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Extra Lessons: 5
Stop People Pleasing, Be Strong in Your No, and Powerfully You
Transcript of the video lesson:
“People pleasing” is acting in ways that are not authentically you in order to please other people. Do you have difficulty with saying no? Do you find yourself doing things for others that you actually don’t want to do? And what if someone is doing something that affects you in a negative way? Do you dare to tell them? Do you ask people to stop when you don’t like what they are doing with you? Do you sometimes lie about your preferences to make life easier for others? Do you hide your emotions to not disturb them?
Some people who become aware of themselves displaying this kind of behavior start calling themselves “people pleasers”. You will not hear me using that term though because I don’t want you to start thinking of yourself as having some fixed people pleasing identity. People pleasing is just a behavior, based on a mindset that’s not serving you, and you can totally learn to choose other beliefs and perspectives, and start to make self-empowering choices that honor you, and which will at the same time serve others more too. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do in this extra lesson.
In this extra lesson you will learn:
- The right mindset that will back up your new self-empowered choices, including:
- Saying no to others is saying yes to yourself
- The right perspectives on egoism, laziness, assertiveness, and responsibility
- A positive self-image
- To say no to relationships in which no is a wrong answer
- You will also learn how to change your people pleasing behaviour
- You will learn to take your time when deciding on whether you want to help someone, how to be strong in your no, and set your boundaries
- How to make this shift in a gentle and easy way by taking baby steps, talking positive to yourself and using affirmations
“I learned to stop people pleasing the hard way. I especially had a big problem with saying no and letting others know when I didn’t like something they were doing with me. Sometimes if you don’t learn a lesson, life will bring you clearer and clearer opportunities to step into your power. During my first sexual relationship, I established the habit to not tell my partner when penetrative sex was painful for me because I was afraid to see him frustrated with not having had an orgasm, and ashamed of my body not living up to his expectations and desires. This resulted in many many many vaginal infections during different relationships. It took me six years before I finally learned the lesson: my body is mine and I do not have any responsibility to make the other person feel good. I put myself first. Now it feels like a loving obligation towards myself: I take the responsibility to take good care of my body. If sex hurts, I will tell the other person and stop if necessary, regardless of how this will make the other person feel. Believe me, my sex life has become far more pleasant since!”
Changing your mindset
People pleasing has no benefits
To stop people pleasing it’s important to first see clearly that it has no benefits to continue the behavior. You probably at least already know that it feels bad to do something you actually don’t want to do, just to please others.
People pleasing feels bad because you’re not respecting yourself. You’re basically saying to yourself that the other person and their happiness is more important than you and your happiness. In doing so, you’re not being as kind to yourself as you are to the other person. People pleasing also has a bad influence on the relationship. Do you know that feeling of resentment, of being upset with someone because you said yes to helping them out with something while you really don’t want to? It’s easy to start having thoughts like: “They ask me too much. They’re not really considerate towards me. They don’t value my time.”. Maybe. And maybe they’ll even pick up on your resentment and start feeling bad about themselves too. But the truth is at least that you are not considerate towards yourself, and you’re not really valuing your time enough to say no. That hurts. And it takes the joy out of the relationship as well.
Saying “no” is saying yes
When you say “no” to someone else, you’re saying yes to you. Because you’re respecting your desires and boundaries, you allow yourself to be authentic, you refuse to do what you don’t want to do, and so you take care of yourself and your happiness.
You’re also saying yes to healthy relationships in which both parties can freely ask each other for favors, where no is an acceptable answer, and where both parties only act on shared desires, thereby keeping the relationship clean of resentment and full of joy.
Saying “no” to someone is at the same time saying yes to them. Because it’s also for their best interests that the relationship stays clean and that you don’t give them the bad experience of someone reluctantly doing something for or with them. If you would never dare to say no or enforce your boundaries, they might notice and stop enjoying your help and company.
So you see that saying “no” is actually saying yes to yourself, the other person, and the relationship you have together.
