On Saying No, Opting Out, & Disappointing Other People

“We’re all busy. We’ve all taken on too much. Saying yes to less is the way out.” ~Derek Sivers

Here’s a fun fact:  We all have a finite amount of time and energy. Which means that being discerning about how we allocate that time and energy is essential.

I was reminded this week what it feels like to let your energy and focus be hijacked by something without even realizing it.

And here’s what I remembered in this process:  It feels bad, y’all. BAD.


Friday afternoon I found myself overcome by an unexpected anxiety and I could not figure out what was causing it. Sure, I’d had a very busy week at work and had a lot on my plate, but I was also feeling relatively calm about all the work-related boxes I still needed to check before the weekend. The anxiety felt incongruent to the current context of my life.

So, then, why the anxiousness? Why did I feel like I might cry at any moment? I was baffled and annoyed and frustrated by the feelings. Even while I did my best to just allow them to be true and to listen for what they were trying to tell me.

And then it hit me. The anxiety was about a situation I’d let myself get pulled into that really wasn’t even about me at all and was something I didn’t feel particularly thrilled to be a part of.

But I’d been putting my energy there anyway. Which:  Don’t do that. It feels terrible.

I had been participating in something that was making me feel like UGH, stealing my time and brainpower, and had no redeeming value for me personally or professionally.

Whhhhhy? Just stop, I thought.

And I know I’m being vague, but that is intentional. Because part of what happened is not mine to share. Nor do I want to hurt anyone’s feelings by telling the details of the story when the details don’t matter to the overall point of this particular bit of prose.

The point I am trying to make here is that you are allowed to say no to things. To decline invitations. To opt out of conversations. To compassionately erect boundaries around your time, energy, and attention.

In fact, you absolutely need to do all of these things some of the time.


As I’ve pointed out previously, nothing feels good all the time. NOTHING. Even the stuff about which you care deeply and to which you are ecstatic to be allocating your energy will feel hard some days.

And that’s okay. It’s just part of doing or creating something meaningful.

But watch out for things that show up and slyly steal away your attention, things that might not seem like a big deal initially but can end up robbing you of more energy than you realize, things that leave you feeling terrible without contributing anything valuable to your life.

Here’s another fun fact:  It’s okay to disappoint people sometimes.


Whaaaaat? Yep.

When you say no to something or excuse yourself from a situation that isn’t serving you in order to more mindfully focus your energy, you will often disappoint someone. And again, that’s okay. I promise you. They’ll get over it.

I am a recovering people-pleaser. Anyone else?

And those of us with this tendency can sometimes be a little leaky with our energy. Why? Because we want to make others happy. We want to be liked. We want to be agreeable. We don’t want to ruffle feathers.

Here’s my advice:  RUFFLE FEATHERS.


Give yourself permission to say no sometimes. To risk disappointing someone else in order to show up more fully and compassionately for yourself.

Stop staying yes to shit you hate and to things that make you feel like shit.

It’s okay to OPT OUT. Truly.

Happy weekend-ing, all. I love you.