Most people have trouble saying no, says Maté—which is intriguing, considering “no” is often a baby’s very first word. “Nature’s agenda is that we should all develop into independent human beings with our own sense of what we want and what we don’t want, our own sense of values, our own sense of perspective on the world, our own desires,” he shares. “In other words: Nature wants to set a boundary between ourselves and other people’s will.”
So what happens? Well, according to Maté, people receive messages in early childhood that in order to be acceptable, they have to be compliant. “They have to suppress their own will, their own needs, their own perspective, and they have to serve others,” he says. As a result, they feel uncomfortable saying no as they grow older.
Now, this is problematic, because if you don’t know how to say no, “your yeses don’t mean a thing,” says Maté. If you begrudgingly say yes to a task, you can also grow resentful, which can have physiological impacts on your body. “Furthermore, you’ll be tired afterwards, because you’re already tired to start with,” says Maté. “So not saying no has impacts on you.” Consider it your sign to set good, healthy boundaries.