Forget about egoism
Most people believe egoism is a real thing. And by egoism, they don’t just mean a sense of individuality and taking care of the person who you are, which is great, but they mean some evil tendency to pursue your own goals regardless of how it negatively impacts others. If you believe in some bad sense of egoism, please give me a chance to talk you out of it.
We’re all first and foremost responsible for meeting our own needs. Who can take better care of you, than yourself? It’s you that knows best what you need, want, and what’s the best way to meet those needs and wants. So you are the best care-taker of you. Take care of your body, take care of your psyche.
Some people have few needs. They are psychologically healthy, easily content and happy, and so they can use the free space in their minds to do good for others. Other people experience a lot of neediness, maybe they had some difficult life experiences and now have a lot of baggage and things they need to learn in order to take good care of themselves. Those are the people that many others call “egoists”, but they’re no evil harm doers, they are just so preoccupied with meeting the needs of their psychologically unhealthy mind, that they don’t have enough free space in their consciousness to be respectful or compassionate to others. Innocently so. The best way to approach them (or yourself if you recognize yourself in this description) is with empathy, unconditional love, and patience for their healing process. If they don’t respect you and harm you in the process of pursuing their own needs, it’s a healthy decision to enforce your boundaries and to end that relationship if necessary, but that still doesn’t mean you have to judge them as evil egoists. You don’t have to judge yourself as an egoist either. Embrace others and yourself with empathy, unconditional love, and patience.
Next important thing to realize about egoism is that you can do the most good for others if you first take good care of yourself. And so egoism and altruism are the same. Think of your happiness as a cup that you fill up. Only when it’s fully filled up, it starts to flow over naturally. That’s basically the state of Buddhahood, where all needs of the self are dissolved, and the only thing left to do is to serve others. From a spiritual perspective, it makes sense to equal egoism and altruism, as we are all one. So service to self is service to others. And service to others is service to self. The idea of living a life of selfless service is often misunderstood as a duty to put the needs of others before the needs of yourself, and everything else ends up being called egotistical and bad. Not listening to your own needs, however, would be an abandonment of the self, which is not what any true spiritual path would advocate. Selfless service is only selfless because the ego self has dissolved due to entering an awakened state in which is realized that all is one. So service to self becomes service to the Self with a capital S, call it God, Oneness, The-All-That-Is, or the Universe. And that still includes taking good care of the individual that you are.
If others tell you you’re an egoist if you don’t please them, forgive them for their needy, manipulative behavior that’s just coming from their need to control you in order to get their own needs met. Don’t internalize their judgment, don’t take their words in a way that makes you think bad of yourself. Of course, you have the experience of being an individual, and having needs and desires. And taking care of yourself, by for example enforcing boundaries or saying no, is exactly what you need to be doing.
Just like most people make a distinction between altruism and egoism, most people make a similar distinction between giving and receiving. They believe that if you’re giving, you’re only giving, and if you’re receiving, you’re only receiving. But in reality, it’s perfectly possible to be doing both at the same time. Say you love walking with dogs, but you don’t have the right circumstances in your life right now to have a dog yourself, and your busy neighbours have a lovely dog and not enough time themselves to take it for long walks. Then who’s serving who if you start walking their dog? Especially in sex, it becomes really clear that we can have mediocre experiences by pleasing others, doing things we don’t like to do, just to give pleasure to the other person, while we could also have awesome experiences if we only act on mutual desires. If you truly enjoy the giving, the giving is receiving in itself. And if the other person truly enjoys giving to you, then you receiving it is actually giving to the other person at the same time. If you both stop people pleasing and only act on mutual desires, there’s no distinction anymore between giving and receiving, altruism and egoism. That’s the sweet spot.
You can be empathic, caring and assertive all at the same time
Are you afraid of seeing yourself, or being seen by others, as uncaring? You can be empathic, caring and assertive all at the same time. Let me illustrate:
If someone invites you over for dinner, but you don’t have time, or you don’t want to, you can assertively say no. If that makes them feel disappointed, or rejected, you will likely empathize with that. You can be caring, and compassionate by saying “Thank you for the offer, though. I do appreciate you asking me.”
