Let me just say I am really good at saying the word NO. Maybe too good. Now that I think about it…

People rarely ask me for favors.  But trust me my family will tell you that I ask for a TON of favors. It’s a running joke.

My wonderful, loving, handsome, generous landlord at my office also happens to be my father in law. Every-time I walk downstairs and into his  office he greets me with “What can I do for you today Chesbrough?” He knows me all too well.

So as you can imagine, I am always amazed at how difficult it is for my clients to say the word No.

I mean it’s just a word. Hello. Did you hear me? A word. 

It’s not an emotion and it’s not an adverb. I am sure it’s some form of grammar but Wikipedia lost me after that point.

It’s surprising how many people associate the word No with unhappy, bad, unloved, or displeasing. They associate the word Yes with good, happy, loved, or pleasing.

Repeat after me the words NO and YES are not emotions. You may be pleasing someone by saying yes but your not making them happy.

Here is what I do know about the these two words. You are not a bad person for saying the word No. People will not stop loving you because you said the word No. You are spending all your time and energy pleasing people like me who will suck you dry. Which I really hope my father in law doesn’t read this blog and take my advice.

If you tell me no I won’t blink twice, I will just move right on to the next person. My feelings are not hurt. I am too busy brainstorming on who can help me, that I have all but forgotten you said no.

Ask yourself, “When someone tells me no do I all the sudden feel they are a bad or unloving person?” Of course you don’t. Because you understand better than anyone that we all have important responsibilities that have to take priority in our own lives.

So here is some insight on why your a people pleaser and how to stop being a doormat once and for all.

Why am I a People Pleaser?  Typically, the intense need to please and care for others is deeply rooted in either a fear of rejection and/or fear of failure.

Fear of Rejection is the underlying feeling that, “If I don’t do everything I can to make this person happy they might leave or stop caring for me.” 

Fear of Rejection can come from early relationships in which love was conditional or in which you were rejected/abandoned by an important person in your life (parent left or was emotionally unavailable or inconsistently available).

Fear of Failure is the underlying feeling that “If I make a mistake, I will disappoint people and/or be punished.”  Fear of failure can arise from early experiences with severe punishment for even small mistakes.

People who had highly critical parents may develop a people-pleasing pattern.  Early experiences with harsh criticism or punishment can lead to significant anxiety upon attempting a task.  Even though the parent or other important person in your life who doled out the criticism may no longer be in your life, anxiety is an emotion that can live on for a very long time.

To deal with that anxiety, we do everything we can to get things right, finish the job, and make sure everybody is happy.

Regardless of the origins, consistently putting others needs above your own can develop into the following 5 pretty bad consequences not to mention make you fat!! How can you possibly eat right and exercise when your doing everything for everyone else.  I suggest some solutions for each of the above 5.

1.  Neglect self – People Pleasers devote very little time to taking care of their own health.  Their efforts towards taking care of others takes away time they need to be active, de-stress, plan healthy meals, etc.  As a result they may be more prone to health problems.  If you are a People Pleaser your heart is in the right place. Wanting to take care of others is not a bad thing and if more people had a little bit of what you have, the world would be a better place.

However, you cannot do this at the expense of yourself.  A balance is needed.  

Consider that taking care of yourself makes you better equipped to take care of others by giving you the energy and vitality to do it even better than you are now. 

Imagine you are driving a Red Cross truck delivering food and water to hurricane victims.  If you are in such a hurry to get to every single victim that you don’t stop once in a while to refuel the truck, eventually you will be stalled on the side of the road helping no one.

Think of the time you put into exercise, de-stressing, and eating healthy as your fuel stops.

2.  Passive aggression and/or resentment –  The desire to be kind will suppress that anger but unexpressed anger often turns into passive aggression.  We are being passive aggressive when we make sharp comments, crack sarcastic jokes, or make subtle actions that let a little of our negative feelings seep out (e.g., doing the favor but in a half-assed fashion). Making matters worse, mounting resentment is the biggest destroyer of relationships.

Communicating your feelings is the only way to avoid resentment, although it requires taking the risk that the other person might not be happy to hear that you are upset or they may not take responsibility for what has upset you.

The outcome doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you spoke up for yourself.  Speaking up also puts people on notice that they will be informed when they have done something that has upset you.

This alone can make people tread more lightly.

3.  Reduces ability to enjoy other people and activities  – If you don’t enjoy going to your  son’s ball games because your so stressed while your there, thinking of all the things you still need to get done that it takes away from your ability to enjoy the game.  Trust me your children will pick up on mom’s lack of enthusiasm.  Your level of engagement in an activity or a person is impossible to hide.  What message do we send our loved ones by being present but disengaged?

Being present but disengaged is not better than being absent.  By attending less frequently and recharging herself in the interim, she would get more enjoyment from his games and be more of an active and engaged participant in her son’s life.

4. Stress and Depression the definition of stress is having more demands than you can handle.  People Pleasing can turn into a vicious cycle of chronic stress and unhealthy behaviors.  If you have the constant feeling like you are too busy and doing everything for everyone else but yourself, you might be stuck in this cycle.

Stress and depression can be medicated but that won’t break the cycle. 

If pulling out of the cycle seems overwhelming, identify one small place you can start.  Identify one responsibility you have taken on that you can cancel to free up some time for yourself.  Work from there.  Find one person in your life to share your plan with and ask them to help you implement it.

5. Be taken advantage of –  By always saying yes to requests for favors, people may begin to take advantage of your kindness by asking for more than is reasonable.

Even people who are generally not exploitative may take advantage because they don’t realize that you are overtaxing yourself and have difficulty understanding where your boundaries are because you have set none.
Either way, requests from other people will become overwhelming.

We teach people how to treat us by the behavior we accept or reject from them.

If someone takes advantage of you, it is only their fault once.  After that it is your fault for not teaching them different.  Teaching different means setting boundaries about what you can and cannot do, and what you will and will not accept.  Once you have established this, sticking to it is important.

The other challenge is that if everyone is used to you saying yes, they may feel disappointed or angry when you begin to say no.

It is extremely important to ignore feelings of guilt. You deserve to take care of yourself, it is nothing to ever feel guilty about.  Keep reminding yourself of the Red Cross Truck.

We can help you reach your highest potential in life. Partner with one of our Counselors at CLR Group, LLC and find your roadmap to success.

Speak Your Mind



The CLR Counseling Group

2102 Cahaba Rd Suite E
Mountain Brook, AL 35223


Send Us a Message

By submitting this form via this web portal, you acknowledge and accept the risks of communicating your health information via this unencrypted email and electronic messaging and wish to continue despite those risks. By clicking "Yes, I want to submit this form" you agree to hold Brighter Vision harmless for unauthorized use, disclosure, or access of your protected health information sent via this electronic means.