The joys of learning to say no

One of the best things about getting older is letting go of the need to please or impress other people at the expense of your own wellbeing. It’s kind of the emotional equivalent of f***-you money—having the psychic wherewithal to do and say what you want.

At 62, I’ve finally realized that the world won’t end if you say “no” when you don’t want to do something!

I didn’t get that when I was younger. I was the consummate good girl/people-pleaser. And I cringe today when I think of some of the situations I allowed myself to be in because of my own insecurities and inability to set boundaries. To say no.

Like the awful dates I went on because I didn’t want to hurt a guy’s feelings. Or worse—the guys I slept with because I thought that if they wanted me, that validated me somehow. Never mind that they were a**holes.

Like pretend-laughing at sexist or racist jokes instead of telling someone how offensive I found their so-called humor and walking away.

Like letting a deadbeat boyfriend continue to live with me after he repeatedly “borrowed” money and never paid it back—instead of kicking him to the curb the first time he reneged.

Like listening to my mother share intimate details of her dating life instead of telling her how uncomfortable it made me feel and to please stop.

Like taking on a freelance project from someone I knew would be a client from hell instead of politely declining and saving my sanity.

Saying no was hard
when their feelings mattered more
than mine. Now I count.

I’m not saying that we should blithely go about our lives without consideration for anyone else’s feelings. That’s akin to being a sociopath.

But we shouldn’t be doormats or martyrs either. Making your own peace of mind a priority isn’t self-involvement—it’s self-determination. And while there are many things in this life over which we have no control, I can certainly decide how I want to spend my time and with whom I want to spend it.

It’s taken me 60-plus years to learn this—and believe me, I still have times when I waver. Or make a conscious decision to endure something because it’s really important to someone I care about.

But certain things have gotten much easier. Like excusing myself from an excruciatingly boring conversation at a cocktail party. Or refusing to spend any more time with a relative who keeps multiple loaded guns in his house and accidentally fired one when we were staying with him. Or ignoring hints from folks who would love to visit Maine next summer (and just want a place to stay). Or turning down an invitation to do something I’m simply not interested in. Or not feeling compelled to spend two hours on the phone with a drama-addicted friend who only calls when there’s a crisis in her life (thank gawd for caller ID).

A big part of my unwillingness to tolerate these situations or people anymore is the growing realization that life is short, so why should I spend it being uncomfortable, pissed off, bored, resentful or in danger of being shot? As Bonnie Raitt put it in her song Nick of Time, “Life gets mighty precious when there’s less of it to waste.”

Think about it…what’s the worst that could happen if you tell someone no? That they get mad at you and stop calling or requesting or doing whatever it was you said no to? Hey—problem solved!

So what do you have the hardest time saying no to? Or is there a situation you’ve successfully navigated out of? Please share…






Roxanne Jones

About Roxanne Jones

By day, Roxanne Jones is an award-winning freelance copywriter specializing in health and medicine. She launched Boomer Haiku, a humorous blog about life as a baby boomer, in 2015, and a Boomer Haiku greeting card line in 2016 (available at 6 Maine stores; visit to learn more). Born and raised in Brunswick, she left Maine after high school (Class of 1971) and, after living in Massachusetts and California, came screaming back to her home state in 2006. She enjoys chardonnay, laughing at the foibles and frustrations of getting older, and contemplates plastic surgery to get rid of the wattle on her neck.