So often I have people come into my office talking about how they felt they couldn’t say no to someone in their lives, whether that be a friend, boss, partner or their hairdresser. The common response is that doing so makes them feel guilty, they feel bad for setting a boundary on the off chance that it disappoints them or hurts their feelings. I spent decades of my life thinking that other people’s feelings and needs far exceeded my own and had convinced myself that it was my job in life to accommodate others at the expense of myself. To be honest, it also felt easier in the moment. By saying yes, even to something that I didn’t want to do, I didn’t have to face their disappointment and could avoid potential conflict. It took some really hard lessons for me to see that my people pleasing habits were not only hurting me, but also didn’t help my relationships.
When we people please in a way that doesn’t serve our own wellbeing, we start putting up walls between our authentic selves and others. People start seeing us one way, when in all reality we may be or feel quite different. This can be okay in the short term, but long term it either builds resentment (which leads to a fall out) or breeds internal insecurity and dysfunction as our relationship with self falls apart. As one of my favorite authors, Glennon Doyle, says “you are not required to set yourself on fire to keep other people warm.” When we attend to others needs over our own we slowly do just that.
The fear of standing up for yourself and setting healthy boundaries can be hard. Often, the reasoning behind it is because we are convinced it is the only way people will really love us. It is true that people love ease and getting their way, but that has nothing to do with you as a human being and everything to do with them staying comfortable. So instead of keeping them comfortable, choose yourself. Say yes and attend to others needs in a way that is still authentic and healthy for you. When you say no, honor that you are doing so because you want to have a relationship that is authentic, not just easy. The expectation isn’t that you master this overnight, I often still have to remind myself to go back and be more honest, or give myself permission to renege on a commitment because I was doing for the wrong reasons. As with any skill, the more we practice, the more seasoned we become at something and the easier it will become. Being authentic can be hard at times, but it is also what creates the richest and most connected relationship with yourself and others.