The Art of Saying No: How to Stop Being a People-Pleaser
"You have the right to say ‘no.’ Most of us have very weak and flaccid ‘no’ muscles. We feel guilty for saying ‘no.’ The word ‘no’ is the most potent tool you have to preserve your health and well-being." - Iyanla Vanzant
Do you often find yourself saying "yes" to things you don't want to do or feel guilty for setting boundaries? Do you prioritize other people's needs over your own, even when it's detrimental to your well-being? If so, you might be a people pleaser.
People pleasing often originates from a deep-seated need for approval and a fear of rejections and abandonment. This can stem from childhood experiences where we learned that our emotional safety was dependent on pleasing our attachment figures. As we grow older, we may continue to prioritize others' needs and desires over our own well-being. We may even lose track of what our own preferences and needs are.
People pleasing may manifest in a variety of ways, such as avoiding conflict, always saying yes to requests, or overcompensating to please others. This can have negative effects on our mental health, relationships, and overall quality of life. It can lead to feelings of resentment, burnout, and even depression. By prioritizing others' needs over our own, we can also neglect our own self-care and personal growth.
In her book Set Boundaries, Find Peace, Nedra Glover Tawwab explains the impact of people pleasing on our mental health: "People pleasing can make us feel anxious, stressed, and overwhelmed. It can be hard to relax or enjoy life when we're always focused on what others want or need from us."
Breaking the cycle of people pleasing requires intentional effort and self-reflection. Here are some steps you can take to stop being a people pleaser:
Recognize and Challenge your Limiting Beliefs
People pleasing often stems from limiting beliefs that we've internalized over time. These beliefs can include thoughts like "I have to say yes to be liked" or "I can't disappoint others." By recognizing these beliefs and challenging their validity, we can begin to shift our perspective and prioritize our own needs.
Practice Saying "No"
Saying "no" can be difficult, especially if you're used to always saying "yes." However, setting boundaries and saying no when you need to is crucial for breaking the cycle of people pleasing. Begin by practicing to say "no" in low-stakes situations to build your confidence and assertiveness. For example, gracefully turn down a spurr of the moment suggestion of post-office drinks, or politely let the server know if they got your order wrong.
Setting boundaries is crucial for people pleasers. Boundaries can be physical (such as setting limits on physical touch), emotional (such as deciding not to engage in gossip), or time-based (such as scheduling personal time away from work). To set healthy boundaries, start by identifying your own values and priorities, and communicate them clearly to others. Be assertive and respectful in your communication, and understand that it is okay to say "no" or to ask for what you need. Additionally, it is important to be consistent in your boundaries and enforce them in a kind but firm manner. Remember that boundaries are not about controlling others, but rather about taking responsibility for your own well-being. It may take practice and patience to establish and maintain healthy boundaries, but it is a crucial step in developing strong and fulfilling relationships.
People pleasers often neglect their own self-care in favor of pleasing others. However, self-care is crucial for maintaining mental and emotional health. Make time for activities that bring you joy, such as hobbies or exercise. Prioritize sleep, healthy eating, and relaxation. Speak kindly to yourself and remind yourself that you can get through discomfort. When you take care of yourself in a loving way, you’ll be better equipped to take care of others.
Breaking the cycle of people pleasing can be challenging, and it's important to seek support along the way. Talk to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist about your people pleasing behavior and your efforts to change it. They can provide encouragement, accountability, and guidance.
In addition to these steps, it's important to remember that stopping the habit of people pleasing is a process. It may take time and effort to shift our mindset and prioritize our own needs, but the benefits are worth it. As Nedra Glover Tawwab says in her book, “Boundaries aren’t about holding others back, they’re about holding yourself accountable for your own life”. By embracing this mindset and taking practical steps to prioritize our own needs and values, we can cultivate healthier relationships and a greater sense of fulfillment in all areas of our lives.
Remember, it’s never too late to start prioritizing your own well-being and living life on your own terms.