Saying No As Self Care

saying no as self care

When we talk about self-care, we always talk about things that you can actively do to help yourself feel better.

But saying “no” to things you don’t want to do and setting some boundaries is also an act of self-care.

Saying No As Self Care

Having the strength and the courage to say no and setting some boundaries often when it can feel very difficult to do so, is an act of looking after your mental and physical health.

There are two great examples from my life that I started to implement recently, or quite recently.

2 Examples Of Saying No As Self Care


It’s very rare and probably only on very exceptional occasions that I will say yes to doing more than one social thing on a weekend.

I’m an introvert. I have a very, very limited social battery and I need a lot of time to recharge.

So I need to make sure I look after myself and it took me far too long in my life to realize that this is an important thing to me.

I stopped thinking just about whether I’m free to meet someone. I started thinking about whether I’m free and will have the available energy to handle that.

People’s Houses

The second one for me is going to people’s houses. Unless I’m in a position where I have to, I don’t meet people at their houses anymore.

As someone with anxiety around food and a history of disordered eating, putting myself in a situation where I have no control over what’s being served or having to force myself to eat in a certain way to not be rude, it’s pretty much my definition of hell.

So if someone wants to meet me, I’m happy to still meet them outside somewhere, somewhere neutral, or at my place.

I could and probably should do a better job of communicating that with people.

But it’s very hard to say to someone, “yeah, I don’t want to come over because I need better control over what I’m eating”.

I know too many nice and considerate people in my life, and they’ll say, “that’s fine. Just let me know what you want to have. And we’ll do something according to that”.

And if I said, having no control over what’s being served is one definition of hell, putting the extra burden on them, having them go out as a way for me and making us both uncomfortable – it’s probably an even greater definition of hell for me.

Those are two things I’ve gotten much more comfortable with saying no and putting boundaries in place to protect my own mental and physical health.


It’s quite recent that I heard of this concept of JOMO, which is the joy of missing out. It’s the opposite of FOMO, which is the fear of missing out.

It’s especially noticeable for me because I’m very happy to forego most social occasions to enjoy time by myself in an environment I’m comfortable in.

I did kind of feel like that pre-Covid.

But with lockdowns and all that, the temporary complete elimination of the idea of meeting people or being forced to socialize, just kind of reinforced that.

The Things You’re “Supposed To” Do

If you make a list of everything that you do on a daily basis, how many things do you do that you dislike doing because you feel that you’re supposed to do?

Bear in mind, “supposed to do” is different to “needing to do”, before any of you reply saying “I’m supposed to go to my job. I don’t want to” because that is something you need to do to pay your bills and keep a roof over your head.

But I mean, like going to certain places or being expected to do specific things.

A good example in office culture is being expected to go for after-work drinks on a Friday at the end of the day.

How would you feel if you felt free to say no to those things that you don’t really want to do, but just do, because you feel like you’re supposed to?

Self Care Or Selfish

Having said all that I realize there is probably some room for me to explain the difference between doing something as an act of self-care and doing something because I’m being selfish.

And no, I don’t mean to say that self-care is selfish. Definitely not.

But I think if you get to the point where you’re saying no to absolutely everything that is probably bordering on selfishness. I haven’t actually tried to say no to everything yet, so I can’t confirm, but you’re probably coming very close to the line.

And here’s how I weigh that up.

Usually, the things that we think we’re supposed to do, are things that someone else wants us to, or expects us to do. Sometimes you have to decide where you feel happier not meeting those expectations and saying “no”, or meeting those expectations or wants and saying “yes”.

Going to the pub after work on a Friday with colleagues is probably a very good example.

If you feel that you’re expected to go and your colleagues get annoyed or whatever, because you don’t go then, I mean, to be fair, there’s probably a lot more things to look at than just the idea of saying no as an act of self-care. There are probably a lot deeper issues going on there.

But say, for example, someone very important to you is asking you to do something that you don’t want to do because it’s very important to them.

Then I’d say that’s a little bit different – or very different.

There’s a very, very, very small number of people in my life who hold that kind of sway over me.

These people doing something that I 100% don’t want to do because I 100% know that it’ll make them happy, that’s more important to me than sort of saying no as some kind of self-care.

Sometimes how you feel making someone important to you happy is also kind of an act of self-care because you’ll feel better doing that than just saying no for your own sake.

If there are people in my life that I don’t feel comfortable saying “no” to, and they don’t fall into that category or they don’t understand or accept when I say no, then they’re probably not going to be in my life for much longer.

Final Thoughts On Saying No As Self Care

To wrap things up saying no to things you don’t want to do can be an act of self-care.

Having boundaries in place can take courage and can take willpower, but it is good to get to that stage.

There will be occasions and there will be cases where saying yes to doing something that you don’t want to do because it will make someone else happy will outweigh how you feel about saying no to something as an act of self-care.

If it’s not one of those cases and you still find it hard to say no, then maybe it’s time to look at why.


saying no as self care