I used to be terrible at saying ‘No’. I would say ‘Yep, sure, no worries, I’ll do that’ when I really wanted to say ‘No thank you, not this time, I won’t be able to do that’. It happened all the time — more often than I would like to admit. And it was all because I was a Golden Globe-winning people pleaser.
I grew up watching the women in my life perfect the art of people-pleasing. But to be totally honest with you, it wasn’t just the women. The men did it too. I came from a very catholic Italian family where we ‘should-ed’ all over each other like nobody's business...
‘You should do this because it’s for your brother.’
‘You should eat that because your grandmother made it and she will be offended if you don’t.’
‘You should say this, act this way, come to this event, go to church, show up this way wearing that outfit because you just should, should, should.’
The shoulds were dropped in our household A LOT.
This is what I learned growing up, this was my schooling. Until, that is, I hit rock bottom in 2010 (which you can read all about in my book Mastering Your Mean Girl).
It was at rock bottom, when I was in the hospital with a whole host of physical and mental health issues — one being chronic fatigue and another being adrenal fatigue, from literally being an expert people pleaser — that I knew I had to stop. I knew that I needed to learn to put myself first. I needed to put on my own oxygen mask before I helped the person next to me.
So that’s what I did. And since then, my life has never been the same...
Before I teach you how you can quit people pleasing and become a master of the ‘no thank you’, let’s look at the psychology behind why we people please and why we say yes to things we don’t really want to do.
We say ‘yes’ more often than ‘no’ because at the core of it, it hits on a deep human wound of feeling rejected. Us humans believe that if we say ‘no’ then the other person will in some way ‘reject’ us. How cray-cray is that?!
Most of us would never want someone else to do something for us out of obligation, when they don’t really want to do it… but we expect it of ourselves. We do things that we may not really want to because there’s a little part of us that’s scared to speak our truth because we might disappoint others and experience rejection.
But seriously, would you want your friend saying ‘Sure I can help you move house’ when she didn’t actually want to and doesn’t have the space to do it?
Would you want your mother-in-law to babysit your kids when she really wanted to go to her weekly bingo night?
Would you want your partner helping you pick out an outfit for your friend’s wedding when he would rather stick pins in his eye?
Would you really want your work colleague looking over your presentation or proposal when she really doesn’t want to because she is flat out herself?
The answer most likely is no. I personally would not want anyone doing anything for me if it was not true for them.
I would want my friend to help me move house because she truly wanted to. I would want my mother-in-law to babysit my kids because she was bursting out of her skin to do it. I would want my partner to really care when he was helping me pick an outfit for my friend's wedding and I would want my colleague to read my presentation because she actually wants to and is excited about it.
I want people to do things for me out of the kindness of their heart and from a place of love — not fear of being rejected. I would want them to say ‘yes’ because they really wanted to, not because deep down their rejection wound is getting triggered. And I would want them to say ‘no’ if that’s their truth.
And because I want people to only agree to things when it’s their Truth, that’s what I do. I practice what I preach.