Sevin Philips, MFT offers help navigating relationships and developing clear boundaries. Learn how to say no with instruction on how to start.

You have a right to say ‘NO’ and not feel guilty

  • Unsaid social agreements to take care of each others’ feelings.
  • Saying ‘No’ is a risk of not being loved or liked
  • You do have the right to take care of yourself

1. Caring for others does not require caring less for yourself
2. No limitless energy: You are not an open system with limitless energy and capacity to fulfill other people’s desires.
3. Power and roles: Your wants do not have less value than a parent’s, employer’s or teacher’s.
4. Consideration of others is also required


1. Awareness of what you want and don’t want throughout the week
2. Take a small risk: remember by taking care of yourself you give others permission to do the same.
3. Living life with being honest and genuine is being free

Relationship advice by, Sevin Philips, MFT

Video Transcription Advice – Marriage Therapy

Hello, I’m Sevin Philips and I’m here to talk about our right to say no and not feel guilty about it, which I think is something that, on some level, all of us have a hard time doing.

What I’m really trying to say is that we have a right to take care of ourselves in situations. It might not actually be like saying no, but it might be actually leaving, coming or going and pushing up against somebody else’s edge.

One of the things I think this really comes from, one of the areas, is these unsaid social agreements that we have of one another where we take care of each other’s feelings. I don’t think anybody down the line has ever gotten together and said, “Hey, will you take care of my feelings and I’ll take care of yours?” like a trade or something like that.

But yet there’s these social kind of agreements I feel like we inherit. Really, at some level, when we really do need to take care of ourselves and it isn’t helpful, and oftentimes don’t feel like we can take care of ourselves. That’s what I’m really here to talk about.

Where I think we get into the most trouble is with people that we really feel are the most important in our lives. It could be our parents, it could be our spouse, partner, boyfriend, girlfriend, best friend. It’s the people that really matter to us that I feel are the scariest to actually push up against.

One of the reasons is because we’ve been watching these people for a good chunk of our lives and we know what disappoints them and what upsets them. In some way, at some level, we’re keeping track of that and our sights have been trying not to do that.

The main reason I think is we’re really afraid of not being liked or loved. These are often the harder places to practice.

Another place where I feel people find a difficulty in taking care of themselves, when you’re not in a place of power, could be you’re an employee, you’re a student, you’re someone with less experience than someone else and in these instances I feel like it’s a little more harder for us to really step up and take care of ourselves when we need to.

Having said all this, I’m not saying to not consider other people’s feelings, because in some way, being respectful and showing up to your commitments and really considering how you impact other people is something I want everyone to do.

What I’m talking about is a fine edge between not taking care of yourself and really doing something because you want to for the other person.

One easy way to identify this is if there’s a “should” connected with it. “I should stay.” “I really should say something to somebody that they want to hear.” Anytime you feel a “should” in your life, it’s probably more leaning towards the not taking care of yourself side.

An example of the other side of this is let’s say you have a niece who’s having a birthday party. You adore this niece. You haven’t seen her in a while and maybe halfway through you’re really tired and you want to get home, but you stay anyway because you want to, because this person is really important to you.

You have to really be honest with yourself and be really genuine with what it is you’re wanting to do to differentiate between the “should” or “I’m actually doing this for the other person because I want to.”

The biggest question about this is “What do I do about this? Where do I begin?” A couple of suggestions that I have for you is to start maybe for a week or two and just pay attention. Don’t change your behavior. Don’t assert any boundaries. Just pay attention to where or when you’re doing something that you don’t want to do. Notice the people you have the hardest time with, you have the most edges to push up against and don’t do anything about it. It’s really good, because then you can really deepen and really get where you do this and where you don’t do this.

The second step would be probably starting with somebody a little less risky. Maybe it’s not your boyfriend or your girlfriend, but maybe a friend or something like that or some social situation where you’re wanting to take care of yourself and you feel it’s a difficult thing to do. That would be the best thing to do.

I’ll give you an example of when I started doing this. I think it was back when I was going to school. I was at a counseling center and I was out with some colleagues. We were all having lunch, having a really good time. I think about halfway through I was just really paying attention to “I don’t want to be here anymore. I want to go back and do whatever at the office.” So I excused myself. I did it in a very polite and courteous way and I went on my way.

What happened is the next day somebody from the group came up to me and she said, “Wow, Sevin, I just want to let you know that what you did was very courageous.” She and I both realized that it was out of the norm to do something like that. But she was really encouraged by it and it was nice for her to see that.

What it really taught me was that we’re really all starving to take care of ourselves. We’re starving to live authentic lives and be genuine in our world. In some way, by you doing this in your life, you’re giving other people permission to do the same thing.

The truth is most people probably will be disappointed at some level. I’m not sure if everyone is going to come to you and be grateful that you did this thing. I think it’s just important to know that the more you do this, the more you realize that it gives permission to your other friends and other people in your life to do the same thing.

I invite you to practice, take it slow and remember that these things do take time to have changes in your life. The important thing is if you notice something that you do, that you go out and try other different experiences.

By: Sevin Philips, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

1 Comment

  1. ij on July 26, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    as someone who is codependent, this is very well said. sometimes you think going and do something that you want is taking care of yourself, but so is saying no. gives me something to work on. thanks for the great video and advice.