Your time is valuable: follow these tips so you can change your mindset, be more assertive, and say no without feeling guilty

Do you have a hard time saying no to those who don’t deserve your time? Do people tend to take advantage of your personality? Do you find it difficult to set boundaries?

In this article I am going to help you understand why that happens, and how you can quickly change your attitude and be a stronger, more assertive person. Let’s begin.

“Am I too nice?”

First and foremost, there’s no such thing as being too nice, just like there’s no such thing as being too beautiful, or too happy.

Being a nice person — someone who cares about others, someone who is honest, tactful, and empathic — can only be a good thing.

If you are reading this article, chances are your issue isn’t being nice, but being weak.

Why is it important to understand this? Because as long as you use these two adjectives as synonyms, you will believe that being a good person implies being taken advantage of, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

“The world is an evil place”, “nice people finish last”, “it doesn’t pay to be a good person”. You’ve probably heard these negative quotes a few times, and convinced yourself that, as someone who’s honest, being treated badly is inevitable.

I’m here to tell you that is completely false. You can be a nice person and learn to be more assertive, so everyone respects you.

To help you do this, I’m going to give you five easy tips; but first, we need to make sure that you understand some key concepts regarding your mindset (everything you do starts in your mind, so it would be pointless to just read a bunch of tips without changing your thoughts).

Changing your mindset

In essence: saying no to someone and putting yourself first is completely normal.

You are on this planet to experience happiness and fulfillment, not to please others. And even if your goal is to help those around you, you won’t be able to do so until you feel great in the first place.

So why do some many people think putting themselves first is a bad thing? There can be different reasons, but I believe what we are taught in school (and societal pressures in general) can influence our thoughts negatively.

For example, since you were little you may have been taught that if you ignore other people’s needs, then you are a bad person. While this is true, it could also be interpreted as “other people’s needs are more important than mine” — especially as a kid.

Keep in mind, our mind can absorb some of these notions subconsciously. So when, later on in life, an energy vampire tries to take advantage of us, that subconscious part of our brain might tell us to “help that person out”, even if our rational mind knows we shouldn’t.

Rewiring your thoughts can take some time, but if you repeat to yourself that putting yourself first is normal (and not selfish), eventually your mindset will change.

Put yourself first

Other things to keep in mind

If you suffer from guilt, or low self-esteem, it’s going to be harder to say no to people.

Guilt tells your mind that you don’t deserve to look great, have meaningful relationships, have more time, have more money, and so on; low self-esteem tells your mind that you are worthless.

One way to improve your self-image is by asking yourself better questions. It’s also important to stop judging yourself, and building relationships with people who support you.

If you believe your self-esteem is too low, then CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) could help you immensely.

Five easy tips to help you say no

Now that you’ve learned what may prevent you from becoming a stronger person, you can check out the following tips.

1. Smile

A positive attitude always goes a long way, regardless of who you are dealing with. When you want to say no to someone, be firm, but calm and polite. If you can, smile at them.

Those who try to take advantage of your vulnerability do so by changing your emotional state, then asking for something. So if you’re emotionally detached, they won’t be able to attack you.

Never react aggressively, and don’t raise your voice, because when that happens you become more vulnerable. A smile, on the other hand, shows that you are confident, and you are sure about your decision.

When you say no, and somehow you’re supposed to give a reason for that, you can either be 100% honest or come up with an excuse. This totally depends on the situation. In an ideal world, you would be honest with everyone.

But if you’re dealing with someone who is pathological, it may be sensible to be vague. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to lie. For example, you could say: “I’m busy”, or “I have to work on something”. This could be watching videos on YouTube, but as long as you are vague, they won’t know.

Again, your attitude makes all the difference. The more they insist you do something, the calmer you should be, and the more you should smile. They will be very confused (because your reaction isn’t the one they expected), and give up.

2. Don’t be afraid

When you say no to people, are you afraid of their reaction?

You shouldn’t be. Their reaction will tell you who they really are. If you say no, and their attitude doesn’t resonate with you, then it probably means you should avoid them. I think the following quote explains this perfectly:

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.

— Dr. Seuss

To better understand this, try and reverse the situation in your mind. If you asked a favor to a friend, and they told you they couldn’t do it, would you be angry at them? Would you start shouting? You wouldn’t: you would think they had a good reason to say no.

When we are afraid of someone’s reaction, chances are it’s all in our head.

Now, if the other person changes their attitude after you say no (for example, by playing victim, or even showing hostility), then they are either very immature or very opportunistic. So don’t waste your time: ignore these people and surround yourself with those who matter.

3. Take time

When someone asks a question, remember: you are allowed to think!

Quick decisions are usually bad decisions. You need time to think and ask yourself at least some of the following questions:

  • What do I want?
  • Does this person make me feel anxious or guilty?
  • Is this person too selfish?
  • Do they really need my time/help/money?
  • Is this person trying to take advantage of my vulnerability?
  • Why did they ask me, and not someone else?
  • Would I regret saying yes?

Now, you need to use common sense. Most of the time, you won’t even need to think. But if you’re not sure, take your time, even if it’s five more seconds.

We live in a hectic world, where everything and everyone is supposed to be super fast. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always produce the best results. When we make mistakes, it’s usually because we do something too quickly, or don’t have enough time.

If you have a feeling the person who approached you is an energy vampire, slow down. You could even tell them: “I need time to think about this”, whether it’s a minute or a week.

4. Be selfish

Being selfish is a good thing. The problem with narcissists, opportunists, and those who are greedy is that they are too selfish.

Chances are this doesn’t apply to you, so from today onward, try and be a bit more self-centered. A great, easy way to do this is by asking yourself the question I shared in the previous paragraph: “what do I want?”

Energy vampires hate those who are selfish because they know they’ll have a hard time taking their resources. Conversely, when they see someone who doesn’t value their time, money, or energy, they will try and take advantage of them.

Let me repeat what I mentioned earlier: you are on this planet to experience happiness and fulfillment, not to please others. If you don’t work on your needs first, then you won’t be able to become the best version of yourself.

Plus, if you think saying no to someone is too selfish, ask yourself whether it’s just you thinking that. If most people you know, including your friends, family, or partner, would think it’s perfectly normal, then it probably means you are not selfish enough, and this has a negative impact on your mental health.

5. Change your environment

Changing your mindset will help you immensely, regardless of where you are. However, if you are constantly surrounded by negative people who drain your energy, then it may be more sensible to change your environment. I’ve explained why and how in this article.

I believe that most of the time the problem isn’t us, but where we are and who we interact with. This applies to depression, anxiety, lack of self-esteem, lack of motivation, you name it.

If your environment is toxic, do yourself a favor and find a better place (whether it’s a new house, a new workplace, or even a different state/country). There’s enough stress in our life: we don’t need to add more.

How to say no: final thoughts

Once you improve your self-esteem and become a stronger person, saying no will be the easiest thing in the world.

Practice being assertive, and repeat to yourself that putting yourself first can only be a good thing. You won’t be able to help and love others until you love yourself anyway.

If you want a short summary of everything we’ve gone through, you can download it here for free 👇