Last week I talked about the importance of speaking up for YOU, your needs and your time in my post called Turning Over Your Welcome Mat. I
call it personal freedom because tying up your time for others keeps you a prisoner of other people’s needs. Setting boundaries on what you can and can’t do gives you freedom over what you do with your life. If you feel like an out of control people pleaser, ask yourself:
• Am I happy making other people more important than me?
• Would I be happy to spend my time doing what’s important to me?
If you answered yes to the first, I guarantee you’re not happy. Relieved maybe, to think you’re so nice that it’s enough to bask in the knowledge that you helped others so people will like you more. But, what’s the point of other people liking you if you don’t like yourself???!! I wish someone had asked me that years ago, when I wasn’t thinking at all. I just acted–for everyone but me!
I finally understood that doing things at the expense of your health, happiness, needs or self-image isn’t nice, no matter how many people benefit from your sacrifices.
Do you believe saying “no” isn’t nice? A nice person who finishes first accepts that saying “no” can be the nicest thing you do for yourself. Go to a mirror and say, “I’m doing nothing wrong by making ME important.” Don’t other people do that? Do the people you jump to help jump to support everything you need? I promise that your tongue won’t fall off if you say “no” to a request. Doing a favor should be a choice, not your obligation.
Watch how other people turn you down and learn from them. The first time your say “no” is usually the hardest. For People Pleasers, it can be like learning another language. I’d talk to myself and force “no” out. Initially, it may not feel exhilarating. People may balk. The first negative reaction made me queasy. But it becomes joyful with practice. People often tell me, “I can’t say no.” You can!! But the more you affirm you can’t, the stronger it becomes your truth. It’s your right to prioritize! You CHOOSE to be agreeable. Now CHOOSE to stop! Some tips to begin are:
• Don’t be apologetic: Why say you’re sorry you can’t if you’re not? If people hear resolve in your voice, they’ll accept your decision. If they hear regret, they’ll keep asking. Apologies bring more requests since they think you feel bad about not being able to help. Don’t reinforce being asked for more favors by saying you’re sorry! Leave just that you can’t.
• Make each “no” an individual decision: For each request, think, “Is this okay for me to do?” If it’s not inconvenient, consider it. Break out of autopilot by always saying you have to get back to the person. That gives you time to think. Find a balance between helping you, and others. If you’re pushed for an immediate response, explain then you’ll have to say “no.”
• Start slowly: Baby step, one person at a time, the easiest first. It takes time to break people’s habits of expecting your acquiescence and for you to get used to the discomfort that may come at first. As you see your world doesn’t implode when you say “no,” it gets easier.
• Don’t succumb to pressure: People may use guilt, etc. to change your mind. Nicely but firmly hold your ground. If someone calls you selfish, point out that it’s selfish to expect you to bend your schedule for their needs, without an angry tone and with a smile. Turn the guilt onto the person making demands!
• Don’t justify: Don’t defend why you can’t do something. Just say you can’t with conviction. Pay attention to how much, or little, other people explain why when they can’t help you.
• Be firm in saying “no.” Don’t dance around it. “I’d love to help but…” Saying, “I can’t” tells them to ask someone else.
If you need permission to say “no,” consider it given. I believe that God wants us all to be happy and often saying “no” to others means saying “yes” to something that will make you happy. So take some deep breaths and try it out! It may feel uncomfortable or scary but each “no” is a small step out of DoorMatville. Please share your experiences in the comment section.
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