Say it With Me, "No!"
I have come to believe that the word “no” is one of hardest words for most humans to use. I am certainly one of those humans. At the root of the human soul is a desire to please others. For some of us this desire to please actually controls much of what we do and don’t do during the day. The desire to please others goes from a natural state of human kindness, to the overwhelming reason we pack each hour of the day with activities we are doing simply because someone asked us to. We have crossed over the line into the dangerous zone of people pleasing.
Hello, my name is Danielle Shoots and I am a people pleaser. I use this sentence to describe myself as a people pleaser very intentionally. People pleasing, for me and so many others is as deeply rooted in our mindset as would be an addiction to alcohol or gambling. I have a physical reaction in my stomach when I must tell people no. I am addicted to the distracting rush of doing things for others, for being the one to step in to save the day; addicted to having people need me. On the surface this addiction is seemingly harmless but when we dig underneath it, we find that this people pleasing addiction is dangerous for physical and mental health.
As people pleasers we have different reasons for what drives us to avoid disappointment. The root of my disease of not wanting to say no comes from a couple of important happenings in my life. I have been a mother since before I was an adult. I have been taking care of others since before I knew how to take care of myself. In addition to wanting to take care of my son, I carry the weight of being a teen mom which changed me forever. I felt like I was such disappoint at the age of sixteen having to tell people that I was pregnant. I have been uncontrollably determined to never disappoint people like that ever again. In addition, I am naturally wired to be an overachiever. As far back as I can remember, I have taken on every single challenge I faced in life and have lived with the pedal entirely to the floor. I often joke that I have too speeds, gas to the ground or full stop.
Almost every mentee or coaching session I have involves a discussion around saying no. Often in our careers or life we find ourselves getting bitter about being the only one who can accomplish certain tasks. Many achievers like myself often feel like that they are working twice as hard as anyone around them. My response is always the same. What is happening within your need to please others that is driving you to believe that you are required to take on more responsibility than others and why do you believe you can’t say no?
I am about to give you all some tough love and I remind you that I am also afflicted with being unable to say no. We need to enter recovery together. So, here it goes; you are entirely accountable for feeling overwhelmed by all that you commit to. You are entirely accountable for working harder than everyone around you and you are entirely accountable for the reasons you are the only one that knows how to do certain tasks at work or in life. I know this sounds harsh and I also know there are environmental factors for all of us that have us feeling like we must work twice as hard as the next guy to get ahead. But at the end of the day, we still choose to work harder, we still choose to be smarter and we still choose to pack our days with more events than are practical.
The first step in working to recover from people pleasing is understanding why you do it at all. You need to understand what is triggering you to say “yes” if you are ever going to develop the muscle to say “no”. Saying yes is as much a habit as biting my nails or drinking coffee in the morning. Just like those habits, it takes a great deal of intention to unwind what is natural for me. It’s going to be a lifelong effort for me to find the balance between helping others and saying no when it is necessary to take care of myself. I suspect so many of you reading this understand this statement completely. Here is some homework for the week to help you be intentional about unwinding this people please addiction in your own life.
Write down three reasons you believe you have hard time or dare I say an allergy to saying no. I have shared some of mine above to give you an example.
Now, think about all the activities of your day and write them down. Put a star next to next to activities that you really enjoy doing. Figure out what percentage of your day you are spending doing activities you enjoy vs. activities that you obligated yourself to do for others. This obligation can be because they asked you or because you have convinced yourself they need your help. Commit this week to changing the percentage of time you are spending to please others by 5%. Take one task from your list that you don’t enjoy and commit to delegating it or simply stop doing it. You can replace it with something you wish you were doing or you can just free up a little time in your day. I will take the latter.
Share some of your homework in the comments or email me at email@example.com.
Let’s work together to people please a little less this week.