Do you ever get sick of trying to please everyone else around you? I don’t! That’s because I’m an anxious mom, a perfectionist and totally masochistic. I would have to be a masochist to continue trying to make everyone else around me feel good when I feel like shit. Like many first born children, I grew up trying to be a role model, a peacekeeper and a trusted advisor to my family and friends. I was never too tired, sad or preoccupied to have time for those around me. Growing into adulthood, this trend only continued, except for one perk, as a therapist I got paid to do a professional version of this. Why has it been so difficult for me to say “no”? Well, I’m sure I don’t have to explain it to you, fellow moms. When you say “no” to someone, or set a boundary, you take a risk. You risk facing anger, disappointment or judgment. Who wants to deal with that? Isn’t life easier when everyone likes you and thinks you’re awesome and helpful? The answer to that is no.
Why? Because it is impossible to completely meets the needs of everyone in your life without going insane. You simply can’t do it. You have to choose between your mental health and your deeply rooted desire to please.
Why, you ask again? Let me break it down for you. In my most pathetic moments, when I have completely given up on my sanity, I have tried to please and/or take care of the following people: Mom (you knew she was going to be first), dad, husband, son, daughter, friends, my kids friends, my kids friends parents, acquaintances, teachers, principals, bosses, peers, my own therapist, people I have hired, people in stores, people on the internet who I don’t know, and the list goes on. Thankfully these moments don’t last as long and aren’t as frequent as they used to be. But I know that many moms out there know where I am coming from. When you have so much responsibility and you are living with anxiety, it can be really hard to not only know when to draw the line, but also to actually follow through.
Our people pleasing stems from many different factors. It may come from our attempt to control how others react to us in order to reduce our anxiety. It may result from having difficulty with confrontations that might arise from setting boundaries. Low self esteem and self worth may cause us to feel that we don’t deserve to say “no”. You might be affected by other factors or a combination of factors.
So then you want to try to be a “self pleaser” (ha ha, I’m immature) instead of a people pleaser? Let’s do this!
Here are four ways to overcoming people pleasing:
- Use Maybe: When someone asks you to do something, go someplace or help them, stop and think before you answer. Is your gut telling you “no” but your lips are about to say “yes”? Try somewhere in between by saying “maybe”. Tell them you will get back to them before you commit. This can buy you some time to truly evaluate what you want to do and how you will respond. Or you could also change your name and phone number during that time and hope that they don’t find you.
- WWXD?: What would X(insert name of a friend or person in your life who could care less about what others think) do? Would X agree to spearhead yet another PTO committee? Hell no! Would X sit on the phone for hours with someone, listening to them complain with no end in sight? Hell no! Would X will forfeit the last piece of chocolate cake to her husband to “be nice”? Hell to the no. X knows her boundaries and so does everyone else. Do what X would do.
- Play the daughter game: This one always hits home. Would you want you daughter (or son for that matter) to do all these things you are constantly doing in order to please others? Or would you want her to make herself a priority so that she could be happy? Follow the advice you would give your daughter.
- Believe that you are worth it: This is easier said than done, but it is key. Tell yourself repeatedly that you deserve to be happy, unburdened and free. Tell yourself until you believe it. Even if it takes a long time.
So there you have it. Go out into the world now and feel free to say “no”! Tell your kids no! Tell your mom no! Tell that annoying complainer on the phone no! no! no! Shut up, I don’t care! Never call me again! Lose my number!!!! (Okay that might be taking it too far, but you get where I’m going with this).