So you’re a people-pleaser.
Big deal. Who isn’t?
You. Me. The guy next door, Oprah and the President. Everyone’s a people-pleaser in one way or another.
And that’s fine and healthy. Needing love and approval is what being human’s all about.
It’s when you become addicted to pleasing people that it’s a problem. In reality, much more than a problem, a disease.
‘The Disease To Please’ as H. B. Braiker called it.
And it’s consuming you.
Because you’re desperate for the world to love and approve of you. And people-pleasing seems the only answer to immunize yourself against rejection and conflict. So…
- Instead of speaking up, you shut up.
- Instead of doing what you want, you do what everyone else wants.
- Instead of saying ‘no’, you grin through gritted teeth and say ‘yes’.
And it’s killing you inside.
Have you got the ‘disease to please’?
So how do you know if you’ve got the disease to please? If you’re a ‘yes’ junkie?
Just be honest with yourself…
- Are you constantly running around being everyone else’s go-to person?
- The one who will always change their plans at a moment’s notice.
- The one who will always take on more work and stay late.
- The one who’s left clearing away everyone else’s trash at the end of the party.
- The one who always puts others first. The one who always puts themselves last.
Because if so, it’s screwing up your life. No, scrub that. It’s already screwed up your life.
If it can be called your life, because your ‘yes’ addiction comes at a heavy price…
Every day you hear the alarm.
You drag yourself out of bed, feeling a sense of tedious inevitability. A sense that you’re stuck in an endless cycle of ‘yes’ days.
And, no matter how hard you try, you’ll just keep saying ‘yes’ day after day, week after week, year after year.
Until the day you die.
Which might come as a relief because endlessly saying ‘yes’ has stolen life’s magic. It’s left you overwhelmed, over-committed and overstretched.
It’s got you doing too many things, things you don’t like. Sometimes with people you’d rather spend less time with, way less time with.
But actually standing up for yourself and saying ‘no’ seems impossible. What on earth would happen if you…
- Stopped saying ‘yes’ to everyone and everything.
- Put your needs before theirs. Even your ‘wants’ before theirs?
- Stopped being so compliant and said ‘no’.
They’d reject you, surely? There’d be arguments, accusations…guilt.
They’d disown you.
So you say ‘yes’. Again…and again…and again.
But you can’t keep it locked up forever. In fact you’d love to scream it out. To have it tattooed on your forehead, emblazoned on your front. To carry a giant placard with it scrawled in big red brushstroke…
NO! NO! NO!
But there’s one reason above all others that stops that ‘no’ escaping your lips…
Guilt – The Dark Force
There’s no problem so awful, that you can’t add some guilt to it and make it even worse. – Bill Watterson
Guilt’s conned you into believing by saying ‘no’ you’ll commit some heinous crime. That standing up for yourself will rob you of your happiness and peace of mind.
And among all those lies, four big, fat ones stand out that are stopping you from taking action and saying that ‘no’…
You feel it’s wrong to put yourself first.
Oh boy, it feels disgustingly selfish to say ‘no’, especially say to a good friend. After all, they’ve helped you out plenty in the past.
But sometimes their request comes at exactly the wrong time. You’re already up to your ears in promises. You honestly haven’t got enough puff to support their wonderful charity event, run their kids to and from weekend football or look after their dog.
And maybe, just maybe, good friend or not, they’ve asked once too often.
So you want to say ‘no’, but you end up saying a weak-ass yes.
You feel it will cause conflict and hurt people’s feelings.
Saying ‘no’ can feel horribly harsh. You worry that it’s too easy to unintentionally injure someone’s feelings. You fret that a declined dinner invitation or coffee meet up could leave them feeling rejected.
And you’d be mortified if you upset someone because you genuinely care about other people’s feelings. So you go anyway and spend the whole time resenting being there.
You feel it’s wrong to relax and do nothing.
Taking time out seems so wrong, doesn’t it? You stress that you’re wasting time, that you’re being unproductive. Heck you can’t contribute anything while lounging on the couch or staring out of the window.
That’s got lazy written all over it! And that’s why your guilty feelings start beating you up the instant you even contemplate some quality down time, some unstructured ‘do nothing’ time.
So you sign up for that course or say ‘yes’ to that golden opportunity. And then spend every minute regretting it, dreaming of chilling out on the couch with a good book, movie or friend instead.
You feel ungrateful.
You feel ungrateful if you turn down an opportunity – after all, not everyone is offered such a chance. That seems unbelievably spoiled.
And that’s why it tears you up with guilt to think of saying anything other ‘yes’ to every opportunity, even if it’s just a trial yoga class. You couldn’t bear to be the person who takes their privileges for granted.
So once again you say ‘yes’ and end up hating every minute of it, wishing you were doing anything but.
Come Over To The Light
I used to to do and feel the same. I used to feel the Dark Force of Guilt tugging at me. And occasionally I still do.
But now I resist. I’ve had it with guilt. I’m done being an unwilling passenger on a one-way guilt trip to regret, resentment and self-directed rage because I can’t get myself together to say that ‘no’!
And unless you want to go on screwing up your life – or worse still, living someone else’s – I suggest you do too.
You see, do you want to know a secret? Something it took me years to find out?
I noticed that there were those who seemed all but immune to guilt and the need to please.
Indeed, many of the people I was desperately trying to please by saying ‘yes’ to, were often saying ‘no’ to everyone else, me included.
And guess what?
They were still popular, loved, respected even. And not despite standing up for themselves and saying no often, but seemingly because of it.
So I started taking notes from them, learning ways to stand up for myself, to give a straightforward answer, to say ‘no’.
It wasn’t easy at first, and I still need to check myself to stop falling back into my old people-pleasing ways to this day. But the amazing thing is, there have been very few rows or repercussions, despite what guilt whispered in my ear.
And far from disowning me, apart from a few people who were better out of my life, I am more liked and respected than I ever was before.
A few weeks ago, for instance, I said ‘no’ to my boss…without passing out in fear! I politely refused to do something I felt strongly was an unfair request. Standing my ground that morning removed a situation that had been hideously stressful for three years.
And far from falling into a fire pit of angry responses and reprisals, my boss simply respected me the more for speaking out and saying ‘no’.
It’s time you finally said that ‘no!’
Because the world doesn’t need another guilt-ridden ‘yes’ junkie.
Trying to be please everyone is a disease.
Learning to be the real you, to stand up for yourself, to say ‘no’, is the only cure.
Make a promise to yourself to start today.
It’s time you said ‘no’!…
- ‘No!’ to all those kind, but tedious social requests.
- ‘No!’ to all those dead-end tasks offloaded on you.
- ‘No!’ to all those guilt-pushers you don’t want or need in your life.
‘No!’ to someone else’s life.
And ‘yes!’ to yours.
Laura Tong, a former health professional, is on a mission to help you become the most positive, happy version of yourself. Grab her free cheat sheet: 5 Guilt Free Ways To Say No Without Offending Anyone (Even If You Hate Conflict). Laura also hosts the Re-write The Rules In Your Life interview series where she shares awesome happiness and positivity tips from experts around the world. Click here to listen free to the latest episodes. Along with her partner, Mark, Laura founded PositivelyHappy.Me to help you live, love and laugh like a kid again, simplify your life and find your smile in hard times.
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