Are you a human baggage trolley, volunteering to take on everyone else’s work, as well as your own? Does a chronic case of people-pleasing trigger an overwhelming urge in you to take responsibility for other people’s problems?
If you’re asked:
• Can you stay late and complete this project – again…
• Can you baby-sit tonight (when you had plans)
• Can you buy into this brilliant business opportunity (when you know it’s time consuming, with limited potential)
• Can you help me move house this weekend (when you had plans)
• Can I borrow your car (when you need it yourself)
• Can you work my shift for me because…
• Can you join this committee (when you have a killer workload)
• Can I have an appointment to see you today (when you’re fully booked)
Do you instinctively say yes, without evaluating what the cost to you will be? Although you can feel the resistance and resentment rising, do you go ahead and agree because you’re afraid you’ll seem selfish, mean, uncaring, confrontational, or lacking in commitment or loyalty?
And when you start to buckle under the load, do you explode, blaming everyone within a ten mile radius for your inability to set boundaries? Does the thought of saying no, trigger anxiety or guilt?
Sure, agreeing is often easier, avoids conflict—or makes you feel popular or indispensable. But it also means you’re easily manipulated!
In other words if you habitually say yes when you really mean no, other people always have the leverage advantage.
I’m not talking here about never doing favors for anyone, or not stepping into the breach when there’s a genuine crisis. I’m talking about earning a reputation as the go-to person, who can always be relied upon to pick up the slack. Is this you?
When I was younger, I believed, like many of you, that I already had freedom. But I wasn’t free. I was like a puppet. Every time someone pulled my guilt strings, I’d cave without a second’s thought. Yes, of course I will…..
And here’s the thing – for years I truly didn’t understand why, when I was so smart, and worked so hard, I never seemed to gain momentum; never seemed to make any progress. It was beyond frustrating and infuriating.
Being a people-pleasing puppet is like having your foot flat on the accelerator and the brake at the same time – lots of noise and burning smells, but no movement!
Is this pushing any buttons for you? If so, have you asked yourself what’s driving this yes impulse?
It’s the perception that says other people’s needs are way more important than mine. Wouldn’t you agree that that’s a dangerous dynamic? Can you see that you’re setting yourself up to constantly feel drained and stressed and resentful? Can you see, you’re training people unconsciously to hand their responsibilities over to you?
When you’re thinking rationally, you know this isn’t good for you—or for them. So, why do so many of us fall into this self defeating trap? Why is it so hard to hold firm when you say no?
It’s the result of an unconscious belief program installed by your caregivers, teachers, role models, peers, mentors, culture and society. A belief based on the premise that it’s more important to gain popularity by pleasing others, than to take care of your own needs first.
Is it any wonder then that your work/life balance is seriously skewed? Is it any wonder that you’re silently yelling (as I used to) why has my life been hijacked?
Have you had enough?
Stress and desperation can be a great motivator for ACTION that brings about healthy (and often overdue) change.
It’s time to get your value system straight. And all it takes is making friends with that empowering little word—NO. Easy huh?
Well, not always. As Mike Dooley puts it the rampant psychosis of worrying about what others may be thinking of you exerts a powerful pull. Clearly, if you’re afraid of authority figures or conflict averse, this too will make you reluctant to risk saying no in case it sparks a confrontation.
But to get a sense of perspective, think what you would do if you’d just got out of bed, in skimpy underwear, tangled hair, no make-up or shoes, and you glanced out the window to see your child running onto a busy road. Would it occur to you for one moment, given this life threatening situation to change your clothes or blow dry your hair?
Of course it wouldn’t! There’s a life at stake.
Well, when it comes to setting clear personal boundaries, your life is at stake.
A healthy, stress free and productive life depends on it.
If you have vague personal boundaries, the chances are high you will also set vague job descriptions and responsibility expectations—at home and in the workplace. This confuses people. We all like to have a framework within which to operate. It makes us feel safe. We know what’s expected of us.
Your boundary setting abilities speak volumes about how you value yourself and prioritize the people and events in your life. If you find drawing a line hard, ask yourself what meaning you are assigning to it. If you don’t value your time, neither will others.
All saying no means is that you’re setting a limit – that’s it!
No meanings, motives or justifications needed. As an ex-people-pleaser I can assure you this little word, is the password to freedom! Don’t underestimate its power.
Here are 20 reasons to build clear personal boundaries:
1. It saves time.
2. It prevents learned helplessness.
3. It increases productivity—yours and everyone else’s.
4. It enables a team to work as a team—everyone is headed in the same direction, towards the same clear goals.
5. It builds accountability within your team—no passing the buck.
6. It stops you feeling overwhelmed, resentful, angry and stressed.
7. It frees up energy and enthusiasm.
8. It fosters confidence in your leadership abilities.
9. It aids concentration and decision making.
10. It creates a healthy balance between giving and receiving.
11. It helps you to achieve your goals.
12. It minimizes misunderstanding and conflict.
13. It separates real team mates from free-loaders and users.
14. It makes delegating more effective.
15. It makes others take responsibility.
16. It vastly improves communication—everyone knows where they stand and what is expected of them.
17. It goes a long way towards preventing bullying.
18. It gives you an authentic sense of authority.
19. It spells R E S P E C T on every level—and shapes the way people respond to you.
20. It allows you to reclaim control of your life.
Yes you might well have to do some reshuffling to accomplish this. And people-pleasers find this very painful. They would rather struggle on for years, having their relationships, careers or health sabotaged, dragging the deadweight of dead wood behind them, silently picking up the slack and stressing themselves into ill health—than just take a stand.
But you’ve got to start somewhere.
So next time you feel that yes impulse coming on, zip your lip, take a deep breath and summon ten seconds of insane courage.
No, I can’t stay late to complete the project this time, because I have commitments of my own, or
No, I can’t baby-sit tonight because I have plans, or
No, I’m busy this weekend, or
No, you can’t borrow my car right now, because I need it myself, or
No, I’m unable to work your shift this time. Perhaps ask someone else, or
No, I don’t have the time available at the moment to join your committee, or
No, I’m fully booked today. These are the appointments I have available, or
No, because it will inconvenience people I care about, or
No, that’s not really my area of interest/skill set, or
No, I’m already fully committed, or
No, I can’t right now because my priorities are…..
Try it. You will be stunned by the amount of time and energy saying NO when necessary frees up. You will be amazed by the progress you make, now that you can focus on your needs and goals first. You’ll be gob-smacked at how quickly the momentum builds, now that you’re not “driving with the brake on”. Life will suddenly seem simple. You will have far fewer distractions and obstacles in your way, and the euphoric freedom will make you ask why the hell did it take me so long to say a two lettered word?
Drawing firm boundaries doesn’t mean you don’t care.
It means you care enough about your wellbeing and the bigger picture, to take a firm stand. All successful people say NO – often. That’s why they’re successful.
Warning: When you first learn to say no expect some upheavals. Your popularity rankings may temporarily fall. But hang in there and be consistent. Most people will adapt—and the reduction in your stress levels will be worth it a thousand times over!
How has your ability or inability to comfortably say NO affected your life?