self-esteem Six strategies to improve and learn to say “no” | self-knowledge | assertiveness | WELFARE

self-esteem Six strategies to improve and learn to say “no” | self-knowledge | assertiveness | WELFARE
self-esteem Six strategies to improve and learn to say “no” | self-knowledge | assertiveness | WELFARE

In the maelstrom of moderate lifewhere the external demands and expectations can be quite overwhelming, our ability to say “no” becomes something more than a simple refusal, as it becomes an act of self-affirmation, which reflects and strengthens our self-esteem. In short, in a society that values ​​complacency and adaptability, learning to set limits It can be a real challenge; However, it is vital for our emotional and mental well-being.

Without a doubt, being able to assertively communicate our opinions and decisions by saying “no” not only protects our time and energy, but also reinforces our self-confidence and our sense of personal worth. However, many people find this word surprisingly difficult to pronounce, mainly out of fear of rejection, disapproval, or to avoid conflict.

For this reason, Bienestar spoke with two specialists, who provided a series of practical strategies to strengthen both self-esteem and assertiveness, so that we can learn to live in a more authentic and satisfactory way, thus cultivating healthier relationships and reducing stress. stress in our daily lives.

How is saying “no” related to self-esteem?

The ability to say “no” is deeply related to self-esteem, since it reflects how a person values ​​and respects themselves, which is why it is an important indicator of healthy self-esteem. Certainly, as stated by Dr. Karen Pérez, psychologist and professor at the Graduate School of the Continental University, avoiding unwanted situations or commitments also helps maintain a positive emotional state that, in turn, significantly improves the subjective assessment that an individual has of itself.

“Saying “no” helps us strengthen our self-esteem through the recognition of our personal rights and emotional responsibility for ourselves. According to what schema therapy proposes, we can say that those who find it difficult or never to say “no” could have a scheme of self-sacrifice and/or submission, since they put the needs of others before their own. leaving aside his self care”, highlighted Fanny Abanto Casavalente, a psychotherapist specialized in schema therapy.

High self-esteem facilitates our ability to say “no” by giving us security and self-confidence, while learning to say “no” can strengthen our self-esteem by allowing us to prioritize our own needs and limits.

What are the main challenges people face when trying to say “no”?

Of course, there are several factors why people prefer to “accept everything from everyone.” Among them are: perceiving discomfort or anger on the part of others, physical-emotional distancing, and attempts at manipulation by another individual. Basically, this can bring with it feelings of guilt, fear of being rejected, shame, pain at the possibility of not being part of a group, losing friends, etc.

“People with low self-esteem may feel that their needs and desires are not as important as those of others, which leads them to always prioritize the requirements of others. Lack of confidence in one’s own judgments and decisions can make it extremely difficult to say “no” with conviction. Unfortunately, the fear of being socially excluded or marginalized can cause a person to say “yes” even when they really want to say “no.” In some ways, this is because individuals may feel that expressing their refusal to something or someone will reveal their insecurities or deficiencies, so they prefer to avoid this exposure. Undoubtedly, the fear of rejection can have a significant impact on our personal growthsince we begin to behave in ways that exclusively prioritize the acceptance and liking of others over our own general well-being,” assured the psychologist.

What are the signs that we are overloaded and need to say “no”?

According to the schema therapy specialist, the following signs are excellent indicators that we need to say “no”:

  • Sleeping problems.
  • Physical and mental fatigue.
  • Headaches and migraines.
  • Muscle tension in the shoulders.
  • Digestive problems.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Stress and anxiety.
  • Be very self-critical.
  • Irritability.
  • Lack of motivation.
  • Frustration.
  • Burnout syndrome.
  • Lack of time for yourself.

What are the essential elements to learn to say “no”?

Personal priorities

Being clear about our priorities allows us to make informed decisions about where we want to invest our time and energy. Specifically, as Dr. Pérez pointed out, by knowing what we want to achieve, we can more easily reject requests that do not align with our goals. Therefore, identifying them provides us with a solid internal justification for saying “no.” In addition, it reduces guilt and remorse, since we understand that we are putting first what is truly essential for our well-being and long-term goals.


Self-knowledge is the learning that leads us to recognize our patterns of thinking and unhealthy behavior, which is why it is essential when it comes to establishing limits, thus allowing us to be able to better manage our lives. Definitely, as Abanto Casavalente mentioned, it is very important as part of this self-knowledge to become aware that healthy limits begin with oneself.

