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It Is OK to Say No

During the excitement of the holiday season, we may feel overwhelmed and, eventually, become emotionally drained to the point that it impacts our physical health. During this time of year, our schedules and finances are often put under pressure as we may be asked to purchase or participate in more than we can handle. In times like these, know that it is OK to say, “no.”

Saying no is a way of drawing an invisible line called a boundary that enables us to define our physical and emotional limits in order to practice self-care.

Three Types of Boundaries

There are three categories of boundaries: porous, rigid and healthy. 

To visualize these boundaries, imagine the porous boundary as an open field where all may enter, and no one knows where the land ends or begins. Some may even choose to live off the land.  

Then imagine the rigid boundary as a wall. This wall is high and deeply embedded into the earth with the intention to close off and overly protect what physically and emotionally lies on the other side.  

Finally, imagine a healthy boundary as a picket or chain link fence protecting what you value. It usually has a gate and those with permission can enter. The fence allows you to occasionally share, but also protects you to increase self-worth.

One may believe that if you have healthy boundaries, you will not have a problem with saying no, and if you have rigid boundaries, you will say no more frequently. This is not necessarily the case. Instead, most people have a mix of different boundary types.

When to Say No

The goal of a healthy boundary is to be able to say no at appropriate times. Below is a list of appropriate times to consider saying no at home or at work:

  1. If you feel guilty or obligated.
  2. When you are already overwhelmed, and your calendar is full.
  3. If you are saying yes to please someone.
  4. If the request crosses personal boundaries, whether it is financial, emotional, sexual and/or material.

Reflect on Saying No

During this holiday season take time to reflect on your reasons for saying no to others. According to Dr. Lisa Bobby, saying no to others is saying yes to yourself. For example, saying no to an expensive item allows you to say yes to creating savings for your household. Ultimately, saying no could lead to having healthy boundaries, and that would be one of the best gifts this season.

Free Mental Health Trainings and Support

Students at Dallas College can receive free counseling and crisis care counseling through the office of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) — including on campus and virtual appointments. CAPS also offers regular trainings and workshops.

Learn more at

Bobby, L. M. (2022, September 26). “How to Say No to Others… and Yes to Yourself.” Growing Self Counseling & Coaching. Retrieved November 14, 2022, from

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