Choosing Not To (and the Art of Saying No)

Hello Friends

Harbour ~ one of the pieces for the show

A while back you might remember that I told you I’d applied to take part in the annual Great Sheffield Art Show.  I had gone as far as getting ‘Harbour’ framed up, but just one day before the selection day itself, I still hadn’t chosen a second piece of work to take.


It felt like a pretty tall order all of a sudden, to fulfill this.  It felt like too much effort to choose another work, to get it framed or ready for hanging, to drive to the selection building and leave my work for several hours before picking up the paintings and discovering whether they had been chosen or not…


…and right then, I chose not to do it.


You might be wondering ‘What?? Why??? How could you not???’


And the truth was, my heart wasn’t in it.  In the middle of many other projects I was involved in; I had chosen yet another task to take on, something else to achieve and try to succeed at.  In the swirling midst of everything else, I had presumed I could handle it and I hadn’t stopped to ask myself how necessary this really was in my Big Scheme of things and whether it was Possible.

Sometimes we have to take a big deep breath, and listen to our intuition which (in my humble opinion) is never wrong.  Like a whisper, my intuition simply said Stop.
And when I had made the choice not to take my paintings to the selection day, not to (possibly) take part in the show, I felt a wave of relief flood through me.  Within that moment I had cleared a swathe of fresh space for myself; I felt myself breathe more easily and the tension I had created by commiting to this event melted away.

And it’s OK to say No to stuff, to change our minds.  If something feels like being Too Much, then it is absolutely OK to not do it.  

In my quest to make life a little more simpler, happier and easier for me and my little tribe, I occasionally lose the way.  I get swept away with the initial enthusiasm of doing something without questioning whether or not the idea is actually beneficial or doable for me.  And then I feel those small needles of anxiety, I begin to read my To Do List and it seems unfathomably long and Undoable, mild panic follows, life feels too full to even achieve the smallest of chores, it’s a mess – oh my…


Learning to say No to things that I don’t want to do, or that I feel I ought to do in order to please others, or to look good (despite it feeling wrong) is something that becomes more important to me as I grow.  My time is precious and I want to spend every moment of it doing things that nourish me and feel good.  So I keep practising, checking in with myself and asking if it’s the right time to take on another project, attend an event.


Do you find it easy to say No?  Do you find yourself saying Yes to stuff that doesn’t feel that great out of obligation or habit?  Will you share your thoughts with me on this please, I’d love to hear them.


Sending you love today, so glad you stopped by.
Julia x

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37 thoughts on “Choosing Not To (and the Art of Saying No)

  1. Julia, so so true! Never wise to spread yourself too thinly!! There will be other opportunities when the time will be right for you xx

  2. Another great post Julia, and again you are so right! I've become so much better these last couple of years at only really doing things my heart is in, and if I don't feel comfortable with something, more times than not I just say no. I do feel guilty sometimes or that I am letting people down but that is overriden by the fact that I am usually less stressed and much more relieved when I've made the decision in question. Life is too short, we need to concentrate on things to make oursleves and the ones closest to us happiest! Good for you if it wasn't the right time for you to pursue this right now – there will always be more oppertunities. Have a lovely rest of the week, Jenny xx

  3. I think one of the greatest advantages to getting older is that it is easier to say no. You come to realise that your time on earth is running out, more behind than to come, and so it makes sense that you would want to spend that time doing what you want, rather than what you feel obliged to do, either by pressures from peers, family or society, or yourself more often than not. You learn to accept that it's OK to be selfish and think of yourself first, to do what makes you happy and not to do what doesn't. Good for you Julia.

  4. Lovely post Julia. It has been great to catch up on all your recent posts. I am such a people pleaser, that I have always found it terribly hard to say no. It's only in the last few years that I have tried to find my voice and be quite firm on what I want to do and not want to do. I am still pretty bad but I am getting there! It is always so hard to try and fit in with everything that the schools do and want parents to take part in. With a small child it is difficult to commit to things and I always feel like I am the 'bad' mother by not managing to attend things if they clash or if the little one is not in Nursery. I am trying to give myself a break though. It's all about getting done what YOU feel is the most important on your list and not worrying that you can get things done that might help out others first ALL the time.Well done for acting on your instinct and doing what is best for you, your well being and your family!I hope the sun is shining for you today and you had a super Easter!!!!!Much loveVanessa xxx

  5. Good for you. Saying no and following gut instincts are very important. Something shinier and happier will be round the corner which will make you feel like saying 'yes'. Ax

  6. Thank you! I am always saying yes to things that I should say no to. Every time I think I'm making progress, I find myself back to square one. It's good to know it's no just me 🙂

  7. Boy that is so true. Today I have walked Lily and sat still and tried to sort out the jumble that is my mind at the moment. I can't get the say 'be still thy troubled mind' out of my head. So much so that I can't even post on my blog. I have things that I want so bad to do but seem to have too many of the things that I HAVE to do, things I have taken on as people have asked me to do or work. I have to start saying no rather then just hiding away. Well done you xx

  8. Julia, I just had a similar situation, and I completely understand the sensation of relief you had when you said no!! I nearly made myself ill making myself do what I had been asked to do…. Beautiful paintings btw!!