Saying “no” is not selfish or negative. On the contrary, it is a form of self-care and self-respect. Understanding that we have the right to reject what does not benefit us is essential for our self-esteem.

“Without a doubt, this skill is key in our Personal developmentas it helps us identify what we really need and want in various areas of our lives, such as work, relationships and personal time. Therefore, this clarity that self-knowledge offers us is essential to draw boundaries that protect our own needs and desires.said the teacher.

Assertive communication

Assertive communication is a fundamental element that allows us to reject external requests without feeling guilt or discomfort. Basically, it facilitates the expression of thoughts, feelings and needs in a clear and direct manner, which in turn favors the manifestation of limits, thus avoiding possible misunderstandings with others. Likewise, since assertive communication is based on mutual respect, by expressing our rejection effectively, we are demonstrating respect for ourselves by protecting our needs, as well as for the other person.

“A technique that we can use to put assertive communication into practice is empathic confrontation, which is very useful when expressing ourselves and refusing something that we do not want to do. This consists of 3 important steps: 1) Provide a message of empathy that consists of starting using words, such as “I understand, I understand, I recognize, I value or I am grateful”, and this helps us so that the other person does not feel attacked and is more easy for you to receive the message we want to give. 2) Confrontational message where statements are used, such as: “however, but or despite it” here we express what we do not want to do, our opinion or needs. Finally, 3) Conclusion or proposal message “for what I propose, suggest, recommend or what do you think if…” so that there can be an alternative or conclusion”, the psychotherapist recommended.


Self-compassion is essential in the process of learning to say “no,” because once we understand that rejection is an inevitable part of life and that it does not define our personal value, it can indeed help mitigate the associated fear. As the Continental University expert emphasized, being self-compassionate allows us to reduce the tendency toward destructive self-criticism that, at times, can end up having a significant impact on our self-esteem.

“Self-compassion is extremely important, since it is the gift we give ourselves and that we can develop only ourselves and with the help of psychotherapy. For example, in schema therapy, we talk about addressing the emotional needs of that vulnerable part through compassion. Basically, a internal dialogue “between our healthy adult mode with that part that needs to be cared for, understood, validated and loved, can help us continue developing healthy behaviors, such as respecting our individual needs and establishing personal limits.”said Fanny Abanto.

Perception change

According to Dr. Karen Pérez, it is necessary to change our perception of rejection and see it as something positive, so to achieve this it is crucial to work on the way we interpret and process each experience we live. For example, a good strategy is to be able to examine our underlying beliefs about rejection, that is, ask ourselves if, do we consider rejection as an indicator of failure or as an opportunity to grow and learn? Without a doubt, awareness of our thoughts can be the first step to changing them.

Once you have said “no”, it is vital to remain firm in our decision. Therefore, it is essential to reaffirm our position and avoid giving in to pressure. This will strengthen our self-esteem and make us feel more in control in our lives.

Likewise, we can achieve this by generating a change in our internal dialogue, so it is necessary to challenge negative thoughts about rejection and everything that prevents us from expressing “no”, replacing them with positive affirmations. Likewise, instead of seeing the act of saying “no” as a denial to others, we can focus on how this is an opportunity to take care of ourselves, as well as strengthen our self-esteem through healthy boundaries and communication skills that we have been developing.

Find support

If not knowing how to say “no” is affecting our emotional well-being, interpersonal relationships or quality of life in general, a therapist or psychologist can provide us with the tools, strategies and emotional support to work on this important aspect.

For its part, as Abanto suggested, when we begin to experience some of the signs of being overloaded, it is essential to go to a specialist. For example, when we feel that we are always giving in to everything that others ask or demand of us to tell us that we are a good person, in such a way that we are seeking to be appreciated solely for that. Likewise, when we tend to feel or think that the people who are important in our lives do not understand us or perhaps do not love us unconditionally for who we are, it is also advisable to seek external support, since we are probably seeking to be loved for what we are. What do we do for them.

Some recommendations

In case we are just beginning to work on our ability to say “no”, it is essential that, first of all, we do not become overwhelmed by believing that we must start setting limits with everyone and all the time. Initially, you can start with matters in which we feel that there will not be major consequences or with those people who do not represent an emotional risk for us, since there is greater trust involved. Undoubtedly, this will help us progressively develop confidence in our own ability to say “no.”

“Likewise, it is essential to begin to identify our needs and priorities, practicing self-affirmation and learning to communicate assertively. It is also important to remember that saying “no” is an act of self-care and self-respect, which is why we should not feel it as something negative or selfish,” stated the psychologist from Continental University.

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