Another example: If someone needs your help, but you feel that you’re already too busy to help out, or you simply don’t feel like doing that task, you can again, assertively say no. At the same time, you can empathize with them feeling worried about the thing they need help with. You can express your care by saying: “I understand you feel worried about it. I hope you find a solution for it.” Maybe you feel inspired to undertake an extra compassionate action of referring them to someone else who might be able to help them out.
And so you see you can be assertive, empathic, and caring all at the same time. One of the test-users wrote me that the most important insight she got from this lesson was that “Saying no is caring too”.
You’re not responsible for other people’s happiness
You are responsible for your happiness, and they are responsible for their happiness. Of course, do treat others with respect, but that’s as far as your responsibility goes. You don’t have to help all the people who are in need, take care of those who are unhappy or say yes to every invitation. If you didn’t cause someone’s problem, you’re not the one responsible for fixing it either. You didn’t do anything wrong. So you also don’t have to say sorry if you don’t want to help. Don’t apologize for what you do or don’t do. You are you and that is awesome, it’s nothing to apologize for.
Because it’s not your responsibility to make others happy, you also don’t have to come up with reasons or excuses why you are saying no, or not pleasing them in some other way that you believe you should. If you like you can explain why you say no, but you’re in no way required to do that. Especially don’t go into using excuses instead of communicating a clear no. If you use only reasons why not, the other person might misinterpret that you actually would like to say yes or help out, and might start helping you find solutions for the excuses that you just made up to avoid saying the actual “no”.
You’re fully in your right to say no. And you’re not responsible for how that makes others feel. You do not have to please people, you do not have to make everyone happy.
Respect yourself, have a positive self-image
You are unconditionally worthy. Just by merely existing, you are worthy. You wouldn’t exist if God didn’t love you. Or if you want to keep it more down to Earth, see it as your birthright as a human being: you are worthy. Worthy of pursuing your own happiness. Worthy of setting and enforcing your boundaries. Worthy of saying no and still being loved. Worthy of your own respect, and worthy of being treated respectfully by others.
Because you’re already worthy, you don’t need to please others to gain their approval, respect, and love. You also don’t need to be kind to others to gain your own self-respect. Or to avoid feeling bad about yourself. You have a good heart, you don’t need to prove that. Not to others, not to yourself.
You are deserving of respect and unconditional love. You don’t need to please others to deserve love, you are already lovable just the way you are. That might not mean they will always give it to you, as they might not yet be able to give unconditional love. But you are deserving, and you can give that love to yourself. You are always deserving of your own respect.
Does your self-image include a judgment of yourself as lazy? And are you afraid of being found lazy when you say no to someone’s request? Forget about the whole concept of laziness. No one is lazy. Human beings are naturally busy creatures who love to dream and pursue their goals. How else did we build palaces, spaceships, create art, and make love? All human beings are naturally creative artists. Yes, you too! Sometimes, however, our creativity is blocked, for example, because we are working jobs that don’t inspire us, or we’re sick and tired because of an unhealthy lifestyle. Or we have been busy a lot already, and just need rest or play. Not wanting to do something doesn’t mean you’re lazy, it just means you don’t want to do something right now, or you don’t want to do that particular thing. And that’s perfectly fine, everyone has their own specific things that inspire them to be creative, passionate and active.
So let your self-image include unconditional worthiness, a naturally kind heart; know that you are deserving of unconditional respect and love, and when inspired you have the creativity of a passionate artist. Approve of yourself. Respect yourself. And know that you don’t have to please anyone to feel this about yourself.
No reason to be afraid of rejecting or being rejected
It might seem scary to say no or stop pleasing others because it might seem to you that you reject the other person. You don’t want the other person to feel rejected. Maybe because you’re afraid of them rejecting you in return. Or maybe you’re afraid of rejecting yourself when you make someone else feel bad.
First of all, you don’t need to fear being rejected by others. Feeling rejected can be a wonderful experience as it throws you back inside the safety of your own heart. If the other person stops loving you, that’s a great moment to take yourself into your own heart and feel clearly the love that’s there from you and for you. Being rejected can catalyze a breakthrough in the amount of self-love you experience.
