Therapy Can Work

Katherine Rabinowitz, LP, M.A., NCPsyA

Licensed Psychotherapist & Psychoanalyst
Union Square, Greenwich Village, New York, NY

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Therapy Can Work

Katherine Rabinowitz, LP, M.A., NCPsyA

Licensed Psychotherapist & Psychoanalyst
Union Square, Greenwich Village, New York, NY

Is It Hard For You To Just Say No? Being a People Pleaser Gets in the Way of Being Content With Your Own Life.

Is It Hard For You To Just Say No?
Being a People Pleaser Gets in the Way of Being Content With Your Own Life.

“Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.”

~Mark Twain

Doing things to help other people can feel good. You’ve done a good thing – you’ve made them happy.

Doing this once in a while is great, but doing it at your own expense, and so often it becomes hard if not impossible, is not so great.

It becomes stressful. It becomes a burden. You become resentful. You feel taken advantage of. And you probably are. You know why people take advantage of you? Because you let them. You’ve gotten to the point where you can’t say no to someone asking a favor of you, big or small.

You wonder how you got here. I have a few guesses. You have low self-esteem, and you think doing things for people will make think more highly of you. If you say no, you perceive disappointment (whether it’s really there or not) from the person asking the favor. It feels like rejection, which is devastating to you. And you’ve become hyper-vigilant to any sign that you’ve been rejected.

It could also be that growing up, that was what was expected of you from your parents. The only way they showed approval was if you did what they wanted. In fact, maybe they actually withdrew love and support if you were “bad.” What a terrible lesson to have internalized, but it can be unlearned.

So it became a habit. And you discovered how much praise and gratitude you got when you did things that made other people happy. But what about doing something nice for yourself? First! Oh, no, that would be selfish. But selfish is not always a dirty word. If you live your life only looking out for number one and never helping out a friend, well, then, yeah, I can see it. But if the opposite is true, you suffer. And ironically, being a people pleaser ends up being selfish! You’re trying to make sure everyone likes you.

Think about what they say on an airplane about the oxygen mask. Put yours on first before helping someone else. You won’t be much good to another person if you’re suffocating for lack of oxygen. You need to take care of yourself, look after your own needs before you can be useful to someone else.

Here are some other habits or traits I’m guessing you have:

      • You hate conflict
      • You want everyone to be happy (and feel it’s your fault if they’re not and you didn’t solve their          problems for them).
      • You feel responsible for other people’s feelings  (Guess what: you’re not)
      • You’re afraid of being criticized
      • You feel guilty for saying no  (Oh, go ahead, say yes, it’ll just take a few minutes/hours/days –          you can do it)
      • It makes you feel worthy to do something nice for someone. And there’s actually nothing wrong          with feeling worthy, unless your sense of worth comes exclusively from pleasing others.
      • While you can always do a favor for someone else, it’s virtually impossible to ask someone else to          do a favor for you. You don’t want to be a “bother”
      • You say “sorry” a lot. And you’re probably not aware how often you do. Listen to yourself –          you might be surprised.
      • You need external validation to feel good about yourself
      • You’re not happy if you’re not in control.

So what’s happened? People have come to know you as their “go-to” person. Without thinking about ramifications on your end, they come to you because they know you won’t say no. They know you can handle it. They don’t think they’re taking advantage of you, but they are. And you keep letting them. And that’s self-destructive behavior.

Unless you can learn to start saying no. Set priorities, with Number 1 at the top. (That’s You…) Be assertive about how you say no, not apologetic. Don’t give a million reasons why you can’t accommodate them. You do have a choice, and often that choice can be no. Maybe next time. Don’t let yourself be manipulated.

And decide if it’s really worth it. Set boundaries for what’s realistic. Maybe someone will be upset because they’re so used to you saying Sure, no problem. Guess what: that’s their problem. They’re grown-ups, they’ll have to tend to their own feelings rather than having you be the self-assigned caretaker of them.

Most importantly, understand that your worth is within. Be nice to yourself. Give yourself a break. Stop looking to the outside world for validation and accept that you are worthy even when you say no.

1 comment on “Is It Hard For You To Just Say No? Being a People Pleaser Gets in the Way of Being Content With Your Own Life.”

  1. Now age 70+ I’m concentrating on becoming a crotchety old grouse to make up for all those years of people-pleasing. I give myself a gold star for every time I say “no” to someone. Feels good!

     

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