How many times do you catch yourself saying yes to something you don’t really want to do? Going out with friends when you really want to stay in and have an early night. Helping someone move house when you have a project or assignment due. Going to dinner with family or friends when you would prefer to spend the money on something else. Picking up the phone and listening to a friend talk about the things going on in their life when you have things you of your own to deal with. There are so many little ways that we people please.
Being a good person and helping people is a great thing to do and be, but it can be unhealthy when it’s too one sided or you find yourself always doing things for others over doing things for yourself all the time.
Sometimes we try to please people because we think “If I say no, people won’t like me and I’ll be all alone”, or “If I’m in trouble I won’t have anyone to help me” or “If I say no, people might think I only think of myself, I don’t want to be selfish.”
There’s a balance between helping others and also finding time for you. There are a number of reasons why we can feel the need or desire to people please and to put others before us. Without balance, people can build up feelings of resentment towards others, maybe hiding away and avoiding people or not answering the phone because it’s easier than saying no.
What’s your identity?
We all have different aspects of ourselves that we identify with. For you it might be mother/father, wife/husband, a helpful person, compassionate, teacher, nurse, and the list goes on. These different aspects of your personality help to create an internal image for yourself of who you are. This image is one that you are always trying to live up to, and, as a result you subconsciously refer to this picture when you make decisions. You make decisions to align with the person you believe yourself to be. You may have had many of these beliefs since you were young, when you were still forming your personality, which lead to you becoming who you are now.
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When I was about two, my brother was born. Up until he was born it was just mum, dad and I. I remember my parents and grandparents telling me I had to be a good example to my little brother, that I needed to grow up and be responsible, and to be a ‘good girl’. I did what I could to be the perfect model for him because I wanted to be accepted, to do the right thing and I was rewarded and praised for putting others first and helping out. I’d help around the house, I’d look out for my brother and I even remember that when I walked through a shop I’d pick up clothes that had fallen off the hanger and put them back in place.
It felt good to help people, to make them happy. Overtime, the more I did it, the more it was expected of me, and the harder it was to say no. The more I wanted (and sometimes felt like I needed) the approval from others to know I was a good person and that I was loved, the more I started noticing that I didn’t have the feeling of love for myself inside. I felt like I needed it from others.
I noticed that I said ‘yes’ to almost anything anyone asked me to help them with or to do for them. Thinking about it, I was saying ‘yes’ to things that I didn’t even enjoy. I would listen to people talk about their problems, asking for advice, when I had stuff I needed help with myself. When going out, we’d often end up at the Chinese restaurant when Chinese isn’t really my favourite, or seeing the Action film, when I prefer comedies.
I was taken aback when I realised I really wasn’t happy
At Christmas one year, as an adult approaching 30, I stopped and realised that I wasn’t happy, that I had been helping everyone else out, and wasn’t looking after me. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had fun, not just said the words but really enjoyed myself fully, doing something I liked to do. I’d feel guilty if I sat down and read a book or watched TV while other people were making dinner for me or cleaning or working.
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I felt guilty a lot if I chose to do something for myself over something for others. To avoid the guilty feeling, sometimes I’d say yes to things that I didn’t want to do, that I didn’t have time for, or that I didn’t believe in. It wasn’t so much that I was motivated to help people, but to avoid the ‘guilt feeling’ of saying no to them and doing something else instead.
I used to do this a lot. I didn’t want to feel guilty or let people down. At the time, I was managing a restaurant and I would work longer shifts and let people finish early to go spend time with their friends or family so that I didn’t feel guilty that I was keeping them at work and away from having fun. I’d sacrifice my own fun for others. I’d tell myself that it was so that if I ever needed a favor, I would be able to ask them to return the gesture and help me out. But I’d never feel comfortable asking for help, so I’d stay quiet. I’d take on more and more and started to get frustrated that I was working so much, while other people were having fun. But I’d never say anything, or try to change it.
I’d forgotten how to enjoy myself so that even when I had a day off, I didn’t know what to do. I’d end up filling up my time doing something for someone else so that I didn’t have to face the fact that, when I wasn’t people pleasing, I didn’t know who I was, or what I enjoyed, or what I really wanted to do, or who I wanted to be. I felt like time was passing me by and I was missing out. Helping others so much wasn’t really making me happy. I’d forgotten what was important to me.
Finding a balance is the key
I began to understand the difference between when I truly wanted to help people, and when I was helping so I could get the approval of others or wanted someone to like me, or trying to avoid feeling guilty. The way I did this was by taking a moment to think before I responded to peoples requests.
What people are saying about Emotion Academy:
"After many years of training, courses, and counselling in various forms I thought I had certain aspects of my life sorted. Yet completing Emotion Academy showed me that I had been running away from my emotions and not facing them. After Emotion Academy, now I have the tools to engage with myself and win the internal battles once and for all - Neil Welsh, Victoria
Just taking a breath in and filling your lungs is such a simple thing but it can make such a difference. The simple act of breathing deeply one or two times, before I said ‘Yes’ to anything asked of me, gave me space to consider my priorities. It gave me a moment to think about what was important to me and to consider if I wanted to say yes or perhaps consider saying ‘No’, or ‘Not right now’.
So the next thing I did, was ask myself what was meaningful to me and what were the things that I really wanted to be doing with my time. I made a list of things that were a priority to me in each area of life; What was important to me when considering my relationships? What was most important to me when considering my health? What was important to me when thinking about my career, and what was important to me in myself?
If you’re in a relationship, it might be important to you to spend 30 minutes of quality time with your partner each day. If you’re single, it might be most important to you to make time to go on one date a week. In health it might be most important to you to go to the gym or for a walk with your dog.
It can be more powerful to say ‘No’
As I listed all the things that were important to me, I started to get a better idea of how I wanted my life to be day to day. I began considering that there were times that I might say ‘No’ to people’s requests to spend time with them or for assistance with something, because I wanted to do some of the things that were important to me.
Melisa Grigg - Head Coach & Trainer
Melisa was stuck in sadness for 15 years, hated her job, was overweight and her relationship had just ended. Melisa inspires people with her story and now teaches how she sorted her life out. She worked out how to be happy and how to lose over 30kg of body weight. In simple steps she teaches how you can stop procrastinating, find confidence, stop being so sad and finally start to find true meaning and purpose in your life.
I started saying no to little things like going out for drinks with the same friends or watching a movie I wasn’t interested in, or babysitting on my date night. Saying ‘No’ became a little easier because I knew what I wanted to do for me. I still enjoyed helping and connecting with my friends and family, but I was starting to enjoy my life more too.
I was having more fun in life, because I was not only doing things for everyone else, I was also doing some things for me. I started adding to my list of things I liked to do for fun, and because I knew what was important to me, I didn’t feel so guilty. I knew that I could have fun and help people too.
I started appreciating my time, appreciating my family and appreciating my friends more. The more I appreciated, the more I noticed the times that people helped me out too, that it wasn’t the one way street I used to think it was. People still liked me and wanted to spend time with me. And whilst sometimes I still choose to go and see an action flick with people, my friends will also come and see a comedy with me.
These days my time is filled with fun, doing activities with people I love and working on projects that I’m passionate about. Every day now, I get to enjoy that fulfilling feeling you get when you know you’ve been doing what’s most meaningful to you.
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