  9. Last year, just before the start of the summer hols, I applied for a teaching job at a local high school. I hadn't taught for 6/7 years and had nothign much to show for those last few years except childcare so I didn't actually think I was in with much of a chance of getting an interview. But I did. I got the interview and I felt this huge weight on me. So I did just what you did and turned it down. I knew that once I started on this slippery slope (and I just knew I would get offered the job – just knew it) I wouldn't be able to get off it so I turned it down. I never went and just like you I felt that weight drop off me. I knew I was doing the right thing although now and again I would love a bit extra money – I know that is not important. You did the right thing. x

  10. I'm totally with you on this post Julia. I go with my intuition always, it's never let me down yet.I've learnt to say no because if I take too much on it does my mental health in which is tenuous. I do what I can within the realms of what I can manage.A couple of years ago I decided I would like to try volunteering in a hospital environment. I went through an interview which was fine but when I was shown around where I'd be working and what I would be doing I flipped inside. My anxiety and panic returned and I knew I couldn't do it. I gave it a couple of days then rang and said I couldn't continue with the programme, feeling like an absolute idiot. The sense of relief after that phone call was immense, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my chest. I knew I'd made the right decision. A couple of months later I bumped into someone who had been in on the interviewing process, an aquaintance from my kids primary school days. She looked at me like I was the scum of the earth, but it didn't bother me. I just told myself she doesn't live my life, doesn't know my circumstances, she could think what she wanted. My priority is my family and my health. I've fought to hard to get to a level of normality in my life and nothing is going to get in the way of that. Take care,Anne xx

  11. Amen to all of your wonderful stories and sharings – I guess somewhere along the way some of us are taught that doing things for others is a Good Thing, and depending upon what that is then Yes, it can be – but really we have this one amazing life, and it really is essential that we fill it with the stuff that makes us glow inside.It's fantastic of each of you to write today, thank you so much,Julia x

  12. Hi Julia, I'm a great believer in the voice of intuition too. I made the same decision a couple of years ago after entering(quite successfully most of the time) exhibitions where the work is selected. I thought I'd go back to it this year but other projects have cropped up instead. I feel happy in my decision and it feels great when you know you've done the right thing doesn't it? Another lovely post!xx

  13. Hello Julia!Thank you for a great post! I'm glad you took the difficult decision because it made you feel reliefed.I take care when to say 'yes', before I'm sure I can do it.So often we have too many things going on at the same time.Have a lovely and not stressful May!xxx Teje

  14. So,so true. I have said yes to far too many things recently and am trying to prune a bit. So hard to do though when we often forget to put ourselves first,or second, or third….!

  15. To say "no" is very hard, think a lot of us are conditioned to have "yes" as our default setting.It is a good step when we take control of our life path.Carol xx

  16. Too true, Julia. But I am very cowardly about saying no. So I generally end up no-ing by more or less deliberate default – in the case of a couple of recent exhibitions by placing the submission papers on my desk in a fairly undisturbed pile. They work their way down and by the time I vaguely remembered I had to do something about them it was too late. What a relief! Problem solved.I am not proud of this method, which I also apply to my To Do lists, but it works.

  17. this is very timely. I agreed last night to something and have regretted taking it on ever since, you are right, it's ok to change my mind and say no. x

  18. How right you are Julia! I agree that it gets a little easier when you get older, I thught initially that it was me being selfish by saying No, then I realised how precious my time is and it needs to be focussed on what's important to me ad my family. I would rather doa few good things raherthan lots of not so good things if that makes sense. Love your harbour print by the way, kee u the saying of NO ! xox

  19. I'm pretty useless at saying "no". I usually end up saying "yes" because it's easier and then regretting it. I am determined to get better at the "no" word word though!

