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I used to be one of those people called a people pleaser. If you read my post about understanding your past and how it shapes your current behavior, you can easily understand how I came to be that way. What I didn’t realize was how much of an emotional toll that possessing this seemingly positive trait would take on my mental health. So many of us are caught up in the struggle of wanting people to accept us, to like us, and to belong. This is nothing to be ashamed of, it is part of our essence of being human. You just have to learn how to juggle the people-pleasing part of being a human with being realistic with your mental state so it doesn’t drive you bat-shit insane. Don’t wait until you are on the verge of a complete breakdown to standup for how you’re feeling and finally say NO!
For example, I have always been that dependable friend who would babysit someone’s kids last minute, loan someone money, volunteer for something, or simply being someone’s ear to vent to or shoulder to cry on. However, what people didn’t see is that sometimes I would be on the brink of a personal meltdown myself because I oftentimes overcommitted or said yes because I wanted to help despite knowing that I had far too much on my plate at the time and should have said no.
One of the most liberating things for me as a people-pleaser was learning to say no, and to also not explain myself for why I had to say no. Once you say no and have to give your laundry list of reasons, it blurs the situation and makes the other person feel like you are over-compensating your answer and it just creates a potential negative situation out of nothing. An example of this ‘hey can you babysit my kid tonight’ and you respond ‘sorry my kid isn’t feeling well and they have homework and I am cleaning the house, and so on and so forth’. Instead of giving your list of reasons why, simply say, ‘I’m sorry but I have to say no’ and leave it at that! Now if you have to cancel plans, I do think giving a reason (not a list of reasons) is the right thing to do. For example, yesterday was my son’s birthday party and we had a cancellation at the last minute because the child was still sick. Guess what? LIFE HAPPENS and that is ok!
Another liberating thing to do is that when you have overcommitted to something or gotten yourself into a situation where you are committed and don’t know how to get out of it, my advice is to BE HONEST. This can be a daunting task because you genuinely don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, especially if they were counting on you, however, you need to be honest with yourself and your mental state. The reason I emphasize this is because you can’t pour from an empty cup. If you’re energy is spent and you committed to something, you are now in a place where you are dreading what you committed to and feel trapped, so why not be honest with yourself and bow out? There is no shame for putting your mental state first! Your mental state is far more important than the possibility of someone being upset with you because you had to say no.
I remember at my daughter’s last school being essentially harassed by other mom’s and school staff members about joining the PTA, volunteering at the school, joining their book club, or joining their mom’s exercise group. It got to the point that I actually dreaded dropping my daughter off because I had to actively avoid the wolf-pack. At the time, I was a stay-at-home mom to my 1 year old, my husband was deployed, I just moved to California and had zero family and about three friends, and on top of all of that– I was a full-time graduate student working tirelessly on my MBA. When this wolf-pack of moms would come hound me to join, I constantly re-told my situation to them and they would say ‘get a sitter, get a sitter’. Listen Linda, I’m only paying for a babysitter when I need to take a timed exam on my computer, not to come join your workout group or your book club. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated the offer, but when it came to the point of having to actively dodge these people because they were so damn pushy, that is when I started to get pissed. Of course I would love to come help in my daughter’s class occasionally (and I did a handful of times), but when it comes to tons of extra curricular mom duties at the school, it was virtually impossible. I finally got so fed up with feeling like I was the bad mom because I wasn’t apart of this group that my mentality went from feeling guilty to fuck off. It was at this moment that instead of giving my list of reasons I couldn’t participate that I simply said, ‘sorry I can’t but thanks for asking’ and I left it at that. I felt that the more I explained the reason why I couldn’t do something, the more they would try to give me solutions to get what they wanted from me. Once I recognized this, things began to change! I don’t think since this time period that I have felt badly about saying no to something that I didn’t want or couldn’t do.
Surely there are areas in your life where you have experienced this on some level. One of the most mentally and emotionally freeing things I have done for myself is to learn to say no without giving an explanation.
Try it sometime, it may just change your life for the better!