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A Vital Part of Self-Care: Your List of No

ocean and sunset, by mama, no quote.2.2014

As I’m reading through The Power of No: Because One Little Word Can Bring Health, Abundance and Happiness by James Altucher and Claudia Azula Altucher, I’ve been thinking about all the things we can say no to. (I’ve already mentioned their book in this post.)

Because saying no helps us make room for the important yeses in our lives — the yeses that nourish and serve us.

Because saying no leaves us with more time, energy and even health. It’s how we can listen to ourselves, stand up for ourselves and practice compassionate self-care.

Sometimes, saying no is tough because we’re caught off guard or feel guilty or don’t think we have the permission to decline. To ease the tension (in ourselves and in the conversation), we blurt out “sure! I don’t mind!”

But then our body twists, and we feel like we can’t go back. So we do the very thing we don’t want to do, become miserable and feel resentment toward the other person or ourselves.

Writing a list in advance can help. That’s because it gives you the opportunity to reflect on the requests, habits, ideas, items, activities and people you’d like to say no to.

It lets you think through your priorities and values and serves as a key reminder. (For instance, you can even keep this list on your phone, in your wallet or bag.)

If you’re not sure where to start, think of the times you’ve said “yes,” and you’ve regretted doing so. Think of the things that deplete you. Think of the things that uplift you and what you might have to say no to in order to make space for these things in your life.

When creating your list, be specific. Think of your list as a set of personal guidelines or guiding principles.

After each “no” statement, you also can include why you’re saying no. Because your “why” gives you the courage — and inspiration — to decline. Because you truly understand the pivotal reason why saying no is essential.

Read your list aloud. Declare your no’s out loud. Practice saying no until it becomes natural (or natural-ish).

Here’s a sample list of what you might say no to:

  • Requests that elicit a physical discomfort.
  • Requests that don’t sound like fun.
  • Requests that will inevitably make you resentful.
  • Requests of any kind.
  • Magazines, shows and other forms of media that make you feel bad about yourself.
  • Foods that don’t taste good.
  • Workouts that don’t feel good.
  • Clothes that don’t make you feel beautiful or the way you’d like to feel.
  • Events you don’t feel good about.
  • Spending time with people who drain you. You might not be able to avoid these people entirely, but you can minimize your time with them.
  • More than five tasks on your to-do list per day.
  • Perpetuating, feeding, fueling the negative, limiting thoughts of your inner critic.
  • Channel-surfing (instead making time for the programs you actually want to watch).
  • Multitasking.
  • Calorie-counting.
  • Questioning your worth.
  • Conversations about horrible bodies and the calories in your pasta.
  • Hyper-worrying about what others think about you.
  • Rigid eating rules, such as not eating after a certain time (when you’re clearly hungry).
  • Stores whose ads promote narrow beauty standards or sexually objectify kids, teens or really anyone.
  • Anything in your home that feels suffocating.
  • Judging yourself for feeling negative emotions. Give yourself the permission to feel it all.
  • Assumptions that you can’t do something. (I work on this every day.)
  • Dismissing your likes, preferences, wants and desires. Instead, listen. Try to be open.
  • Dismissing the power of play in your life.

Again, this list of no’s is just an example. I just wanted to show the many, many things we can say no to. The many things we have permission to say no to.

Some statements might resonate with you. Others might not. Your list might look completely different.

But whatever you list looks like, don’t forget:¬†You have all the permission in the world to say no to anything or anyone.

A Vital Part of Self-Care: Your List of No

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

Margarita is an associate editor at She writes about everything from taking compassionate care of yourself at any weight, shape, and size, to coping healthfully with difficult emotions. Her goal is to give readers practical, empowering tips to better their lives, and to remind you that whatever you're struggling with, you're never, ever alone.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2014). A Vital Part of Self-Care: Your List of No. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 20, 2019, from


Last updated: 8 Aug 2014
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