  20. You were so right, Julia! Listen to your inner voice and do what feels right to you…it's so easy to feel you 'should' do something work wise, not to pass up chances and so on, but it's best to follow your heart and trust your instinct (I think I've finally learnt this too!) The relief when you revoke a wrong decision is so wonderful!! Enjoy your work and your choices, they make for such a tranquil life.Helen x

  21. Such wise words, I often get carried away with an idea and imagine I can squeeze in yet another task and then feel the heavy weight eating away at me. I must admit I said no (only to myself) to your Be Creative project, I almost signed up and then thought it's an extra pressure – even though you said it was relaxed, I know if I signed up I'd have to do it, just for me, every month. So I didn't sign up, but I have Been Creative, I had a go at painting the other day, in the sunshine outside, on the back of a cereal packet. And, I had fun, I enjoyed doing something different and it felt pressure free. So I will dabble in this challenge, when the moment suits.But as for saying no – it's hard, but something I need to do more often, I will keep trying! xp.s. well done to saying no, you will get more out of it if you decide to do it in the future, when you're ready.

  22. I just can't say no! I wish I could,I find myself trying to please everyone but myself,at timesmaking myself feel miserable and leaving myself too little time to do things that make me happy. Saying that though,I did refuse to make my nieces wedding flowers recently,mainly as I was worried that I was too out of touch with todays trends,boy did I feel guilty! maybe I took the first step,you are just so right.Have a guilt free week:D Julie.x

  23. Hello you -I'm pants at saying no, it puts me under pressure & can cause no end of mischeif! – but I am learning (slowly!)Have go you the booklet on the open crafts weekend, popped into Created & mentioned your name (again)…. just need your address?Let me know how best to contact you – can you leave a message at mine?Lx

  24. Learning to say 'no' is really hard..not in everything..but there is always something in life that IS hard to say no to. I have found like you that it normally has something to do with my greed or pride..haha. The odd thing is that when I don't go after such things, opportunities that I'd never thought about often arrive unexpectedly.

  25. Julia, I am sure there will be many opportunities for you to display your work at future art shows. I worry about saying 'no' to things sometimes in case I am missing out on something, but I am not afraid to say no. I also think we should trust our instincts. x

  26. I used to say 'yes' to a lot of things my heart was not in and they pressured me a great deal. These days I only agree to do something if I know I'm up to it and if I can (at least partly) play it by my rules. It makes life so much more enjoyable.

  27. great post Julia, one that has struck a chord with me today, I feel obliged sometimes to say yes to things and then think why did I agree to it, but then don't want to say no in case I upset someone.

  28. Saying no can be one of the hardest things to do.You have given us a good example. The important thing is not to let ourselves down by setting to many goals because we think it would be a good thing etc …Too much talk these days about getting out of one'scomfort zone!!!I for one am going to make sure I just say "no" every now and then. xxx

  29. Oh Julia, your posts always make me stop and think….this one is no exception! I completely identify with your predicaments, decisions and explanations. I know I should say 'no' more often…and ironically the things that are easier to say 'no' to are the ones I like doing best:-( I'm going to have to make some changes to my use of time….so I will be revisiting this post to remind myself of what is important! Thanks Ali x

  30. What a thoughtful post. Actually I'm quite good at saying 'no' now, but only after years of being over-committed and stressed and having to learn.

  31. Hi Julia, thanks for these words – I needed to hear them 🙂 Have taken something on feeling I was doing the right thing but it's weighing on my mind and zapping my energy. Since reading this post the other day I'm taking a step back and a break from that commitment. If after this break I still don't have my enthusiasm back it will be a no full-stop.

  32. Thank you so much for all of your sharings and stories – seems deep down we all know that saying no is good for us, but sometimes it is hard to use that little word. Keep listening to your intuition, follow your heart, you truly know what feels right to you.Big loveJ x

  33. "I am who I am. I don't need to be afraid. I can be whoever I want to be. I am not afraid. I am who I am and I don't need to please anyone. I can just be me.I am who I am." It took me 40+ years to get this and I am still working hard on the pleasing thing as I got some type of auto pilot telling me to please please please and not to be uncomfortable to others. But I have started to say no. It isn't easy but I am working on it. This affirmation helps motivating me to reach better peace within myself and start feeling that I do things I want to do instead of things that others expect me to do. In a way that is the great thing about getting older and wiser and more true to ourselves. Thank you for sharing and making me feel I am not the only one struggling with these matters. I think we are many. XxxAnnette

  34. Wise words indeed and beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your insight into something that troubles us all from time to time. When you are in a stressful situation as you describe, it's not always easy to see that you do have a choice, a way out, so your post was very welcome.

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