may open the door to new possibilities. 

Rest Self care Take time to look after yourself

You can’t control the opinions of others.

In the past (and sometimes even now), saying “no” felt like I was letting people down, and doing them wrong. The worst part for me was feeling like they'd reject me by thinking badly of me for saying "no". Do you know what that made me? A people pleaser! The problem with being a people-pleaser is that you often put everyone else’s needs before your own, and you can't please everyone. I had to learn to say ‘no’ without finishing my sentence with an apology.

Not everyone is going to like you, don’t waste your time and emotions trying to win them over or change their mind. Those that form a negative opinion of you because you said “no” are not worthy of your time. Focus on those that respect you and your decisions.



I have a friend who told me that when she reads a blog she reads the introduction, sometimes stops in the middle but generally heads straight to the bottom to find out how it ends, so for the scrollers among you:

It’s okay to say “no”. You are one person with one life to live, and your time is extremely valuable so you must learn to guard it.

You won’t please everyone, and you can’t say “yes” to everything and do it well so take yourself to a mirror, and start putting saying “no” into practice.




Cover image by cottonbro from Pexels

Other photographs from Pexels (in order of appearance):

Anna Shvets | Josh Willink | Sarah Chai | Mikhail Nilov 


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