Do you feel like you are causing hurt, pain and inconvenience to others when you tell them ‘no’?
People pleasing can seem like it is a positive trait, but when you consistently put others’ needs over your own, you become a source of guilt and anxiety to yourself. The discomfort these emotions create can be debilitating.
Many people-pleasers know they need to set limits with others, but can’t ever seem to find a way to say no—the worry over how they will be perceived or guilt over hurting someone’s feelings keeps them saying ‘yes’ when they really long to say ‘no.’
If this is you, there most common—and most debilitating—reason why you struggle with saying no to others is FEAR.
Fear of saying no comes in many forms:
- Fear of hurting someone’s feelings. Do you say ‘yes’ to others out of a sense of obligation? Whether you’re buying something from them, telling them something you think they want to hear, or making yourself available to them to help them in a time of need, if you don’t truly want to be doing these things, you may be acting on a need to appear nice and good at all times.
- Fear of being abandoned. Many feel that if they say no, they will be rejected, and therefore ultimately abandoned, by someone they perceive they need very much. This fear is often subconscious, meaning, you may not necessarily be aware of it. Have you been trying to ensure others’ devotion to you by doing things you don’t truly want to do?
- Fear of anger. Are you one of the countless women who will agree to do things you don’t want to do, simply because you don’t want to make the requester angry? If so, you have likely made it better, in your mind, to be angry with yourself than to have someone else be angry at you.
- Fear of being seen as selfish. This is a common one—many who struggle with saying no want to viewed in a positive light. If you tend to cave to others’ requests when they say or do something to make you feel guilty, this fear is likely at the heart of your difficulty.
- Fear of not being ‘a good Christian.’ Your struggle with saying no may be happening because you’re confusing God’s command to love thy neighbor with a directive to allow other people to walk all over you. Then, when someone does take advantage of you, the last thing you feel toward them is love—making you feel guilty and then perhaps even trying to do more for them, so you can get rid of the feeling that you’re being a ‘bad Christian.’
The next time you are struggling with fear or guilt over an expectation that someone else has put on you, remember—fear and guilt don’t come from God.
What you need are boundaries—a sense of where you end and where others begin, and what is your responsibility and what isn’t. Knowing your boundaries also helps you know when to get involved in doing things for others, and when to opt out.
If you have a hard time setting boundaries, may I suggest getting some help? It would be the best investment you could make in yourself and the dividends are tremendous.
If you know you learn better when you have the attention and support of a teacher, I can help. I have coached and counseled many women who knew they were wearing themselves out trying to make other people happy, but who weren’t sure what to do about changing their behavior—now they know their boundaries and don’t feel guilty about saying no. Simply email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and put “boundaries” in the subject of your email.