Why Being Assertive Can Be So Hard To Do

Why You Find It Hard To Say No and How To Get Better At It

Are there are times when you find it hard to say no? If so you're not alone, a lot of people struggle with this. It can be easy to slip into giving away your time and energy, going along with things you wouldn't choose, and trying to keep everyone else happy. 

There are Good reasons that we all struggle with saying no

There are good reasons that we all struggle with saying no. Fear of rejection is one of them. Can you remember a time when you felt rejected? It’s a horrible feeling, isn’t it? It can feel like an actual physical pain—as though someone has reached in and tugged out your heart.

Our first experiences of rejection generally happen in childhood and are very intense. Clients often tell me that they can recall incidents such as:

  • Feeling rejected by a parent who didn’t pay attention to them.
  • Being shunned by other children in the playground.
  • Being teased by older siblings.
  • Feeling hurt because a teacher didn’t notice them.

As time passes, whether or not we have clear memories of these intensely painful experiences, they do remain in the subconscious. Then in adult life, when we have another experience of being rejected, we relive those same painful emotions. Psychologists will often describe this as ‘going into child’ because it’s the little child within us who is remembering and feeling these distressing experiences. 

Deep down it's all about survival

As a child you were small, and the caregivers in your life, such as parents and teachers, were big. They weren’t just big in stature—they were also big in terms of power. It’s only natural that you would have craved their attention and approval because you needed them to take care of you. You needed them to give you food and shelter and to keep you safe from harm. The worst thing that could have happened would have been to be rejected by them. So you learnt that the best way to get that approval was to be a good little girl or boy, not to argue or refuse requests.

Now let’s take this concept a little further. We are social animals. Our ancestors survived by living in groups. Tribes. 

This is why saying no can feel so risky. Inherently, we feel driven to maintain relationships with each other in order to keep ourselves safe. We do this by:

  • Trying to be liked, approved of and accepted: we want to draw people towards us.
  • Avoiding conflict and hostility: we don’t want to push people away.

It's important to acknowledge that finding it hard to say no is a natural part of being human and it stems from our primal instinct to survive within a group or tribe. However, in the modern world, this fear can be irrational and may prevent us from being our authentic selves and asserting ourselves when necessary.

It's very helpful to pause and acknowledge that when we say no to someone, there may be some temporary discomfort or upset, but ultimately, we will survive.

Get Your Free Mini Video Series On Setting Great Boundaries. 

I've put together 3 short and sweet, bite-size videos, based on many years helping clients. Watching these will help you start a lifelong practise of setting great boundaries so that you can gain respect, have fantastic relationships and live a life with the Courage To Be You!

3 Easy Steps To Setting Great Boundaries and Sticking To Them

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