The fear of being rejected by others can be understood when we think of our early childhoods. As babies or little children, we’re unable to take care of ourselves. If our caregivers wouldn’t love us anymore, we would simply die. So the fear of rejection that you feel nowadays came from a realistic threat to your life, and therefore it goes all the way back to the fear of death. But we’re grown-ups now. You can take care of yourself, you don’t need anyone’s love to survive. Besides rejection being an opportunity to relax deeper into self-love, you also don’t have to be afraid of it anymore for that old reason of survival.
If you would reject yourself when you make others feel bad, that’s because you still think you’re responsible in some way. But as already said before, you’re not responsible for other people’s happiness. You didn’t do anything wrong, and you’re worthy and deserving of self-respect regardless of how others feel about the version of you that doesn’t please anyone.
That being said, now comes the actual crux. Of course, we don’t like to reject others because the feeling of love is much sweeter than the feeling of rejection. And it’s perfectly possible to remain in that sweet spot. Being strong in your no, and stopping to people please in general, actually doesn’t need to include any rejection of the other person. You’re only rejecting the specific thing you’re saying no to.
If you, for example, want to end a conversation that the other person is still enjoying, you’re rejecting the conversation, you’re not rejecting the essence of their person. Even if you want to end a relationship with someone you were close with, and you don’t want this person in your life anymore whatsoever, you’re still only rejecting their presence in your life, you’re not rejecting the essence of their person.
Don’t care about other people’s expectations
Do you act in certain ways, just because people expect you to? Like showing up at the wedding of your sister, while you actually hate that kind of family occasions? Or like shaving yourself because your partner expects you to, while you think it’s a non-enjoyable waste of time? Then don’t do it. Do you, be your authentic self. It’s their responsibility to get over it when they’re making assumptions and their expectations don’t meet reality. You are in no way required to act in the ways they expect you to. Isn’t it much more fun to surprise others by being bold and quirky? Bold and quirky, those are positive words. Giving others the authentic you is a greater gift than fitting yourself into their assumptious expectations.
Say no to relationships in which no is a wrong answer
If a relationship needs your people pleasing behavior for it to keep existing, that´s a huge red flag. Ideally, others respect your no, value your effort and time, and empathize with your unwillingness to just do whatever they ask from you. Those are very reasonable things to want in a relationship.
So ask yourself if you really still want to be in a relationship with someone who does not accept your no, or does not accept you stopping the people pleasing behavior you have displayed in the past. Because if this is the case, chances are that this person does not respect you. And that´s a good reason to end the relationship.
In this way becoming the authentic you that never pleases other people will filter out the relationships that were not really valuable to begin with and will leave you with the people who truly accept, respect and love you. Perfect, isn’t it?
Break the habit, change your behavior
Take your time to make your decision
If you’re on the verge of engaging in any people pleasing behavior, whether it’s saying yes to helping your neighbour out by babysitting their children, or offering a massage to your partner who just told you they have back pain, take your time to make your decision. If you’re not yet in the habit of saying no to things you don’t want and yes to things you do want, you might even need to first learn to feel what it actually is that you want.
You can answer “I’ll think about it.” or say “I’m thinking about offering you a massage, but give me a moment to feel into it before I commit.”. You can also ask for details about the commitment. Like: “How much time do you need me to look after your kids?” or “Are you happy with only a quick shoulder massage?”. Furthermore, you can make sure you don’t have to follow through if you don’t want to anymore. For example: “What if I have a hard time babysitting your children? Can I give you a call so that you can come home earlier from your party?” or “I’m not sure whether I want to give you the massage, but I would like to try it out. Is it okay if I just start, and see for how long I like it?” You’re also free to negotiate. For instance: “I can look after your children, but I only want to be available for two hours.” or “I would like to do a massage exchange if you like that too. If you still have back pain after the massage I give you, you can also give me my massage another day.”.
