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If you’re a people-pleaser, you’re probably empathetic and giving. Don’t get me wrong—these are admirable qualities to have. At the same time, if you’re always accommodating other people’s wants and needs, it shouldn’t be at the expense of your own.

Being agreeable is one thing, but many people-pleasers are left feeling emotionally drained, or like their time is no longer their own. And while you’re agreeable on the outside, on the inside you could be piling up resentment, stress, and a fear of rejection.

If you’re tired of feeling like a doormat, how do you start to put yourself first? By virtue of being a people-pleaser, you’re probably not keen on making anyone else upset. Here are some concrete tips to begin asserting yourself as your own person.

Set healthy boundaries

Knowing how and when to set boundaries is key to making sure you aren’t sacrificing your own wellbeing to please others. We’ve previously covered some of the different kinds of personal boundaries, and why it’s worth it to take the time to identify where you draw the line in the sand in your own life.

Think about the sort of line-crossing that makes you feel like a doormat. Does your friend expect you to be available to talk about their love life ‘round the clock? Does your partner assume that you’re fine doing all the grocery shopping and cooking? Do you need a coworker to understand that you’re no longer comfortable always picking up their slack?

Once you define what your boundaries are, it’ll be easier to implement them with those around you.

Create a mantra

Mantras are classic tools for motivation. I’m overflowing with go-to words and phrases that work like miniature pep talks in all corners of my life. I have “for myself, no one else” when I’m on an extra long run; there’s “move on, move on, move ON” when I’m resisting the urge to text my ex; and I lean on “‘no’ is a complete sentence” whenever I need to, well, just say “no.”

Think of a personalized, punchy mantra that works for you—like a “phone, wallet, keys,” but for your self respect. PsychCentral has some ideas to help you get started, like, “I’m allowed to say no” or my favorite: “Not my circus, not my monkeys.”

Keep a list of confidence-boosters

A need to please everyone is often born out of insecurity or a fear of rejection. One way to tackle this is to keep a list on your phone that includes all the reasons why you deserve to set boundaries and stick up for yourself. Even if you don’t check the list regularly, the act of writing it out will be a useful source of motivation.

Take some alone time

Another common cause of people-pleasing comes from a lack of certainty about what you actually think and feel. If you’re unsure of yourself, it’s easy to simply agree with others to make the room happy.

I’m a huge proponent of journaling to self-reflect and get to the bottom of why you feel the need to put others first. Try asking yourself some tough questions about why you fear saying “no.” Then, write out goals for safeguarding your own time and energy, so you can start to put yourself first.

Prep ways to say “no”

Learning how to say “no” can be made easier by scripting out pre-planned ways to turn down requests. This way, you’re not scrambling, equivocating, and eventually giving into others in the moment. Here are some thought-starters:

  • “Thanks, but I’m at capacity at the moment.”
  • “I appreciate you thinking of me, but I can’t take that on right now.”
  • “Sorry, I have a conflict that I can’t move around.”
  • “I simply don’t have the time that [your request] deserves.”
  • “I can’t do that, but have you thought about [alternative solution]?”

Remember that you don’t owe anyone a lengthy explanation. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “No” is a complete sentence. If all you can do is deflect and escape the situation, then that’s a start.

Take it one step at a time

You don’t need to implement all the tips above right away. Start small, even if that means turning down requests via email before gearing up to say “no” in person.

Some final reminders: Try to avoid a litany of excuses or apologies. This will create more room for you to get backed into your old people-pleasing ways. It takes some getting used to, but it’s worth learning how to sit with the discomfort of asserting yourself. If nothing else, tackle your people-pleasing logically: There is no possible way to please everyone. You’ll be doing yourself—and everyone around you—a favor by being realistic about what you can and cannot do for others.

  



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