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Saying “No” as a Form of Self Care and Dropping People-Pleasing Tendencies

Calling all people pleasers! I see you and I have something to say! Stop. 

stop people-pleasing

I like to call myself a recovering people pleaser. If you’re a woman, mom, or have ever been in any type of relationship ever, you can probably relate to the feeling of wanting to make or keep everyone happy.

People pleasing is my fault

As women, especially, I think it’s really easy to get in the habit of putting our children, spouse, parents, family, co-workers (you get the idea!) ahead of ourselves. We’ll do it, largely without noticing, until we’re emotionally dry as a bone and too mentally and physically tired to function properly. I know this feeling all too well.

Until one day, I decided enough was enough. I told myself, no. Nope. Not anymore. I’ve been there and done that, been under appreciated and taken advantage of. And you know what? It was my fault and no one else’s. I decided I really needed to take my self care up a notch and be proactive in creating a life I don’t need a break from. 

No more saying “yes” to things I just did NOT want to do! No more putting myself out there for one-sided relationships. No more taking on clients after I’d blocked my schedule to take time off for the weekend. The list just goes on and on. As I said, “yes, yes, yes, sure, ok,” the dread got stronger. I started to say “no more” to not respecting my own boundaries. 

I truly believe we teach people how to treat us and that we’re responsible for our own emotions and reactions. Well, somewhere along the way the message got lost that I am NOT the one who’s responsible for how others think and respond. (I think it’s obvious, but I’ll just say that saying no is not a free pass to be a jerk.)

Since I realized this, it’s really dawned on me how much of a problem people pleasing is for so many women I meet. We seem to feel guilty for not doing everything, and that’s just not right!

I don’t know where it starts and who knows – maybe the need to please is wound into our DNA – but to me, it seems that this people-pleasing nature is very strong among women. And quite frankly, learning how to say no has been one of the most liberating experiences of my life. But, it was really uncomfortable at first.

I’ve found that saying no has really opened up my horizons. I’m actually able to say yes to more meaningful and worthy opportunities in my life. Saying no to things I don’t want to do has opened up (both my calendar and my mental capacity) my ability to allow more time for beneficial things and to be more present. Learning to say no has also helped me learn how to create healthy boundaries for relationships, both with friends and family. 

Dropping people-pleasing tendencies

no to people-pleasing

So how? Where to start? Well, it’s actually easy on paper but in reality, it can be hard to retrain our habits. 

Here are a few things that worked for me: 

1. Prioritize your life. Who or what is most important to you? Who or what has got to go?

2. Just say no once.  Relieve yourself (responsibly and respectfully of course) from one activity or thing that’s weighing you down. Then do it once. And then again. Repeat.

3. Remind yourself WHY you’re saying no to *fill in the blank* when the guilt starts to seep in (and it will, because you’re retraining yourself and your habits). 

4. Do something for yourself. Say YES to something that’s fulfilling to you.

5. Confide in someone who can help keep you accountable and give you moral support when you need it.

6. Be kind to yourself and give yourself time. 

After a bit of time, you’ll see that the world isn’t falling down around you and people can manage without you. It sounds harsh, and I don’t mean it to be, but it’s just the truth. You aren’t needed everywhere all the time. You’ll also see that relationships with unhealthy boundaries will start to shift and that, for me, has been the best part. If you have any experience with this, drop a comment and share your tips!

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