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March's My Mighty Month Challenge Is About Learning to Say 'No'

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I’m not good at telling people “no.” I’m fine with telling my niece that, no, she can’t have ice cream for dinner. I can tell my dog “no!” when she jumps on me. But when saying “no” really counts, like when I’m already spread thin at work or my schedule is packed, I have a hard time telling others I can’t help them or I’m unavailable. I routinely find myself taking on more than one person should, sacrificing my own well-being to help another person or group that I’m a part of.

This lack of a simple phrase in my vocabulary made me popular in college during group projects. I’d somehow take on the brunt of the work. I mean, I also have an issue relinquishing control… but one minor character flaw at a time.

I don’t like disappointing people, and I don’t want to come off as unreliable. “It’s often a fear of disapproval,” Dr. Marion Jacobs, clinical psychologist and author of “Take-Charge Living: How to Recast Your Role In Life One Scene at a Time,” said.

People think, “‘If I don’t do what other people want, they’ll reject me or they won’t like me as much,’” Jacobs said. “You kind of do what other people want because you’re afraid they won’t like you if you don’t. That’s a hell of a way to live.”

Yes, there are times when you should put yourself out of your comfort zone or help someone out with events, projects or other life happenings.  But that has to be your choice, Dr. Jacobs stressed. While you always have a choice to say yes or no to things, it might not feel like a choice if you’re used to taking on more than you should.

That is why, for the month of March, we’re challenging you to incorporate the word “no” into your vocabulary. If you can’t or don’t want to do something, say no. And, this might be the hardest part, when you do say no, remind yourself that you are performing an act of self-care. Saying no doesn’t reflect negatively on you nor should you feel guilty for putting yourself first.

Saying no doesn’t mean going up to your boss and tell them to buzz off when you’re given an assignment or project. Instead, try communicating that you are spread a bit thin at the moment and could benefit from extra help or a longer deadline.

If work isn’t a place you feel comfortable expressing your needs, try saying no to those closest to you. Instead of making plans with friends and hoping they cancel last minute, be honest with them from the start. Tell them you can’t go out right now or aren’t available to help. You don’t owe anyone an explanation as to why you said no, either. But, if you don’t want to hang out because you don’t want to leave your house for health reasons, explain to your family and friends that you’d like to see them, but prefer to hang in.

Or, if you want, you can take a page out of Phoebe Buffay’s handbook (if you can muster up the courage to be that blunt).


Putting yourself first isn’t selfish, neither is establishing personal boundaries. Assertiveness is a form of self-respect that is important in building healthy self-esteem. Some people are more assertive than others, but it is a trait we all can cultivate. So join us for March’s challenge and say no to tasks and invitations you find burdensome or hazardous to your mental or physical health.

Want to make March a Mighty Month? Join us on Facebook at My Mighty Month, and don’t forget to tag any social media posts with #MyMightyMonth. You can also sign up for our My Mighty Month emails, (select “Mighty Monthly Challenges” from the newsletter options), which include tips and reminders designed to keep you motivated. 

Originally published: February 28, 2018
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