Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer

Feeling Guilt When You Say “No”

People who live with chronic illness are often accustomed to feeling guilty when they aren’t able to do something. Whether it’s filling an extra shift at work, attending a party, going to a family member’s house, or just having to cancel plans, there can be a lot of guilt associated with having to say “no”.

For me personally, I felt guilty recently when I said that I could not fill in for someone’s shift at work because they had been sick. I have been so sick myself, recently, that I knew I had to say no. I was low on sleep, had no energy, and I knew if I worked those 8-10 hours, I would be absolutely drained and it would take me so much longer to recover. I felt so guilty for saying no, but I know this was a way of performing self-care. Should I have felt guilty that I said no for my own health and well-being? No, but I did anyway.

I cannot work full-time anymore and I have to limit my hours because I tend to overdo things. It’s my first full year not working full-time and it’s been a very big change and a bit of a struggle for me. When I stopped working full-time, I ended up picking up more part-time jobs than I could juggle. I was stretching myself far too thin to even realize it at first.

Never feel guilty for taking care of yourself

When saying “no” to friends and family when you just need a night in, need a night to yourself, and most importantly, for your own mental health and self-care reasons, you should not feel guilt. You cannot pour from an empty cup and, if people are making you feel guilty because you’re taking care of your own health in ways they may not understand, you may need to surround yourself with people who understand a little better.

Bottom line: Try to ignore the negative thoughts that pop up since you’re only goal of saying “no” to something is trying to preserve your own state of health and not get any sicker.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • thedancingcrohnie moderator
    9 months ago

    Great tips.

    Just the other day, I had to cancel on a friend because my energy levels were just depleted (I’m currently tapering off prednisone and that always zaps my energy). I felt so guilty for canceling last minute, but then I had to stop myself and say, no! I am doing what is best for my body and I am making the responsible mature decision. Guilty feelings must go!

    Always dancing,
    Elizabeth (team member)

  • Poll