Why self-sacrifice is destructive and what you can do to curb the guilt associated with the word “No”
Saying “No” to people has always been a difficult thing for me. Even if the request is unreasonable, I still struggle with the guilt of disappointing someone in my life.
I was the most passive person I know and it led to me resenting people who didn’t deserve to be resented. This was my own fault. I said yes, way too many times when I should’ve been saying no.
I still struggle with this, I’m not good at making decisions or verbalizing what I want because of how I was raised. My parents are wonderful, loving people but I was quite sheltered and they always made decisions for me.
When I ventured into the world on my own, I was not prepared for the decision making that comes with being an adult.
Part of being a self-sufficient adult is knowing when to say no and when to say yes. I’m in my thirties and I am finally learning to listen to my gut instincts and only take on the tasks I can handle.
My health has gone downhill in the last year. I’ve been losing weight for no reason, experiencing numbness, shocks, and pain in my body, and I am extremely fatigued.
I am an army wife and a mom of a young toddler. No wonder I’m tired, right?
Due to my Post-partum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, I have a problem with control. I forget that my friends, family, and husband are perfectly capable to look after Willow.
I think I can do it all, but I’ve been struggling to juggle my writing and all of my commitments.
Recently, I’ve realized I need to look after myself to be healthy for my family. This epiphany has led me to say no to many requests and I feel no remorse for doing so.
In a short period of time, I have gained self-worth. Truthfully, I’ve been feeling pretty comfortable with the word no.
In this life, sometimes you have to be a bit selfish.
Are you self-sacrificing?
When you continuously say yes to things you don’t want to do, this leads to self-sacrifice, which leads to resentment. Resentment can fracture relationships permanently.
Are you on the road to resentment? You may be self-sacrificing if:
- You say yes constantly. There isn’t anything you won’t do for a friend or family member. You are always the person who everyone else relies on for support.
- You feel depleted, tired, and sucked dry.
- Your personal life has suffered due to all of your commitments.
- You find yourself saying yes when you want to say no.
- You feel like you never get a break.
- You never practice self-care.
- You worry that if you’re not there to do something, everything will fall to pieces.
If you have said yes to more than one of these statements, you are probably self-sacrificing.
It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it
So how do you start saying no and stop saying yes?
It’s not as easy as following a list. It is a process of changing your way of thinking. You will be creating a new image of yourself. People will question the new and improved you, but it will be worth it.
You will feel more energized and not as overwhelmed. You will feel less resentment.
Best of all, you will gain control of your life.
Always think before you consent
If someone is asking you to do something for them, take a moment and think about what you want to do. Always think about what is best for you in this moment and how saying yes to this request will impact your life.
Self-sacrificers always think about the other person and that is why we say yes to things we don’t want to do. It is time to think about ourselves.
Sometimes you have to be a bit selfish.
If you have considered the request and it won’t have a negative impact on you or your family, you want to do it, and you are feeling energized enough to do it: Say yes!
If you can’t do what is being asked of you, say no.
This part is simple, it’s just like pressing pause on a movie, in your head. The next part is where things get a bit tricky.
Challenge your thoughts
When we say no to something, we tend to feel guilty. In reality, we shouldn’t feel guilty for doing what we want.
This is our life and we should always do what’s best for us, but us self-sacrificers do not think this way. It is time for us to change our way of thinking.
My therapist taught me this trick and it works very well.
Be prepared for guilty thoughts and logically work through them.
Here’s a scenario for you: A friend asks you to dog sit for them but you have a young puppy who isn’t vaccinated at home. You say no, and after the conversation, the guilty thoughts surface.
- “What if they can’t find anyone else?”
Realistically, there are many options in this situation: Kennels, other friends, relatives, and doggy daycare. They can and will find an alternative.
- “I am being unreasonable, my puppy will be fine!”
You are self-sacrificing again, and this time your poor puppy is along for the ride! Young puppies are very vulnerable to illnesses and can even die from some ailments that older dogs transmit.
Chances are your puppy would be fine, but you would be risking his safety to please someone else. Remember, you and your family should come first!
- “Why can’t I do this small favor for a friend, they’re going to hate me!”
If you have a friend you can’t say no to, they are not your true friend. If they become angry with you for saying no, they are probably using you.
If you are continuously saying yes, you are probably attracting people who are using you. Narcissists love a good “yes man/woman”.
When you challenge these negative thoughts, you are changing your way of thinking. You are becoming more self-sufficient as opposed to defining yourself by what other people think of you.
Accept that people may leave your side and that’s ok
If you are an extreme giver, chances are you have a few “takers” in your life. When you reveal the “new and improved” you, they will realize they cannot take from you anymore and be gone with the wind.
This will change your life for the better. You will no longer be depleted and will finally be free from the narcissists, energy vampires, and the egocentrics in your life.
If someone walks away from you because you say no to them, they were never really friends with you for you, they just wanted a friendship of convenience.
You deserve more than that.
Chances are, you have been self-sacrificing your entire life. This will not be an easy transition. I am in the beginning stages of this journey and I said my first “No” last week. It was very hard but after weighing the pros and cons, it wasn’t a wise move to say yes.
The person I said no to was very congenial about my answer and found help elsewhere. This person is a true friend who understands and respects the word no.
Changing your thought patterns takes a lot of work and self-reflection but you cannot continue to say yes to everything. Eventually, you will burn out and become bitter. You owe yourself more than that.
This change will make people respect you more because you are respecting yourself.
“Let today mark a new beginning for you. Give yourself permission to say NO without feeling guilty, mean, or selfish. Anybody who gets upset and/or expects you to say YES all of the time clearly doesn’t have your best interest at heart. Always remember: You have a right to say NO without having to explain yourself. Be at peace with your decisions.”― Stephanie Lahar
Amy Cottreau is a freelance writer who hails from a small city in Atlantic Canada. She enjoys interacting with fellow writers, dreaming of ideas for her next article, and researching a myriad of topics.