Do you ever think ‘I can’t say no!’ when someone who asks a favour of you, even when you really don’t want to do it? People-pleasing is a rampant epidemic in our society, largely due to false beliefs and messages we get when we are growing up.
The desire to keep everyone around you happy is a double edged sword because ultimately it makes you miserable. Fear of rocking the boat or being disliked keeps many of us a prisoner of our own ‘niceness’.
If you’re tired of being nice, you’ll be relieved to know that there is another way, and it doesn’t involve being nasty; it starts with setting boundaries.
If you’re afraid that setting boundaries might change or ruin your relationships, don’t worry. You can change. Let’stake a look at some of the most common myths that we buy into when it comes time to draw the line in the sand.
ONE: It is Selfish To Set Boundaries
From a very young age we’re told that it’s impolite or selfish to put our own needs before those of others. This may be true to a point; on the other hand if you spend every waking hour attending only to the happiness of other people, eventually something is going to have to give.
My client Janet was a busy mum with 3 kids, who was struggling with a weight problem. She came to see me in desperation after stacking on 10 kilos in 3 months. The problem, in a nutshell, was that she simply had no time.
Her exercise regime had gone out the window because as the kids grew older they each had various after school and weekend activities and guess who was the chauffeur? Her family refused to eat the healthy options she suggested so she ended up having to cook 2 separate meals each night, which wasn’t feasible; it was easier to just go along with what the family wanted.
Janet was exhausted, grumpy and at the end of her tether. Her resentment and bitterness was affecting her relationship with her family because her own needs were not being met she was unable to ask for help. She knew she had to change her behaviour or her weight would just keep going up. That’s where I came in.
Slowly, Janet learnt to set boundaries and schedule in some ‘me-time’. Much to her surprise and delight, her husband was more than happy to pick up the slack and take the kids to their appointments; Janet had just never thought to ask him before!In addition, at Janet’s insistence the family agreed to embrace Jane’s healthy cooking. The household was much less tense and everybody benefited from the healthy lifestyle.
The moral of the story is; if you are happy, your family will be happy as well. If you are miserable, then no matter how much you are doing for them, they will also share your misery.
TWO: Only Aggressive People Set Boundaries
Wrong. Assertive people set boundaries; aggressive people alienate others and fail miserably at getting their point across. You don’t have to be a hard arse in order to communicate your needs effectively.
In fact you can disagree with others, say no and ask for what you want in a logical, rational and respectful way, without any tantrums or tears.
Communicating this way is far more likely to achieve the desired result and, while you won’t get your way all the time, you’ll be far happier and in turn, much more pleasant to be around.
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THREE: Setting Boundaries Always = Saying No
You don’t always have to use the word ‘no’ in order to get your point across. While you will need to learn to say no (and mean it) a lot more, you will also need to maintain flexibility in certain situations.
A happier and more balanced you will learn to pick your battles and say yes sometimes and no at other times. Life is full of compromise, but when you’re getting your needs met half of the time instead of never, life will be much easier.
When life becomes easier and we are happier, we want to say yes more often, because we want others to share in our own happiness.
FOUR: Nobody Likes People Who Set Boundaries
At the very core of our being is an intense need to be accepted. For some people this fear of rejection often leads to an unbalanced attitude where the needs of other people outweigh everything. If you are constantly living by the rule ‘I can’t say no’, it may well be that everybody you meet does indeed like you; but do they respect you?
Letting go of the need to be liked may be challenging for you, because you will have to live with the fact that you can’t please all of the people all of the time.
Yet it is an essential step towards positive change. With that transition will come an increased sense of freedom and autonomy; you will finally become your own person, rather than a version of yourself that you think other people will approve of; and that is definitely worth losing a few ‘likes’ for.