Are you capable of saying “No”?
People-pleasers struggle to say no as they fear being rejected by others. It follows then that they rarely (if ever) stand up for themselves and assert their needs. Unsurprisingly, always prioritizing the needs and wants of others can be detrimental to one’s emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing. So, why do we do it? According to Lauren Cook, PsyD, MMFT, “we’re socially wired to want social approval.” While all people need approval and validation to a certain extent, people-pleasers go too far.
When can people-pleasing become dangerous?
If you are agreeing to do things that go against your principles, values, and needs, you have gone too far. Cook comments on this as she claims that losing sleep, hurting your finances or swallowing the truth to avoid conflict and keep people happy can be extremely destructive. When you forego your morals and/or your needs to please others, you are only harming yourself. Sometimes, you need to stand your ground, assert your needs, and simply say “No”.
Why should you stop trying to always please the people around you?
It can be incredibly challenging to let go of the need to please. Learning how to become assertive and prioritize your own needs will indeed be difficult. Nevertheless, it is doable. More importantly, it is necessary. Cook discusses this as she explains why people pleasers need to find their voice:
Without doing so there’s often a lingering and burning resentment that builds over time. They start to feel taken advantage of, ignored, and eventually have a harder and harder time showing up authentically in their relationships. Thus, for the health of their relationships and the congruence of their inner being, it’s crucial that people-pleasers learn how to advocate for themselves.
What can you do when someone asks for something?
First, realize that you always have a choice. You not only have the ability but also the right to say “no”. If this is too stressful or difficult for you, you can say that you need time to think about it. Saying this will allow you to consider whether or not you really can take on the task: Do you have enough time? Can you afford it? Will it have negative consequences?
If you agree, set a boundary. For example, “Yes, I will help you. However, I can only do so for one hour.” If you do not want to take on the task, you can also assertively and kindly say no. There is a misconception that being assertive means being insensitive and cruel. In reality, you can be both empathetic and assertive. An example of this would be acknowledging that the person is in a difficult situation and firmly explaining that you cannot help: “I am so sorry that this has happened to you, I wish I could help but I have too much on my plate.”
It is important to understand that you do not need to give excuses. In fact, giving a reason as to why you cannot do something can make things more difficult as the person might say, “You can do this later” or “What I am asking is more important”. This will put you in an uncomfortable situation where you might find yourself agreeing with them instead of holding your ground.
Understand that the people who love you would never want to make you feel uncomfortable, stressed, or anxious. The ones who deserve to have you in their life will not manipulate or use you. If people begin to walk away because you no longer do everything they ask you to, they never deserved to be in your life at all.