Many of us grew up being taught to be kind and considerate of other people. To be good girls and good boys. To be polite and accommodating. To do nice things for other people. To take care of other people. To serve.
And that’s all fine and dandy. These ARE admirable characteristics.
Except for many of us there was an important piece of the puzzle missing. What was missing was the very important point to also take care of yourself. That one person can’t be everything to everyone. That YOU are just as important as the others and that YOUR happiness matters too. That the better you care for yourself the more you are able to offer others. That your first responsibility is always to yourself. That it’s your job to protect your own well-being. That it’s important to know your limits and it’s important to know how to set boundaries. That you can and should say no. That you can and should stand up for yourself.
When this piece is missing, we might end up running ourselves ragged. Exhausted. Resentful. Dissatisfied. Living somebody else’s life.
The good news is that people-pleasing is a habit that can be broken. You can learn to start paying attention to your own needs. You can learn how to set boundaries.
It’s not the easiest thing in the world to accomplish. And it feels really awkward at first. Like you are committing some terrible horrible crime. But I can tell you from my own experience that it does get easier with practice.
To help you get started with the practice, I’m sharing 10 homework assignments for recovering people-pleasers. Little baby steps you can take to ease out of people-pleasing. 🙂
1.Start including yourself and your own needs on your daily to-do list. When you think about the group of people whose needs you are responsible for meeting (e.g. your kids, your spouse, your boss), start including yourself in that group. When you are running around taking care of everyone, include yourself in the “everyone”. Your needs are just as important as everyone else’s. And guess whose job it is to make sure your needs are met? Yours.
2.Next time a decision is being made about what to have for dinner, which restaurant to go to, or which movie to watch, don’t say “I don’t care” or “Anything is fine with me”. Actually give it some thought and voice an opinion.
3.Instead of always focusing on what other people might enjoy, invite someone to do something with you that YOU are interested in or that YOU want to do.
4.Memorize a few nice ways to say no:
-I’d love to, but I just don’t have the time.
-I’d love to, but I just can’t right now.
-Thanks for thinking of me, but I’m already booked that day.
-Sorry, I’m totally over committed at the moment.
-I wish I could, but I just can’t.
-That’s not really my area of expertise. I think you are better off asking someone else.
-That’s not really my thing. I would probably just drag you down.
-Let me think about it and get back to you.
5.Decline an invitation to an event or get-together when you don’t feel like going.
6.Say no when someone you are close to asks you to do something you don’t want to do.
7.Say no when someone you are not close to asks you to do something you don’t want to do.
8.Say how you REALLY feel even if you are not sure whether everyone present will agree.
9.Next time you feel tired in the middle of the day, go take a nap, even if others are waiting on you to do something for them.
10.Plan a day for yourself – one day without any responsibilities for anyone else. Just do what you feel like doing for a whole day.
The more you repeat these steps, the easier it gets. I promise! And as a pleasant side effect, you’ll see your stress levels plummet. 🙂
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