It is naturally human to want to be liked and accepted by others.

We believe accepting invitations, extra tasks, and helping others maintains positive relationships. Doing these things boosts our self-esteem, making us feel needed, valued, and included, which feels good.

However, what happens when we say yes to every event we are invited to, and take on more work tasks or commitments than we can possibly handle? Overcommitting can leave us with nothing left to give, feeling depleted and stressed. It can greatly affect our mental health, our relationships with ourselves and others. Learning to say no and set boundaries helps us understand our limits and practice self-care.

Many feel depleted due to excessive commitments, often struggling to set healthy boundaries. This might happen for various reasons, however the common denominator is that many people often struggle with setting healthy boundaries with the people around them. People often struggle with setting boundaries, leading to guilt and resentment. Oftentimes, this may result in outbursts with a person’s loved ones because they are under so much duress. Saying no can be managed better by articulating our capacity and inability to commit.

The following are some suggestions to help you with learning to say no and healthy boundary setting:

Tune into yourself

Tuning into yourself will allow you to assess where you are currently at in terms of your mental and emotional capacity. This can help you to better decide how to respond to someone else’s request.

Recognise people-pleasing behaviours

Reflecting on why you feel compelled to comply to others’ demands can help you understand yourself and your relationship with boundaries better. Try to understand why saying no feels so uncomfortable, and this can teach you a lot about yourself!

Be polite, but firm

You can set a boundary with someone but still be polite! Showing a person gratitude for having thought about you, but telling them you’re unable to commit to something at this time can actually help to strengthen the relationship between the two of you. It shows them that you still appreciate them, but are unable to assist them at this time.

Practice saying no

It might not come easy at first, but practicing saying no can help you to feel more comfortable with it over time. With some persistent people, this might be the only way to get your message across.

Be okay with others’ negative reactions

This is a tough one. Saying no to someone means that they might be disappointed or hurt by you turning them down. Be attentive to how someone reacts to you saying no. This will tell you a lot about that person’s ability to respect your boundaries.

Learning how to say no and maintain healthy boundaries is an essential life skill that can help us manage our anxiety, stress levels, and conflict in relationships. The truth is that sometimes, saying no to people means that we will disappoint them, and we have to learn to be okay with accepting that. Saying no is actually a great strength and also a sign of self-respect, indicating that you value your time and energy. 

If you’ve ever heard the saying, ‘you can’t fill from an empty cup’, this is exactly what it is referring to. Tend to yourself first, and you will find that you will be in a much better position to be more thoughtful and committed to the things that you say yes to.

If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.

Pamela Borg is a counsellor who enjoys working therapeutically with adults experiencing various issues. These include general mental health and wellbeing, gender, sexuality, relationship issues.  


Anand, P. (2018). Building Healthy Boundaries: 14 Different Ways to Say No. Retrieved from:

Connors, H. (2023). Learn to Say No Without Explaining Yourself: Set Healthy Boundaries. Retrieved from:

Patnaik, T. (n.d.). Learn How to Say No and Set Healthy Boundaries With These 10 Tips. Retrieved from:

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