Adulting 101: learn to be kind to yourself - you can't do it all, all the time


It’s good to be helpful, but we all need to say “no” once in a while

Susan Ramsay |

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Yeah, we know what it’s like. You’re the nice one. The student who helps the teachers, helps friends with their homework, and ends up doing, well, everything.

Clean the blackboard? You got it. Take photos for sports day? Of course! Join the litter pickup on the beach? You betcha. While it might look good on your résumé that you were in the English club, on the football team, a volunteer librarian, a cheerleader, a violinist in the school orchestra, and a member of the student union and drama and chess clubs, eventually it all catches up with you. There are only 24 hours in the day, and no, you can’t do it all.

So when the teacher approaches with yet another task, or your auntie wants you to look after her cats for the weekend, you might want to say “no”.

Like yourself

First, let’s admit that we don’t like saying “no” because we want people to like us, and if we do stuff for them, then they will like us, right?

But do you like yourself? If you were your own best friend, what would you say about taking on more than you can handle? Listen to that voice.

Have some quiet time and think about the scenarios where you are likely to be asked to take part in something you don’t want to join. And then write down around 10 different ways to say “no”. (Be warned, though, that you need to let them tell you when the event is; otherwise, your excuses will fall flat.)

They could be something like this: “Oh, that sounds interesting. Let me check with my parents and get back to you.”

“I’m awfully sorry, I already have plans for that day/night/time.”

“Oh, I’d love to help you, but unfortunately I can’t.”

Or, if it’s your friends or brother or sister, you could just say “Not it”, “Nope”, “Oh heck no”, “Newp” and “Nah ah!”

Master your own voice

Warm up by saying “no” out loud in front of a mirror – not just in your head, because you always say “no” in your head and it never goes anywhere. Ham it up: make stern, even ugly, faces, try your “fierce face”, cross your arms, stamp your feet, lift your chin, and say it over and over and over.

If you can, practise it both softly and loudly, even in different accents and in funny voices. This will let you get comfortable with the idea that “no” is not a four-letter word.

Once you have mastered the sound of your own voice saying “no”, practise the lines you wrote down. You need to do this because, again, you need to hear yourself say these things. That way, when the big moment arrives, you won’t have to stop and think, or automatically say yes.

In about a week or so, go back and practise your lines again to help fix them in your head. Good luck!

Edited by Pete Spurrier

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