Something you may not know about me was that when I was young, I was a complete pushover.
I let other people walk all over me, manipulate me and use me to get what they wanted. I was always trying hard to please people and get them to like me. It was an obsessive race I found myself running in, and when someone didn’t like me, it bothered me a lot. It’s true I had no backbone and was considered by people to be “too nice.” Surprisingly, it really annoyed me hearing that.
The good news is the older you get, the less you care about what people think. It has been so true for me. At one point, I just got sick of constantly being used by people and decided to stand up for myself and not take anyone’s crap anymore. My backbone has become increasingly stronger and my tolerance for people’s crap has become very slim. I realized a lot of important truths to get to the strong-willed person I am today, and these I want to share with anyone else struggling with people-pleasing.
1. Learn to say no. The book Boundaries by John Townsend & Henry Cloud changed my life. As someone who was over-drained by other people’s demands, here was a book that told me, ‘You know you can say no, right?’ It liberated me, and it is still something that shapes my life today. Realize that no one can take anything from you – your time, your energy, your possessions – without your permission. Know that you can create boundaries in your life that cannot be crossed. Understand that your no is a complete sentence and doesn’t need an explanation. If someone loves your yes but hates your no, it’s time to walk away from them.
2. Understand that not everybody will like you. Even if you are Jesus or Martin Luther Jr., you are still going to get haters. There will always be someone who will judge and pick at you, whether you do good or bad, so you might as well do and be whatever you want. Unfortunately, you are not going to please everyone. Fortunately, it’s up to you whether that matters or not.
3. Watch out for manipulators. They will flatter you and give you empty compliments all to ensure their plans succeed. After you first catch out a manipulator, it will get easier to spot them. Be aware and be careful of them. Ask yourself if what they are saying and doing to you a means for them to get what they want.
4. Take your time to answer. Something valuable I have learned recently and wish I learned earlier is from the Counselling Blog: “Don’t give an answer right away. Say you need a bit of time before you make up your mind. That allows you time and space to think about the consequences, for other things will likely suffer if you take on far too much.”
5. Stick to your priorities. If you have prior commitments you don’t want to back out of, don’t let someone make you feel bad for saying no to their request. Let your word be your bond. Remember that you are not guaranteed a day on this earth, so do what makes you the most happy.
6. Practice standing up for yourself. It’s not okay if someone disrespects you or is rude to you. Understand that their unkindness may be rooted in a hard heart, but also draw a boundary. Know when enough is enough. When it is, find the courage to stand up for yourself and tell them that you will not be talked to or treated like that. It will be uncomfortable and hard at first, but with practice it will get easier.