How many times have you said yes to something you didn’t really want to do? This can be simple things like doing a favor when your plate is full or accepting an invitation you don’t enjoy. It can also be around larger issues. Many people don’t pursue their life purpose because of pressure from parents, spouses or other significant people in their lives. These people often have the best of intentions, but not following the path you know is right for you can lead to a whole lot of regret and resentment down the road.

What compels us to sabotage our own best interests and cave to others requests? We don’t want to appear mean or selfish. We want to be good people and we hold the belief that being a good person means doing things to please the people we care about. When we don’t, we feel guilty. Guilt is something we learn early on because we don’t want to disappoint our parents and other caregivers. Yes, it’s good to be helpful to others! However, self care and establishing reasonable boundaries is not being selfish or mean.

So, how can you assert your right to say no without the guilt? The key word in that last sentence is “assert.” Being assertive means being confident in standing up for your rights and boundaries in a calm, positive way. You are neither aggressive nor passive. It’s about expressing your needs while respecting the other person.

Learning assertiveness takes practice and may feel uncomfortable at first. People who are used to you always saying yes, may be startled by your new assertiveness and may push back. Realize you are not responsible for how others feel. That’s their job. Their reaction to you is about them and their issues and never about you. People who truly care about you will adjust to your assertiveness and may even respect you more for it.

Some suggestions:

1. First identify what your boundaries are. What is reasonable and what is going to drain you of energy or make you feel taken advantage of? What triggers you? Once you clearly understand your own boundaries you can more effectively communicate them to others.

2. Use “I” statements. When someone has said something that makes you feel uncomfortable say, “When I hear you say_______ I feel _____.” Then ask if that’s what they intended. No matter their response simply reply with, “OK.” You will usually see that behavior go away.

For example, after already politely declining, someone has just continued to pressure you to help organize an event that you have little interest in or time for. You can say, “When I hear you continue to ask me after I’ve said I can’t do this, it makes me feel unheard and disrespected. Is that what you intended?” Most people will backtrack immediately. You simply reply with “OK.”

3. When someone asks you to do something that you’re not sure you want to do or have the time for, ask for a day or two to think about and get back to the person. That gives you space to really consider if you have the time. If you don’t, then you can say, “Thank you for thinking of me, but in looking over my schedule, I won’t be able to fit it in.”

4. If a parent, spouse or friend is trying to talk you out of what you see as your purpose, they are usually doing that out of fear of some sort. Acknowledge that and their concern for you. Say something like, “I love how you want the best for me and understand that you have some concern that I’m making the wrong choice. But, this is my decision to make and I feel good about this direction.” If they persist, use the formula in #2.

5. Be direct and unapologetic as you state what you need. Expect a positive reaction from the other person and keep in mind you’re perfectly within your rights to have needs and express them to the appropriate person.

6. Pay attention to your non-verbal behavior. Make eye contact, but don’t stare the other person down. Your voice should be clear and firm, rather than yelling or meek. Stand up straight, facing the other person, not too close or too far. Your facial expression should match your words.

As you can see, this does take practice! Once mastered, your relationships and ability to navigate through life will be much improved. For more information on assertiveness, I recommend the 10th edition of the book, “Your Perfect Right” by Robert Alberti and Michael Emmons. I’d love to hear about your experience being assertive in the comments!

Author's Bio: 

Estra Roell is a certified Law of Attraction Life Coach, certified Life Purpose Coach, Advanced PSYCH-K® facilitator and Happiness Generator Facilitator. Estra helps clients get in touch with their passions and purpose and assists them to uncover and remove any blockages or old patterns that may be holding them back from living a life of joy, purpose and abundance. Estra is also a co-author of the books "101 Great Ways to Enhance Your Career" and "How to Create a Rich, Successful and Fulfilling Life." She's the author of the e-book, "4 Keys to Living Your Life Purpose." Visit to receive her free report on "Visioning Your Purpose and Heading Toward it Today.” Sign up for a free “Life Purpose Strategy Session” at