put your own needs first beyond words

From the moment you took your first steps, your parents taught you one thing: put others’ needs before you own. Should you stray from this path, you are the actual embodiment of self-absorption. You probably believed it, too. And yet, putting your own needs first isn’t always the selfish act it’s made out to be. Instead, it’s often a highly necessary one.

The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k author Sarah Knight calls this notion “affixing your own oxygen mask before helping others.” It’s a fitting metaphor. You take care of yourself before you can even think about looking after those around you. If you give all that you have to anyone who asks for it, it won’t be long until you burn out. At that point, you’re no use to anybody – least of all yourself. 

Things you can (and maybe should) say “no” to

So, when should you say “no” and why should you do it? While declining every single request you get is a tad over the top, there are certain times when people will ask too much of you. Not sure what I’m talking about? Here are three classic examples. 

1. Attending an expensive bachelorette party abroad

“Ladies! As you know, me and Brad are engaged! So, I’d like to formallyinvite you all to my bachelorette party (woo!). Details TBC but I’m thinking a quick weekend trip to Paris. I’m just spitballing, so let me know what you think!” 

Sound familiar? When your friends start to get engaged, your inbox is sure to be flooded with messages closely resembling this one. There’s no rule that says you have to spend hundreds of dollars flying halfway around the world for your friend. 

There are two main things that you should consider. First of all, can you afford the time and money the trip will take? If the answer is no, it’s time to politely decline. Secondly, do you actually want to go? Again, if the answer is no, you need to say so. You have no obligation. Sure, if the bride-to-be is your best friend and you wantto go, you should do it. But if there’s the slightest part of you that wants to say no, listen to your gut. 

2. Extra workplace tasks (pay raise not included)

Has your job role expanded over the years? As you get more comfortable in a position, it’s only natural that it may change and that you could gain more responsibilities. If your plate is getting fuller but your bank balance remains the same, this could be a real problem. No matter how your boss tries to sugarcoat this pill, the facts remain the same. You’re doing extra workplace chores and reaping absolutely no financial rewards. That’s not okay.

3. Spending the holidays with your in-laws

You don’t just marry a person – you marry their entire family. Yes, whether you’re a newly-wed or anyone in an LTR, you will know this phrase to be true. Navigating the holiday period can be a particularly tricky task, especially if your partner wants you to spend it with their family. Saying “no” and spending the season with your family instead may seem like a tough decision, but it’s one that you’re 100% entitled to make.

Talking openly to your partner about what each of you is planning to do is the best way forward. Setting out your stall and refusing to head to the in-laws is all very well, but you have to be prepared for your partner to go anyhow. It might mean spending the holidays apart or coming up with a handy compromise. Either way, you should be as clear as possible about what you want and why you want it. 

 How To Say ‘No’ to Just About Anything 

For many of us, it’s not just deciding we don’t want to do something that’s the problem. It’s literally saying “no” to people. This is especially hard if it’s someone you love, care about, and want to please. Still, sometimes you need to put your needs first and make it clear that you can’t do what they’ve asked of you. You don’t have to be rude or obnoxious about it. Instead, it’s all about choosing your words wisely. 

While you may be tempted to pussyfoot around the topics, being direct is a much quicker solution. One study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that using the phrase “I don’t” rather than “I can’t” could be the key to getting this right. Saying that you can’t do something gives the impression that the situation is out of your hands, which makes you sound flaky, as though you’re making up excuses. Because, well, you are. 

On the other hand, saying that you don’t want to, don’t have the time to, or don’t have the money to makes it clear that you’ve set a boundary. You’ve thought about the request and decided that you don’t have the right resources to do it. It’s hard to argue with that kind of logic and, as you will find, few people will try to. What’s more, they are likely to respect your stance as it shows confidence in yourself and what you can and can’t commit to. Nice work. 

Are you guilty of people-pleasing and giving too much? Learning to say “no” to things and putting your own needs first is a much-needed remedy. That doesn’t mean being contrary for the sake of it. It means having the confidence and self-respect to set your own limits on your own terms. After all, it’s your life and you make the rules. Realizing that and making this small change will make you stronger and, let’s be real here, happier, too.