Why do I feel guilty when I say ‘no?’
You have a big heart, and it can be complicated to say ‘no’ to people when they need your help. It’s also challenging to create impressions of being a team player at work without burning yourself out by agreeing to take on projects and solve problems that aren’t yours. As much as it feels good at the moment to commit your time to help someone in your life solve their problem, it’s not your responsibility, nor is it helpful for you or them.
Giving your time to others is not helpful because it robs you of a life that’s happy, joyful, and free. Giving your time to others means you’re taking away time from an area of your life. Perhaps, it’s taking away from family, fun, or working on a hobby that brings you joy. Your time is precious and finite; it’s a commodity you will never get back.
When you give your time to others, you are not teaching them how to manage their own time. When you solve other people’s problems, their problems become yours, and they will never learn how to solve their own problems. Taking on the stress of others means it’s your stress now.
Do you want that for your life?
Below are three reasons why you feel guilty about putting up boundaries.
The environment you grew up in taught you not to have boundaries. As you got older and started to feel how draining and uncomfortable it is to have your boundaries crossed, you decided to put yourself first and caught flack as a result. Perhaps, a friend guilted you for not dropping everything you were doing to support them and their drama; or maybe you were accused of not being a team player by your boss. These experiences have taught you that keeping the peace and avoiding conflict means agreeing to give away your time. I am sure you say things to yourself like, “I am going to be the bigger person,” however, no one around is ever the bigger person for you.
The best way to handle this in the future is to evaluate the past experiences you had that are preventing you from firmly putting up a boundary. Determine if the scenario is the same? Recall what you did and what you could have done differently. In the same vein, make sure you recall positive experiences of when you put up a boundary. Doing this will give you the courage and creativity to put up boundaries in the future.
Fear of loss.
Fearing the loss is the #1 reason most people feel guilty for saying ‘no.’ Sometimes, when you refuse to give your time away, people can be petty and take it personally. I get it; I’ve lost friends when I put up boundaries. As much as it hurt to lose friends over this, I am happy to say I live a much more peaceful life as a result. Also, I spend less time resenting myself for not having the courage to put myself first.
When this guilt shows up for you, figure out what your true fears are. You might instantly think you don’t want to make the other person upset; however, keep asking questions. Why don’t you want to make the other person upset? If you keep asking questions, you will get to the root of your fear of loss and build up the courage to face it when you realize there is nothing to fear.
Feeling guilty when implementing a boundary means you’ve attached your worth to the deeds you do for others to receive validation. Agreeing to solve other people’s problems and give your time away indicates that you don’t value your time thus aren’t valuing yourself. If you say things like “My plate is full” or “I am spread too thin,” you aren’t valuing yourself.
The best way to build a practice of valuing yourself is to clarify why you need others to like you and validate you. Is the validation you are seeking from others something you can do for yourself? Additionally, start celebrating your accomplishments more often. You are seeking validation from others because you don’t recognize your greatness.
Feeling guilty about saying ‘no’ is a conditioned way to be in life. You can also condition yourself to be proud of putting yourself first.