It’s 7p.m. and you’re just leaving work—again. Your spouse will be furious, your kids will be disappointed, and you’re mad at yourself for your inability to say NO—to anyone.
Your boss asked for a favor, and even though you were already up to your neck in paperwork you once again agreed to bail him out. What’s your deal? Why do you have so much trouble setting boundaries and telling people no?
You may be a people pleaser, and pleasers have a list of false beliefs that drive their inability to say no.
What can you do to fix it? Start noticing your patterns, and begin to identify the beliefs underlying your pleaser behavior.
Here are a few of the common recordings that play in the heads of pleasers, see if any fit for you:
If I say no….
Others won’t like me
Others will reject me
I’ll get fired
My co-workers won’t respect me
My spouse will be angry
My kids will be disappointed
I’m a loser
I’ll be seen as irresponsible
I’m weak (I should be able to handle more)
Not being able to say no causes constant stress. By trying to please everyone, you eventually please no one. It shouldn’t be this way. If you’ve constantly got too much on your plate, and your life is becoming unmanageable because you don’t know how to use the “N” word, you need to re-evaluate.
Here are a few suggestions to begin:
Figure out what’s important to you by writing down a list of your priorities.
If family is important, you have to draw boundaries with your work or else you’ll never see your family.
If hanging out with friends makes you happy, you have to figure out which friends are most important and how you can integrate friends into your free time.
Don’t skip this exercise. Statistics show people who write things down are more successful at achieving their goals.
Lest you forget how miserable your current pleasing strategy is making you, remind yourself how stressed out never saying no has made your life.
Think back on the times you’ve burned yourself out trying to meet everyone’s needs but your own. Take a look at how you felt during those times. Remember, stress kills.
If you believe you’re somehow inadequate because you can’t get more done, or if you say no to someone that they won’t like you anymore, try refuting your beliefs by challenging them with the following questions:
What evidence do I have to support my belief?
Does this always hold true in in every situation and for every person?
Once you’ve identified the beliefs that are leading you to cope by pleasing, you need to reframe those thoughts.
Let’s say you believe that others won’t like you if you don’t agree with them. Here’s a good reframe: “It’s OK. Not everyone is going to like me.
I don’t have to have everyone like me in order for me to be OK.” If someone doesn’t like me because I have to say no, I may need to evaluate that relationship.
No Doesn’t Mean Never
Saying no to someone doesn’t mean you can never do what’s being asked of you. It may just mean you can’t do it now. Brainstorm possibilities. You may be able to add something to your plate if you can take something off. Get creative.
You won’t be any good to anyone if your sick and stressed out. Figure out how to incorporate some stress relieving strategies into your lifestyle. Exercise. Relaxation breathing, reading, meditation, and journaling are a few good places to start.
God gave you a voice; use it. People will have more respect for you if you can be honest.
Saying no also keeps you from getting stuck in co-dependent patterns of fixing and rescuing others. Trying to be all things for all people leads to burnout.
Let other people handle their mess, and you handle yours. Speak your mind in an assertive way. If others don’t like you for setting limitations on what you can and can’t do, shame on them.
Learning to say no is the key to your freedom. Once you learn to notice the thinking patterns that keep you stuck, and refute them, it will become second nature to keep negative self-talk at bay. Practice is key to change.
Back at you: Are you a pleaser, if so, how has it affected your life and your inability to say no? What have you done to get a handle on it?