So take your time to make your decision. And ask questions or negotiate if you want to.
Be strong in your no
If you don’t want to go to the party you got invited to, say no.
If you don’t want to help someone out moving to a new house, say no.
If you don’t want to someone to touch you, say no.
If you don’t want to give out your phone number, say no.
It’s not uncommon that people will try a few more times. We live in a culture where men especially are taught to push boundaries in order to get women. Jordan used the term “rape culture” to describe this, sounds maybe a bit extreme, but it get’s the point across very well. You see this culture of disrespect in the corporate world as well. We live in a culture where many companies don’t respect our privacy and sanity by presenting the same advertisements over and over again wherever we go. So when you say no, people might ask you: “Are you sure you don’t want that?” “Please?” “Did you already change your mind?” “But…” and reasons to persuade you will follow. Sometimes it can even get insulting: “Why won’t you do that for me? Don’t be selfish.” And that’s actually mental abuse that you don’t need to tolerate at all.
Be strong in your no, keep saying no. You have the right to say no. If the other person doesn’t get the message, you can be explicit by saying: “I have already said no, please respect that. I will come back to you when I do feel like I want to, so you don’t have to ask me anymore. Okay?” If you have been that clear, and the other person doesn’t respect it, that’s a good reason to end that relationship.
A fun exercise that you can ask a friend to help you do, is having the other person ask you all sorts of questions, while you practice with answering no. In the first round, you will say no to whatever question, even if you would actually feel a yes in that situation, just to practice. In the second round, you will say no, yes or whatever you want to say, according to what you really feel like. If you want to practice saying no to a particular person, you can ask your friend to role play that person. Take a few minutes for every round, you might like to set a timer. For example:
Friend: Would you like to go swimming with me?
Friend: Would you please help me repair my computer?
Friend: Can I read your diary?
Friend (pretending during this round to be the date you will have this evening): Would you like to dance with me?
Friend: Can I kiss you?
You: Not yet.
Friend: Please? You’re so beautiful, I feel in love with you already!
Friend: Can I hold your hand?
Friend: Can I now kiss you?
You: No. Please don’t ask me that again, I have already said no. Wait for me to initiate, okay?
Friend: Ha ha, what if I just steal a kiss?
You: No! That’s not respectful.
So ask a sweet friend to help you with this, preferably someone who can be empathic with your difficulty to say no. And have fun with it as well. It’s a great way to learn to say no, as well as to bond with the person who’s assisting you in the exercise.
Be explicit with your boundaries
A typical syndrome of people pleasing is not letting other people know where your boundaries are, hoping they will somehow just feel them or don’t cross them. And then when the other person does go over your boundaries, you might still not speak up. But people can’t read your mind, and it’s for the benefit of everyone involved if you do keep healthy boundaries, so it’s a good idea to explicitly tell people what you’re okay with and what you’re not okay with.
“I would like to cuddle with you, only don’t touch me in any sexual ways.”
“Please don’t call me during nighttime hours.”
“You often touch me, but I’m actually not comfortable with that.”
“I’ll give you my address, but please always call before you visit me.”
“We have been holding hands now and then, but I don’t want that anymore.”
“I want to end this conversation because I want some space and alone time.”
Be sweet to yourself by explicitly letting other people know where your boundaries are.
Baby steps & positive self-talk
For most people, breaking the habit of pleasing other people takes courage and time. Start by talking positively to yourself. Tell yourself that you can learn this, that you can get better with practice, that you can do it.
If it all scares you a lot, start out with baby steps. Say no when the cashier wants to give you that receipt that you don’t need. Or if you’re already comfortable with saying no to invitations, now also leave out the apologies in your responses. And every time you do something right, cheer for yourself. Tell yourself you’re making progress and you’re doing great.
Observe your behavior in loving acceptance
If you do find yourself still acting in that old people pleasing habit, don’t get upset with yourself. Just observe it. Awareness alone is already curative. If you don’t dare to say no, say yes and just observe with as much awareness as you can what you do, how that feels, how the other person acts, and how it impacts your life. It’s harder to change a habit when beating yourself up for what is wrong according to you than when you lovingly accepting what is. And just give yourself the opportunity to make another choice.
