People-pleasers, mental clutter and the power of NO

people pleasers

People-pleasing behaviour is regarded by others as “good”, agreeable behaviour, and even a virtue. But only people-pleasers understand deeply the emotional and mental clutter that comes with saying yes to almost everything.

People-pleasing behaviour is dangerous, for one can lose themselves behind the mask of the eternally “nice person”. Generosity is a great virtue for one to have, but when pleasing others is getting just over the top?

People accustomed to satisfying others by avoiding setting personal boundaries and saying NO more often are at risk of experiencing a mental breakdown at some point in their life. Even worse, people-pleasers constantly carry the burden of living up to the “good person’s” expectations.

Prioritising constantly the needs of others over yours is simply not a viable way to live a meaningful life. Even if the others include family and relatives, best friends or partners, work buddies or bosses.

Oh, the weight of keeping everyone happy when we can’t stay happy ourselves! The constant need to please, avoid conflicts and fulfil expectations set by others can only result in mental clutter, stress, frustration, anger even resentment, all well-hidden and fully internalised; like a ticking bomb waiting to explode and blow everything away.

How to stop people-pleasing

People-pleasing behaviour is not easy to terminate, as it often has deep psychological roots and may stem from childhood or relationship trauma or ever have a cultural background. Nevertheless, acceptance of the need for change, commitment to the goal, hard work and often support from a specialist can help the people-pleaser to reduce or eliminate such behaviour.

Saying No

A people-pleaser person often associates saying no to “bad” behaviour, which will hurt and dissatisfy others. This fear of rejection is one of the biggest fears of someone who has learned to please everyone.

  • Always remember that saying no means that you say yes to something worthy of your time and energy. However, saying no doesn’t need to happen in an aggressive or hostile way to insult others. It is a matter of setting your priorities straight.

When everything and everyone is a priority due to their ostensible importance, then automatically, nothing and no one is really important or worthy. Prioritising means choosing carefully where and to whom to place value. And that sounds pretty important to me.

  • On the other hand, and to start with, you don’t need to say no straight away, considering that the word no is rather hard for a people-pleaser. Refrain from the urge to immediately satisfy someone’s expectations by distancing the expectation and its response. Ask for more time to consider an option and get back to them.

“Let me come back to you later in the day/week.”

“My schedule is pretty packed at them moment but give me some time to carefully consider it.”

“Maybe but I will need some time to think about it.”

  • No is a small work with great gravitas that can well-challenge a people-pleaser. The good news is that you don’t need to say no to make a point. There are other phrases you can try out, equally effective:

“I would love to x but my time is quite limited at the moment.”

“I really wish I could help out but unfortunately I currently have to focus on x.”

“I can’t do x at the moment, but at another time I would love to support/meet up etc with you.”

  • Don’t wait for things to escalate to say no. Saying yes to almost everything has a bigger impact on you than you might imagine, especially mentally. Start practising saying no more often in less critical situations to prepare yourself for more demanding cases. 

Personal boundaries

Life is complicated, challenging and chaotic, even with personal boundaries, let alone without. Personal boundaries help us protect ourselves against people, demeanours and situations that cause excess stress and fill our minds. 

Establishing personal limitations is an effective way to declutter our minds in order to focus on what truly matters the most to us without neglecting our individual needs, wants, expectations and standards.

Be selective, true to yourself about your limits and prioritise to experience greater quality in human relationships and better professional, social, emotional and living conditions. 

A purposeful life doesn’t just happen. A meaningful life is the process of ongoing intentional efforts and commitment. And it is possible.

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