As a recovering people-pleaser, saying no was my worst nightmare for many (most) years of my life. I’d been conditioned to put others before myself, to give and sacrifice, and to keep the people around me happy. This was great for a long time because lots of people liked me! I was doing all I could to make sure they felt good and always going the extra mile for everyone else.
There was just one problem with this way of living: I wasn’t doing the same thing for myself.
By always saying YES to everyone else and everything they asked me to do, I was putting myself last on my list of priorities. Work overtime to finish a big work project? Yes, duh. Volunteer during my weekend? Yes, please. Babysit? Of course. Personal problem in your life? Let me come to the rescue! Drop everything and come to (insert need here)? You betcha! Cater to your needs unconditionally? Sure, that’s what I’m here for!!
I was consistent and reliable because I was always wanting to please the people around me. And like, really threw myself into it wholeheartedly. There is something wonderful in giving to others and I got so much out of it in return. But it’s not so good when my only focus is others and I put myself last. Eventually, I really burned myself out by living this way. I ended up exhausted, depleted and feeling like a shell of myself. And kinda resentful too, even though this was all my choice. Which is not a very fun place to be!
A huge factor in my people-pleasing has been when I’m (relatively) single—like when I’m not in a serious relationship. As everyone else around me has been settling down, having kids, getting married, taking on more responsibility and all that, I’m actually more free than I’ve ever been, with or without a boyfriend. Like I can do whatever I want, whenever I want. If I wanted to move to Malta tomorrow, I probably could (hopefully without having to quarantine my dog).
But because I don’t own a house / have kids / have a family to care for, then there seems to be this assumption that I’m available 24/7 because anything else I’m doing isn’t nearly as stressful and time-consuming? It’s a weird phenomenon. And I’ve fallen right into that trap. Of thinking: Well, I don’t have kids and I’m not married – so I can and should go do all of the things, even if I wanted to spend this time planning out the next 6 months of my business or writing my book or heaven forbid, having fun.
This is when I discovered a few things: 1. The things I’m doing in my life are just as important as anyone else’s, whether I have zero children or one hundred, whether I’m single or a sister wife.
And the way I can make room for my life is via the power of no.
Here’s something *amazing* and totally life-changing: it’s OKAY to SAY NO to people! I realized everyone else around me did it all the time. And they weren’t worried about what everyone would think? Or how it would make anyone else feel?
No is powerful because by saying no to one thing, we’re actually saying yes to something else. Very deep, I know.
And here’s the biggest revelation for me: People still liked me, even when I wasn’t running around trying to keep them happy 24/7. Anyone who cares about me understands when I can’t do everything because I have a life. And the people that don’t get it or give me a guilt trip, well, we aren’t as close and that’s probably not a bad thing. It’s not fun to have relationships where you’re always the one giving.
By using the word “no” more, I’ve made room to really pursue what I want right now, which is to be my own boss and to write a book. I’ve made both of those things a priority in my life over the past two years, and I’ve said “no” to things I would have instantly said yes to in the past, purely out of wanting to keep the other person happy, even if I really didn’t want to do it. I don’t reply back: Sorry, need to finish writing Chapter 3 tonight. But I just politely say I’m busy and another time would be better? That’s it. It’s seriously that simple. And it took me years to be able to do that without feeling massively guilty.
Of course, there are certain things in life that I prioritize outside myself and make room for (like my family, friends, bath time, and all the HBO and Bravo shows). I don’t say no to every single thing, but I just don’t say yes to everything anymore. And I still am a very giving person, but it’s more about reciprocity and giving to myself too, not just constantly giving to everyone else out of some weird sense of guilt and obligation.
As cliche as it f’ing sounds, by learning the power of no, I’ve said yes to so much more, mainly myself and my own life. And when I do say yes, it’s more meaningful because I actually want to be there and want to give.