The Shame of Saying No


This blog has been created and called for by countless women that I coach, counsel, and chat with each and every day. I've been acutely aware of growing and deadly trend of the Shame of saying No. The reality is that this issue is magnified every day with the advent of social media.  

Many women are programmed that the "right" thing for them to do is to be all things to all people, which equates into never ever saying No!  In addition to this core programming of many women, of putting themselves on the bottom of the priority list, Shame exacerbates this issue. Shame is that intensely painful feeling or experience of being flawed and therefore unworthy of a connection.

I mentioned earlier that this issue has been growing since the explosion of Social Media, and I would like to explain why this is. If we go back 30 or 40 years, there were no cell phones, social media, or instant access to people. I suspect that the forced delay in response allowed some women to not feel instantly obligated to say yes.

I could spend countless hours explaining and theorizing the how's and why's regarding why this is such a struggle for so many women. However, I have decided that it would be more beneficial for everyone if I focus the rest of this blog in empowering everyone about how to overcome the Shame of saying No.

As is typical with all of my blogs, each and every one of my suggestions, are all things that I have implemented in my own life. I love having the authenticity to teach from my own experiences. The mechanisms I put in place in order to say no without drowning in Shame are as follows:

  1. People May Not____________: This was one of the first things I did when I was developing the ability to say no, free from guilt and Shame.  I typically encourage the women I work with to come up with 10 or 12 examples for sentence completion.
  2. Contemplate the Cost: My experience before I had the ability to say No, was that I would say yes and one of two things would happen: either I would not show up at all (which lead to a massive increase in self-punishment) OR I would show up and I would be so very resentful. I'm acutely aware of the cost of not saying No today.
  3. Act As If:  If you have read any of my previous blogs, you will recognize the validity of this statement. Focus on what you want and reinforce that. If you want your family or friends to graciously accept your lack of willingness to do something for them, act as if that's exactly what will happen.
  4. Check Your Schedule: This was literally my response to each and every inquiry I received for about three months. I did this regardless of how strong my desire to fulfill the request was. From a psychological perspective this let me off the hook emotionally. Not giving an instant response was so empowering for me.
  5. Not Everyone Deserves Your Best: In a perfect world, the pendulum of givers and takers would be completely balanced. However, that's not reality currently. If someone is constantly taking and expecting from you, perhaps you would be better served by filling yourself up first and foremost.
  6. In Order To Protect My Time and Energy __________: This is another very powerful sentence completion and sets the foundation for creating healthy boundaries. I was so overwhelmed when I began this process that I couldn't even imagine how to finish this sentence.  I spent some time reviewing things that annoyed or frustrated me and used those as examples of what I wanted.
  7. Boundaries Are Good Self Care: I didn't grow up having conversations about boundaries. Twenty years ago I felt absolutely frozen if someone talked to me about my boundaries. I have learned that having boundaries doesn't make me selfish, self-centered, or self-absorbed; it means I am a priority in my own life. It also means that I acutely understand that I can't transmit something I don't have.

I hope you found these suggestions helpful. I would love to hear back from you regarding where you are on the continuum of saying no Shamelessly. I would also love to know which of these your favorite is.


Jenn Bovee is a Psychotherapist and Shame Busting Coach. She empowers women all over the world to break the shackles of Shame and step into the life they long for. Learn more about her here: