We are often told that we should learn to draw boundaries and say no more often. Having the ability to say no means having an active say in our lives and not allowing whatever winds that come along to blow us with them. It is not as easy as it sounds, though. We’re sometimes unable, or we get held back from saying no for many reasons. This guide is to help get you on the track to saying it more often.

Say No to Yourself
This is the first and most basic step to learning to say no, but maybe not what you’d expect. One thing many of us do not realize is that we stifle ourselves. We don’t take enough control of our lives, and allow our instincts or small voices inside our heads to get the better of us and lead us along, possibly in the wrong direction. Then, we give these voices (undoubtedly influenced by outside voices as well) the space to shape, control and cloud our choices and decisions, when what we need to do is put an end to this, once and for all.

Stop accepting that you cannot do something and go ahead and do it. Make sure the boundaries you’ve set in your life are your own, and then don’t be afraid to go ahead and cross them to reach yourself. Challenge yourself.

Have a bad habit you desperately want to stop? Tell yourself ‘no’ once and for all, stick to that no and stop the habit. Want to achieve something that seems impossible? Refuse to listen to the voices in your head that say you can’t.

Once you’re able to tell yourself no, to harness your own instincts or desires, to control your own inner voices, it will be easier for you to say no to anyone else.

Understand Why You’re Not Saying No
The next logical step to being able to say no to others is understanding your own psyche and why you haven’t said it sooner. You might be constantly agreeing because a “no” seems selfish, mean, disrespectful or inappropriate. It’s not. Say no and DON’T feel guilty about it. Nobody else will lose their boundaries or sacrifice their own wants or happiness for yours, and you shouldn’t be expected to either.

You can see “no” as negative, but it’s not. It is the most positive attitude you can adopt in your life, if you do it for yourself. Because the ability to say no means you’re only agreeing to things on your terms, all your actions become choices; they become genuine and wholehearted, rather than forced. You lose any hard feelings or bitterness and open up.

Say ‘No’ for the First Time
The first time you say no is the hardest, so you have to get it out of the way. It gets easier afterwards as you realize the incredible impact it can have. You become empowered and able to command your own life, making your initial feelings of guilt disappear. At the end of the day, saying no every once in a while is the best you can do for both you and the people around you. It is the first step to owning your life and having a healthy psyche.

When it comes to your peace of mind and happiness, don’t settle. Don’t settle because of people or because of your own head. Do things for people. Help them out. Support them. Compromise. But do it because you want to, not because you’re being pressured or emotionally blackmailed.

At the end of the day, always remember that nobody has the right to an irrevocable and unconditional yes from you. You owe it to yourself to be able to say “no”.