Just Say No:- How to Stop Being a People Pleaser

Do you often find yourself taking on more work than you can handle because people ask you to? Do you find yourself wasting your free time doing things that you don’t enjoy? When you’re at a social event, do you find yourself clock-watching and waiting for the earliest opportunity to go home, put your pyjamas on and crash out on the couch? If you’ve said ‘yes’ to any of these questions then you just might be a people pleaser. Trust us, we recognise our own!

People pleasers like us are a friendly, kind bunch. We often go out of our way to help others and do whatever it takes to make them happy. Consequently, we often have a very hard time saying ‘no’ to people. Whilst caring about the happiness of others is no bad thing, going too far to please them can often lead to us unintentionally hurting ourselves as we can become stressed, anxious, emotionally depleted and end up having no fun at all.

We end up neglecting our own needs trying to please the people around us. We may agree to do things we don’t enjoy just to make things easier for others and avoid the irrational guilt that comes from saying ‘no’. We fear that if we don’t go along with what other people want us to do then they may not like us anymore or think badly of us. In short, we’re entirely too preoccupied with what other people think of us, rather than what we think about ourselves. With our tendency to overachieve and our propensity for putting ourselves last, it’s also quite easy for others to take advantage of us.

So, what can we do to take back control and start putting ourselves first a bit more? Well, that’s what we’re going to investigate in this blog! Please don’t think that we’re telling you to stop being nice to others – that’s not the point at all. We simply want to make sure that you’re doing things for the ‘right’ reasons and not because you’re afraid that you’ll be disliked or rejected. If someone doesn’t like you then that’s their problem, but a true friend or colleague will respect you and like you simply for who you are and not what you can do for them.

Just Say ‘No’!

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Saying ‘no’ to someone should be the easiest thing in the world but too often it seems like an impossible answer. But it’s not. You can do it, you just have to be decisive. If someone at work asks you to do something that means they will finish work on time and you will be working late, then the answer is ‘no’. If your friends insist that you go to a party with them at the weekend when all you want to do is lay on the couch, then the answer is ‘no’. What we need to do is practice.

Changing an ingrained behaviour is often hard but it’s not impossible. Start out small by saying ‘no’ in text exchanges or emails. You don’t need to be rude, just be firm and concise. Practice saying ‘no’ to the telemarketers who seem to phone us constantly. Then work your way up to saying ‘no’ in person. Every step you take in prioritising your own needs, will help you to gain confidence and boost your self-esteem.

When saying ‘no’ to someone, don’t be afraid to be assertive. You don’t need to offer them an excuse but you can provide a brief explanation if you feel you should. Keep it simple and avoid getting backed into a corner. If a friend has suggested doing something together and it sounds like fun but you’re already booked up with other priorities then propose an alternative. The important thing is to take control of the situation. Don’t delay putting it off and avoid telling a lie to get out of doing something. Just be honest and concise – the truth will set you free.

Establish Clear Boundaries

It’s always important to establish clear boundaries in your relationships, be they with friends, family or co-workers. You need to know your limits and communicate them to the people around you. For instance, if you had a friend that called you up every evening at 10pm and tried to keep you on the phone for an hour when all you really wanted to do was go to bed, what would you do?

You couldn’t put up with it for long. You may enjoy talking to them but you’re tired and quite frankly, if you got a call that late, you’d probably be more inclined to think a loved one was calling you in an emergency situation. You would need to deal with the situation pretty quickly and tell them that calling you so late is not okay. Give them a window of time to call you and be firm about it.

Setting boundaries with the people in your life will help you to reign in your people pleasing tendencies and ensure that you’re creating space for yourself to rest and recharge your batteries. Never be afraid to tell people what you’re willing to take on. For example, if you’ve had a hard week at work and your sister calls you last minute to help her move house at the weekend, don’t be afraid to tell her ‘no’ or at least give her a timeframe for when you would be willing to help.

Your time is as precious as everyone else’s and being ‘Miss Always Reliable’ will just lead to you burning yourself out. Carve out time for yourself. The more you communicate your boundaries, the more you will find that life will become more enjoyable.

Set Your Priorities

Start looking at your life and what you want to do with it. Consider how much time you’re spending helping others to achieve their goals. Is putting other people first all the time holding you back from following your own dreams? If you’re time poor and goal rich then something needs to be done.

You need to have a look at your priorities in life and work out where you spend your energy. If something in your life is taking up all of your time then take steps to address the issue. If you have a co-worker who is always asking for help with something, consider saying ‘no’ and offering them a solution where they can upskill themselves to do it.

Once you’ve established your own goals and priorities, you will then be able to accurately assess how much time and help you’re able to give to others. If you enjoy helping people then by all means, continue to do so. Just make sure that it’s not getting in the way of the activities you love and that it’s not stopping you from achieving the things that you want in life.

It’s Your Choice to Help

Giving up your time and energy to help others is kind and thoughtful. As long as you enjoy doing it and people aren’t taking advantage of your good nature, then there is no reason to stop. However, you need to examine your motivations and assess whether you are helping because you ‘want to’ and not because you feel you ‘have to’ in order to be liked. No matter what you do, you can’t please everyone.

Make sure that you’re helping others on your own terms. Stick to your boundaries and let others know that your willingness to help them has it’s limits, especially if you’re being asked by a repeat offender who is quite capable of helping themselves. Remember that relationships require give and take – if someone is constantly taking from you then you need to consider whether that is a relationship you want to keep in your life.

We hope that you have picked up some tips to take back control of your time and energy. Remember, it may seem impossible at first but with time and practice, you can learn to say ‘no’ and reclaim your time and energy. In fact, it’s okay to say ‘no’ whenever you want to – you don’t owe anyone a damn thing.


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