life · minimalism · musings · personal growth


I’ve been a little bit TED-obsessed lately and this week stumbled upon an interesting video that spoke volumes to me: The Magic of Not Giving a F*ck, presented by Sarah Knight (which seems to be a condensed version of her book on the same topic).

In a nutshell, this TEDx talk is all about setting boundaries and learning to say no. It’s about deciding which tasks, events, obligations and relationships deserve our time, energy and money – then acting accordingly, with honesty and politeness. This is what Sarah Knight calls her “NotSorry” method. I like her tongue-in-cheek nod to Marie Kondo’s tidying method – which she seems to lightheartedly disparage – and which, in my opinion, the “NotSorry” method perfectly complements.

That’s because for me, living a simpler life is not only about decluttering my surroundings but also about simplifying my day-to-day life, including critically analysing the things on my to-do list and scrapping those I don’t feel deserve my time. The latter is something I’m still working on! The message Sarah Knight is getting across here seems extremely logical, but for a long-time people-pleaser like me, hearing this kind of message is incredibly encouraging and inspiring. I’ve already watched the video a number of times and plan on coming back to it regularly to remind me how important the art of just saying no is.

If you’d like to watch the video yourself (it’s quite short), here it is (Note: language warning – not suitable for children or those offended by strong language!).

While I found a lot of value in this talk, I was intrigued by the commentary on the video, which was quite varied. Some commenters praised Sarah Knight and seemed excited to begin implementing the method in their own lives, while others thought the talk reeked of privilege and thought she had outlined a recipe for self-centredness.

Personally, I can’t agree with the self-centredness argument, firstly because I believe that when you decline something with honesty and politeness, it really is perfectly acceptable. There’s nothing wrong with putting ourselves first if we respect others’ feelings in the process. Secondly, mastering the art of saying no doesn’t preclude us from doing things we may not necessarily enjoy but which bring value to our lives. For example, if a friend was going through a rough time and asked me to assist them with something which didn’t really appeal to me in and of itself, I would most likely say yes not out of obligation but because my love for that person would make it a valuable investment of my time and energy. To me this is very different from doing something because I want to impress – or not disappoint – someone.

My major takeaway from this was that I really need to be more intentional about putting myself first. While I’m getting better at saying no, I’ll still quite often agree to something when my heart just isn’t in it. If I learn to say yes when I mean yes and no when I mean no, it means I can stop worrying about trying to get out of something I’ve already committed to, or having to go through with it while dreading it. I also think this is fairer on the people around us. While it’s not easy to see our friends, family members or co-workers disappointed by a ‘no’, it’s also not fair on them if they think they can count on us but we are not fully present and engaged in what we are doing.

What do you think of Sarah Knight’s “NotSorry” method? Self-centred gimmick or key to greater happiness? Do you think this kind of ‘mental decluttering’ plays an important role in living a simpler life? I’d love to know!


12 thoughts on “THE ART OF JUST SAYING NO

  1. I love this! I can definitely see how people would think this is a self-centred way to live life. But, on the flip side, would they prefer their loved ones to run themselves so ragged from doing what everyone else wants that they make themselves sick? No, I don’t think they would. I’ve gotten quite good at saying no to things that I don’t want to do. But I think another component of it is not letting those things wind us up so much. For me, socializing is a real mental chore. I used to get so worked up about having to do it that it made me miserable. I’m not sure exactly what changed but now I can go to a social event without completely dreading it. I still don’t like doing it, but it’s not the whole melodramatic episode it used to be. Some of things we have to do in our lives aren’t actually THAT terrible. Once we realize that, maybe we can do them even though we don’t want to? Maybe we can stop wasting our mental energy on those things by recognizing we can get through them? Great post, Lisa!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a very good point! There are certain things we just can’t not do, so doing them without the drama makes them a lot more tolerable. Socialising is a great example, as I definitely also find it a mental chore when it’s in large groups (Who will I talk to? What will we talk about? What if I don’t have anything in common with anyone? Who will I sit next to? Argh!). All the stress of anticipating how difficult the situation will be definitely wastes a lot of mental energy. Thanks for your comment, as always, Britt! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for sharing this Lisa! I’ve gotten pretty good at saying no over the years. I’ve been thinking a lot about terms like selfish and self-centeredness. They always have a negative connotation to them but I don’t think that’s fair. I am not going to make apologies for being selfish with my time. I can give and love and be a good person and put others first AND be selfish with my time on occasion, or even a lot of occasions. So I’m totally on board with being not sorry!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Courtney! Glad to hear you are on board with being not sorry 🙂 Like you, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be ‘self-centred’. Being discriminating when it comes to what is worthy of our time, money and energy whilst maintaining a sense of politeness and honesty definitely makes sense to me and doesn’t fall under that category. I feel like it’s such a relief to recognise this and just say no without feeling selfish!


  3. This was such a great post. I enjoyed the TEDx talk as well. “While it’s not easy to see our friends, family members or co-workers disappointed by a ‘no’, it’s also not fair on them if they think they can count on us but we are not fully present and engaged in what we are doing.” — this is so true.

    This post really resonated with me because I’ve really worked on saying ‘no’ for the last year and a half or so and I’ve noticed some things in the process…
    1. My mental health is so much better — I have pretty bad social anxiety so I would often have to put a TON of energy into events that weren’t all that great to begin with (ahem, baby showers)
    2. Not everyone gets it, especially family. My mother-in-law is one to say ‘yes’ to everything and in the process stretches herself too thin and I’ve watched her mental health suffer for it. She doesn’t seem to understand how I can say ‘no.’ My own mother also doesn’t get it. She tends pressures me to say ‘yes’ when I’ve already said ‘no’ which has presented challenges in our relationship.
    3. You have to be be okay with people not getting it. Like Sarah Knight said in the video, some people are going to think you’re an a**hole. When you set boundaries with people, you may get labeled as selfish so you really have to be willing to deal with that.
    and lastly…
    4. It’s addicting! I’ve learned I really, really like saying ‘no’ 🙂 But, I have to be careful because if I say ‘no’ too much, I’m really just rewarding my anxiety by avoiding situations that would make me uncomfortable. This is why I really liked Sarah Knight’s f*ck bucks idea! Realistically, you have to do some things you’d rather not but you should be selective.

    Anyway, #endrant 🙂 “My major takeaway from this was that I really need to be more intentional about putting myself first” — I think this is the key to becoming successful in mental decluttering.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Brittany, thanks for your comment! I’m thrilled to hear you enjoyed the post and video so much and really enjoyed reading your take on this, too! That’s wonderful that learning to say no has helped your mental health so much; what a great outcome. It’s very interesting what you say about rewarding your anxiety by avoiding situations that would make you uncomfortable. I agree that there’s a fine line between saying no and enabling our own negative habits. I’m guilty of avoiding social situations far too often as well and in the long run it’s probably not so good for my social skills as I’ll be cutting myself off from actually developing them and reducing that anxiety. As you say, we do have to do some things we’d rather not but being selective is also important. Thank you so much for reading!


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