3 Questions Any People-Pleaser Should Ask Before Committing To Anything
“For as long as I can remember, I’ve tried to heal myself by being readily available to heal and help others…”
Hi, I’m Jazmine, and I’m a recovering people-pleaser.
I have been in recovery for about one year now. I knew I had hit my rock bottom when I had to step away from my employer for four weeks to work on my mental health after a prolonged season of burnout and a lifetime commitment to pleasing others.
My counterintuitive vice often came out in the form of saying “yes” way too often (and a lot of unnecessary smiling – Jesus.) “Yes” to things I didn’t want to attend because I know first-hand how debilitating social anxiety can be. “Yes” to ideas I didn’t believe in because I didn’t want someone to feel outcasted for being vulnerable at that moment. “Yes” to people’s energy despite the clear warning labels of toxicity because, after all, what if I can help them? “Yes” to work projects “above my pay grade” because I thought saying “no” would mean not being a team player, or even worse, contribute to the burden of someone else.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve tried to heal myself by being readily available to heal and help others—a true martyr power move. In the last year, I’ve seen a licensed therapist, a reiki healer — twice — bought a Peloton bike, and started seeing a holistic life, sex, and pleasure coach. All this in pursuit to uncover and heal childhood wounds, while rewriting previously-held false narratives, that told me I’m solely here to please others. All the while ultimately working towards truly believing that I am worthy of my own self-love and self-acceptance.
“It’s an interesting experience to detox yourself from external validation and the delusion that everyone will abandon you unless they’re pleased with you at all times.”
On one hand, you begin to feel this liberation and you are reintroduced to yourself as an adult. But on the other hand, you realize so much (perhaps too much) of your identity has been tethered to how others experience you and what their verdict is of you.
Anyhow, in the last year, I’ve learned through trial and error how to best ensure I am living my most authentic life. And I’m sorry, it doesn’t involve soy candles or a bad b*tch power anthem playlist (though both are things that can help), but they are preliminary questions to ask yourself before saying yes to something.
Why this strategy works for me
Though everyone’s recovery will look different, implementing questions works for me because I appreciate introspection and self-awareness. When I perform this exercise, I’m given a direct shortcut right to my psyche; the very thing I am working to evolve and make better.
Often when I am asked a favor or to take on a project, I have the space to think before I reply. And I can use that space to ruminate and overthink why I should say yes, or use that space to identify the value of my yes.
In the event I’m put on the spot, I will extend a response saying that I would love to do this and follow-up once I have further details and/or better grasp on my schedule.
Question 1: Does this ask align with my core values or any of my short/long-term goals?
Even writing this, I have to reject the gut response to tell myself, That’s so selfish! It’s not all about you. And while no, it’s not all about me, I do have control over where I spend my time and energy (especially now that I’m a full-time freelancer).
With time being such a precious currency, it’s important to take inventory of where it is going.
Personally, I have goals of connecting myself with like-minded women who believe in self-discovery, self-advocacy, and spiritual healing. I am intentional about supporting my friends with their creative projects and business endeavors. I am committed to learning more about running an online community, evolving as a podcast host and career coach, and becoming a savvier businesswoman.
So recently, when a professional acquaintance asked if I would speak at his digital conference to college graduates who want tips on landing a job, it was a confident “Yes!” While recently, when a friend asked if I would attend a socially-distanced tailgate (context: I do not …sport), I politely declined.
For me, I feel anchored to the commitments I’ve made to myself, and though I work to prioritize myself, it’s helpful to remember that I, a person too, has goals that need to be seen through.
Question 2: Is it a “F*ck yes” or a “Please don’t hate me?”
One of my favorite writing pieces to date is “F*ck Yes or No” by Mark Manson, despite the online debates it has ignited. The TLDR:
If it’s not a “f*ck yes” for you, it’s a “no.” If you have to convince yourself, it’s a no. If you have to pretend, it’s a no.
Now, is this fool-proof? Of course not. We all are bound to engage in interpersonal interactions, work projects, or family reunions that aren’t our idea of a raging Saturday night in the name of in-laws, gunning for a promotion, or a first date. So, I’ve updated the question to ask: “Is it a ‘f*ck yes’ or a ‘Please don’t hate me?’”
When I pose this question to myself, I am confronted with how often I ask this question and how much of myself is going toward self-preservation. (Spoiler alert: it’s more than I’d like.) When it’s a yes, great. But when it’s a no, I can self-examine why I feel the need to say yes. Often it could be my personality, but I have also been able to identify toxicity in relationships because of this measure.
Question 3: What will happen if you say no?
As some may know, I must go through all of the worst-case scenarios to feel most prepared. May it be the idea of quitting a job or telling a friend that I can’t attend her 2020 wedding due to a pandemic. Typically, the exercise allows me to determine where my resources should go and what my next step should be.
When I ask myself this question, I can judge my motivation based on my first response. Often I will think about how the person(s) will interpret it. I don’t want them to think I’m bailing or don’t consider this important. I recently had to decline an invitation to an event because it’s when my husband and I are quarantining to see family for the holidays. Before texting my friend, I asked myself this question, and I thought to myself that she would understand, and decided to show my support differently. Within minutes, I called her to explain, and she completely understood.
This exercise helps ground me and reminds me that while my heart may believe letting someone down is the worst thing, my head confirms that people who truly love you and know your heart will be there through all seasons.
People-pleasing may always be something that I work through, both with myself and with professionals, but each day’s burden can be lighter with the help of actionable exercises.
Jazmine has been a contributing writer for The Financial Diet since 2015. While her spending habits have changed over the years, her advocacy work surrounding social change and mental health has not. She hopes her writing and activism can empower all women to occupy their space at work — and everywhere else. Outside of TFD, Jaz (as she likes to be called) is a career coach, full-time writer, and a plant + dog mom residing in Dallas, Texas. She spends her “fun money” on trips to Trader Joe’s, throw pillows, and white wine. You can follow her Target shopping adventures here, and learn more about her at JazmineReedClark.com.
Image via Unsplash