Why High-Performing Women Feel Guilty Saying NO


Do you struggle to say no?

Even the most powerful and successful women among us sometimes feel guilty saying no. Declining an offer, turning someone down, or just saying that one simple two-letter word N-O is critical to standing in your power. And, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you already know it!

So, why is it so challenging? Keep reading to learn why psychologists say even high-performing women struggle with this common issue. And, pick up a few tips on what you can do about it.

Good Girl Training

Do you experience anxiety saying no, even with your close friends? Sometimes, the fear of hurting someone’s feelings or letting them down can cause serious stress. And, unfortunately, even the most successful of women can fall into the trap of using unhealthy coping mechanisms, like simply giving in to the request.

Sadly, this issue is especially common among women because we are socialized to consider the feelings of others from such a young age–this is our “good girl training” in action. Boys, on the other hand, are socialized to focus on goals and personal achievement or “winning” rather than others’ emotions.

Leaning Into Pain

Unresolved trauma can also play a major part in why women can’t say no.

Agreeing to things that make you uncomfortable or violate your boundaries causes stress. And, this may bring up the same emotions caused by past traumas—so, essentially, it feels familiar. This can, if left unchecked, eventually lead to a psychological cycle of negativity and guilt.

Eventually, when you aren’t feeling guilt, sadness, or something negative—your brain and body won’t like it. Instead, you’ll seek out situations that allow you to return back to the familiar feelings of anxiety that you have been conditioned to gravitate toward for years.

Do You Feel Guilty Saying No at Work?

Setting boundaries at work is essential for avoiding burnout and keeping balance in your life. So, it’s vital to know how to say no at work without feeling guilty.

First of all, try to remember that doing a good job and being professional aren’t tied to saying yes all the time. And, consider that you may be slipping into either of the aforementioned bad habits if this issue keeps coming up time and again.

Rather than staying with that guilt, focus on why you need to set that boundary. Recognizing these emotions as they come up is the first step toward overcoming that guilt.

Power and Bliss

Now that you know a bit more about why you might feel guilty saying no, it’s time to take back the power!

Are you ready to refocus and get what you really want out of life? Join the Crazy Busy Women in Balance free Facebook group to meet women just like you, and to receive free weekly trainings and more!

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