Coach Kim: The secret to saying 'no' without guilt

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SALT LAKE CITY — To change behavior you must first change the beliefs that drive it. In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim shares that instructions on writing new beliefs and boundaries for your life.


I have recently found several of your articles and have loved them! I think they provide great insight and point of view. I have been trying to find one if you have one regarding "saying no and not feeling guilty." For example, if I get invited to a friend gathering and I respond with "no," but then feel guilty/manipulated into going or being a bad friend afterward. Are there any tips you have regarding it?


The first thing you must do is understand why you feel guilty taking care of yourself and choosing what you want to do. You have every right to make choices that make you happy. Why would you feel guilty for doing that?

5 fear-based beliefs

Most people find they have one or more of the following fear-based, subconscious beliefs. Do these feel like something you might believe?

1. "If I say no, then I am selfish."

You might have a subconscious belief (possibly learned in childhood) that says if you take care of yourself at all, it makes you a selfish, bad person. You may believe good people should sacrifice themselves to make others happy, but this is not true.

The truth is, self-care is wise and healthy, and you must take care of yourself or you will soon have nothing left to give. It is wise to balance taking care of yourself and taking care of others. In order to maintain this balance, you must say no and choose your happiness half the time.

2. "If I disappoint other people, I will be rejected or judged."

You might have experienced this at some point in your life, so you believe this is a rule. The problem is it's not a rule; it's a belief — which means it's not a fact.

Most people can handle hearing "no" without punishing or rejecting you for it. If they do reject you for it, they probably aren't the kind of person you want as a friend. A real friend will support you in doing what's best for you.

It's important to note that you may have taught the people in your life to manipulate you because you always feel guilty when you say no. You may have created these rules of engagement. The good news is that you can change the rules any time you want. You can retrain people in your life to "get over it" when they get disappointed on occasion. You can also say no with love and respect, and most people can handle it and will still love you.

3. "I can't handle confrontation, so it's easier to give in."

This subconscious belief might have come from a bad experience in your past. You may have decided that in most situations, it's safer to sacrifice yourself than risk a fight. The truth is, you can usually enforce boundaries in a kind way that won't lead to conflict.

If you are respectful and kind, yet firm, you can handle these issues with strength and love. If they do turn ugly, you can excuse yourself and refuse to participate until the other person can speak to you with respect. If you have people in your life that cannot handle an occasional "no," that is their problem, not yours. You must maintain a healthy balance and not feel guilty for doing so.

4. "Other people's happiness is more important than mine."

You may have learned as a child that sacrificing yourself or putting your happiness last makes you righteous. This is not true. It actually makes you are acting like a doormat and it makes people lose respect for you. You are the same in importance as everyone else. You have to see yourself as equally important or others won't treat you like you are.

5. "Pleasing other people means they will like and value me."

This is, again, not necessarily true. Sometimes even when you sacrifice for people, it won't make them value or appreciate you. They may even lose respect for you because you don't take care of yourself. They could treat you worse and take your sacrifices for granted.

Occasionally, saying no — especially to the people in your house — means they are more likely to appreciate it when you do say yes.

Which of these fear-based beliefs might be driving your fear of saying no?

Create new beliefs

The incredible thing about finding the faulty beliefs behind your behavior is that you can now change those beliefs. They may be deeply ingrained in your subconscious programming and hard to change, but your conscious mind is stronger and you have the power to choose, in any moment, a different belief that will immediately change how you feel about the situation.

You can write some new beliefs (in your own words) and claim them as your truth moving forward. You might want to put them somewhere you can see them daily and work on consciously choosing them whenever you are tempted to people please.

Here are some new beliefs that might serve you more:

  1. "It is not selfish to take care of my own needs and choose what I need." It is emotionally healthy to have a balance between self-care and showing up for others. Being selfless should be balanced with some selfish, and I am still a good person living this way.
  2. "I will disappoint people on occasion and not do what they want me to do." Others will respect my strength and like me for doing this because weakness and being easy to manipulate is never respected. I deserve both love and respect.
  3. "I can handle difficult conversations and conflict in a strong and loving way." I will not betray myself and give in to others just to avoid conflict. If the conflict becomes inappropriate, I will refuse to participate in the conversation.
  4. "I teach people how to treat me by how I treat myself." I treat myself well and make my needs important because I want the people in my life to treat me well too. If I don't care about myself and my needs, I will demonstrate that it is OK to disregard me. It is not OK.
  5. "What other people think of me is irrelevant." Their opinions don't affect my value. I have the same infinite, absolute value whether they like me and my decisions or not. I don't waste time worrying about what others think of me.
  6. "We all have the same intrinsic value and my happiness is equally as important as other people's happiness." When I honor my own needs, I demonstrate to the world that all people deserve to be honored and cared for.
  7. "I love myself first so I have something to give others." If I don't keep my bucket full, I will soon have nothing to give.
  8. "People pleasing is selfish." When I try to please other people, my loving behavior is actually driven by a need to get validation. When I do nice things because I need people to like me, that is not loving behavior at all; it is selfish. Real love can only happen when I experience the same amount of love for myself as I feel toward others. When I make sure my own needs are met, I have a full bucket and can give to others without needing anything back.

Create new boundaries

You cannot change any behavior until you change the beliefs that are driving it. You can also use your new beliefs to help you write some new boundary rules that apply to specific situations. Write these new boundary rules down on paper, don't just think them. Writing them down makes them more concrete.

Here is an example of great boundary rule:

  • I have the right to say no to watching my neighbor's kids, especially if it would push me over the edge of sanity and make me grouchy toward my family. This is the loving thing for all concerned. I will not be afraid of how my neighbor will feel about this. How she chooses to feel about it is not my business. I will tell her, with love, that I can't do it (without explaining why). In the end, she will respect me for my strength and love.

Take the time to write out, on paper, exactly how you are going to choose to feel and behave in specific situations. Read your new beliefs and boundaries often, and practice enforcing them.

You can do this.

Ask Coach Kim

Do you have a question for Coach Kim, or maybe a topic you'd like her to address? Email her at

More LIFEadvice:

Kimberly Giles

About the Author: Kimberly Giles

Coach Kim Giles is a master life coach and speaker who helps clients improve themselves and their relationships. She is the author of "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and has a free clarity assessment available on her website. Learn more at

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Coach Kim Giles is a master life coach and speaker who helps clients improve themselves and their relationships. She is the author of "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and has a free clarity assessment available on her website. Learn more at


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