Use positive affirmations
If you want to grow more into a new mindset that won’t make you people please anymore, it helps to use affirmations. Use the ones that make you feel good when you think them. Then later on, when you’re in a difficult situation where you don’t want to people please, use them as a mantra.
Saying no is okay. If I say no when I want to say no, I’m saying yes to myself and a healthy connection with this person.
I am my authentic me. I do what I want to do. And I don’t do what I don’t want to do.
It is safe for me to tell others my preferences.
I communicate my boundaries.
When I don’t want something, I say no. I’m fully allowed to be in my power and say no. I don’t need to explain and I don’t need to be reasonable, “no” is a full sentence.’
I respect myself.
I approve of myself.
I am unconditionally worthy.
I am deserving of unconditional love and respect.
Of course, you can also create your own affirmations to best suit your specific needs. Just state them positive and present tense. What feels good, works for you.
In this extra lesson, you learned
- That people pleasing means acting inauthentically to please others
- You can stop this by taking on the right new mindset. This includes:
- Knowing that people pleasing does not have benefits
- That saying “no” is saying yes to yourself, a healthy relationship, and the other person
- To make peace with egoism. Ideally, giving and receiving are the same.
- To know that you can be assertive, empathic and caring all at the same time.
- To know that the happiness of the other person is not your responsibility. So no arguments, excuses or apologies are needed
- To have a positive self -image: you are worthy (so you don’t need other’s approval) and deserving of respect and unconditional love. You’re not lazy. Respect yourself. Approve of yourself.
- That there’s no need to fear rejecting others or being rejected yourself.
- To not care about other people’s expectations.
- To say no to relationships in which no is a wrong answer
- How to break the habit of people pleasing and change your behavior by:
- Taking your time to make a decision. Take time to think, ask questions or negotiate.
- Be strong in your no.
- Explicate your boundaries.
- Take baby steps and talk positively to yourself during the learning process.
- Observe your learning process, and love yourself unconditionally.
- Use affirmations to anchor the right mindset.
Transcript of the exercise:
Investigate yourself for a moment: What kind of people pleasing behaviors do you display? … Do you hide your feelings if that benefits others? Do you say yes when you want to say no? Do you lie about your preferences to make life easier for others?
Think of one situation in the past where you were pleasing others instead of being authentically you. … Can you see how you were not honouring yourself as much as you could have? … How does that feel inside your heart? … Did your choice to people please instead of being authentic affect the relationship in any negative way? Did the other person maybe feel your reluctance? Or did you grow some resentment? Did it eat away from the joy in that relationship? ….
Can you imagine for a moment a version of yourself that always daring to be authentic, always expressing yourself clearly to others. In a loving way, honouring both yourself and the other person and the relationship. Can you imagine being strong in your no, clear in your words, actions and body language? Can you imagine a life in which you don’t say yes to anything you don’t want to do?
Back to that situation in the past in which you people pleased, what could you have done differently? Imagine doing so.
Is there any present situation or relationship pattern in which you are people pleasing? … Maybe something you regularly do for someone else that you don’t want to do anymore? … Or even whole relationships you would rather end but you’re still in it for the other person? … Choose one that you’re going to change. What would you need to do or say to make that positive change happen?
Now repeat the following affirmations after me:
Saying no is okay.
If I say no when I want to say no, I’m saying yes to myself.
If I say no when I want to say no, I’m saying yes to a healthy relationship
I am my authentic me.
I do what I want to do. I don’t do what I don’t want to do.
It is safe for me to tell others my preferences.
I communicate my boundaries.
When I don’t want something, I say no.
I’m fully allowed to be in my power and say no.
I don’t need to explain my no, and I don’t need to be reasonable.
“No” is a full sentence.’
I respect myself.
I approve of myself.
I am unconditionally worthy.
I am deserving of unconditional love and respect.
Now let your mind come up with one affirmation that you need to create the change you wish to see in your life.