The Fear of Saying “No”

Stepping onto a stone

“By stepping outside your comfort zone to do something peculiar, you confirm that you can do more than you’ve done. Move out!” – Israelmore Ayivor

“No” is one of my least favorite words. I hate saying it to people for numerous reasons. However, the main reason stems from fear.

Fear of them being hurt, upset, or unhappy. Fear of them disliking me, thinking I dislike them, or being rejecting. An even darker fear underlies most of these: fear of how they will retaliate.

Every time that I say “No,” I take into account my circumstances. What can be used as a distraction to escape as needed? Where will I dart away to? How can I placate this person enough after the “No”? All of these considerations cross my mind.

Perhaps I am overthinking situations, as people love to tell me. Maybe everything would be fine if I turned people down a bit more with less sugarcoating.

Most of the time, people would react fine. Would the guy asking for my number be disappointed if I turned him down? Sure. Would the salesperson who found me a dress be irked if I left without buying anything? Maybe. They would probably act like mature adults and continue on with life.

Yet, there are the men who grab my phone and take down my information anyway. Or put my photos online. Or yell at me in the street. There are the salespeople who call me names. Or make fun of my appearance. Or lie to me about prices.

My fear of retaliation is founded in reality to an extent. People have lashed out in the past when I tried to politely refuse them or say “No.” Their actions were frightening, hurtful, and scarring.

However, saying “Yes” or “Maybe” and then trying to escape ends up leading to even worse consequences often. Pretty soon, I am dodging people on both sides and struggling to stay calm, focused, and safe.

The more I grow and meet new people, the more I realize that avoiding an answer or giving a “maybe” won’t help me in the long run. Perhaps there are some situations where it is more suitable. Still, a firm “No” is a skill I have yet to master. Saying it will be hard and difficult for a long time – maybe for the rest of my life. There will be negative responses. Yet, having the confidence to say that will give me far more peace of mind.

I am sick of living in fear of others. I am tired of being afraid of upsetting someone simply by making a decision of what I won’t do. Not giving into my anxiety and fear of “No” will be a process, but it is one that I need to start working on now.

The time has come to start fighting this fear.

14 thoughts on “The Fear of Saying “No”

  1. You know those Spy-Type characters in films? There eyes always darting and placing themselves in locations they can get up and escape without notice or harm? Something useful here for everyone? And there are no more powerful words than telling someone to Fuck off! Own it.

    • Finding a way to say that or send that message that I still feel comfortable with (and that fits me) is difficult. But it certainly is something I need to find out.

  2. 80smetalman says:

    I’ve been exactly where you are so I know what you are going through. In the past, I’ve been made out to be a jerk or stronger words for simply saying No. It has had an effect on me throughout my life.

  3. MEM says:

    Dear Miss Rose With Thorns,
    You write that perhaps you will find it difficult to say “no” – “maybe for the rest of my life” – but it sounds in this wise and thought-provoking post that you are well on the way to discovering how to say the word. In my understanding, one of the most important steps here may be learning to believe in yourself. You have power. You have internal grace, value, and worth – all are worth preserving.

    • Thank you. That is important. Believing that my gut reaction to say “No” and leave is right, believing that I don’t want to do something or be a certain way is ok, etc. Those are hard to do. Thank you!

  4. JJM says:

    That is wonderful that you recognize the issue with not be able to say no. You are on the journey towards being more free to say no – way to go!

  5. Robert Pierce says:

    When people persist when I say no, I ask them wha
    t they do not understand about no!

  6. Alison says:

    It’s not easy but you will say it(No) more and more. I know how you feel, I’ve been there. But fortunately, I have come a long way and I say “No” more often. You will too!

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