I, Madison Swart, am a recovering people pleaser.
Not only do I have a horribly hard time saying no to people-over committing myself is a common issue. It comes from an honest place of wanting to help people, but ends up being more harmful to the person I committed to, and myself. While the person I told I could help thinks they have someone who can carry part of their load for them, I am stuck juggling my life around seeing what I can cut out to have enough time for everything.
The reality is that the first thing to get cut, is always by self-care…all because I was too afraid that saying no would cause someone to have a negative opinion of me. It’s so easy to feel bad about the afternoon you had planned for yourself because you want to go help a friend with whatever they need. HOWEVER, we have to stay firm with the time we set aside for ourselves. Scheduling self-care just like you would any other commitment, allows for you to keep this time firmly set in your life, ensuring that you won’t forget to give yourself the time you need!
These 4 tips were huge in helping me to silence my inner people pleaser-hopefully they’ll help you too!
1. Not everyone is going to like me. And I’m OK with that.
I don’t like everyone, so it makes sense that there are people who won’t like me. People pleasers want to do everything in their [our] power to affect someone’s opinion of us.
The need to have everyone approve of you, often comes from a place of low self-esteem. Not believing in yourself enough, that you need others to do it for you. When someone likes you, you like you. When someone doesn’t-you start to analyze yourself for all of the reasons why they don’t. And while we all have negative qualities, focusing on them only magnifies them to ourselves and the world. While focusing on positive aspects will do the same thing for our positive attributes. The way to start focusing on the great things about yourself is to stop striving to make others love you, and start working on loving yourself.
This can be tricky to start, so I found that an easy way is to write down all of the things you are good at. Even small things! Are you kind? Caring? Giving? Organized? Do you host good parties? Do you cook well? – anything and everything you’re good at. Write it down, and look at it each morning when you wake up to remind yourself of the things you are doing well!
2. Plan – Commit – and say no to the rest
“No.” They are a hard two letters to say. But an even tougher situation to be in is the one where you have to go back on your commitment because you realize you can’t follow through. I do this all the time – or you feel so bad about saying no, that you come up with white lies to make ‘no’ reasonable.
My mom said to me, “You just have to say no and that’s it! It doesn’t matter why I can’t do something-It’s no one’s business what the hell I am doing!” …amen. Saying, “I’m sorry, I would love to help, but I have scheduled that day for myself-” OR asking if you could help find someone else to help, which shows the person you care about their situation, and will take some time to help them find help even though you can’t.
Another key aspect of this is to stick to your original answer. If you commit to something, do it. Write it on the calendar and tell yourself-that’s what I am doing at that time. Whether it is helping your friend move, or sitting in a bubble bath reading a book. Be religious to the calendar [available for flexibility] but making sure that keeping your work to others is just as important as keeping your word to yourself.
3. Start setting some boundaries.
Boundaries are huge. By setting boundaries for yourself and for the amount of control that you allow others to have on the decisions we make, you can maintain the control of your life that you desire.
This was something I worked with my therapist on for a really long time. I wanted to stay in Columbus this summer, but knew my parents would most likely want me to come home. While I missed my family, I knew that I needed to start living more on my own to establish the independence that was necessary for adulthood. So-this was a boundary I established. I TOLD my parents I would be staying in Columbus. Now, this was not disrespectful as it was following me asking what their biggest reasons for wanting me to come home were. There concerns were that I would not work, and that they would not see me. So once I said I was staying, I informed them I would be taking a class, I would be getting a job, I would pay for my rent, and would make sure to come home at least once-and hopefully twice, they were very impressed.
Boundaries are required for you to be able to live your life the way you want to. The way to keep other’s concerns a priority included in the boundaries is to incorporate them, just like my conversation with my Mom and Dad.
To figure out what boundaries you need to set-find a quiet place where you won’t be distracted. List all of the things you have done in the last 6 months that you didn’t want to do, but did them anyway. Then, list the reasons why you didn’t want to do each thing, and the reason why you ended up doing it.
I stayed up all night to finish a project, I was a wreck the next day and it took me a couple days to get back to normal – which I knew would happen, but I had hung out with my friends the night before instead of working on the project.
When I have a test or project, I will not hang out with friends two days prior to when it is due- then, if I get done early, I can hang out with them!
4. Let Go of People Who Use You to Self-Serve
There will always be people who will take advantage of you when they can. As you begin to get more comfortable asserting yourself, you will quickly realize who those people are who are trying to use your quality of kindness and generosity for their own benefit.
The best thing to do is to let them fall out of your life and accept the lessons that they have taught you about who you are, what you want, and where you are going with your life. If it isn’t possible to let them go, it may be necessary to create some distance between the two of you, and prepare yourself when you know you will see each other.