Navigating People-Pleasing and Setting Healthy Boundaries

It can be a real challenge in many of our lives to avoid the trap of people-pleasing and learning how and when to set healthy boundaries.

Many of us often say “yes” to things because we want others to like us or to avoid disagreements and the discomfort of saying no upfront. While it’s good to connect with others and maintain relationships, it’s equally important to take care of ourselves and manage our time wisely.

The Problems with People-Pleasing

Recently, a client of mine came to our sessions grappling with this topic. My client always found herself saying “yes” to every request that came her way at work, from helping with projects to covering shifts at work. It left her feeling exhausted and resentful, like she had no control over her own time. 

I see this often. People-pleasing happens when we try to make others happy and what results is thinking that we’re able to fit absolutely everything in. It results in:

-People taking on too much: Saying “yes” to everything which leads to an overwhelming to-do list and schedule, often resulting in burn out.

-Feeling frustrated: We might end up resenting others or ourselves for not listening to what we truly need and want to do.  

-Losing Control: Letting others decide everything for us can make us feel like we’re not in charge of our own direction and time.

How to Set Healthy Boundaries

Through our sessions, my client started to realise that every Yes was a No to something else. Feeling more empowered to put herself first we set about workshopping boundaries. Boundaries help us manage our time and energy better by setting clear limits on what we can handle. Here are some pointers:

  1. Know Yourself: Understand what you need and recognise when you’re agreeing to things just to please others.
  2. Be Assertive: Practice speaking up for yourself kindly but firmly. It’s okay to say “no” when you need to.
  3. Review and Set Priorities: Figure out what matters most to you and focus on those things. Think carefully before agreeing to new responsibilities. And ask for input on your priorities from managers or team mates if in doubt.
  4. Manage Your Time: Use your time wisely by prioritising tasks that help you reach your goals. Learn to say “no” to tasks that don’t align with what ‘s important.
  5. Take Care of Yourself: Make sure to spend time doing things that make you feel good and rested. It’s important to have personal time to stay energised.

How to Stop People-Pleasing

Breaking the habit of people-pleasing takes effort and much self-reflection about how you behave:

– Think About the Past: Recall times when you felt overwhelmed by saying “yes” too often. Notice when you tend to people-please. Hold on to these memories to help bolster saying “No” in the future.

– Practice Saying “No”: Start by turning down small requests that aren’t a priority for you. You’ll gain confidence over time.

– Find Support: Surround yourself with people who understand your needs and support you in taking care of yourself. Start discussions with others about this.

– Celebrate Your Successes: Notice when you successfully set a boundary. It’s good to reward yourself for sticking up for what you need. Maybe even keep a tally?

Healthy way of being

When you take care of yourself and manage your time well, you can do better in your personal and work life. My client found that eventually she was able to give her best energy and focus to the things that truly mattered.

Balancing people-pleasing and setting boundaries is key to managing your time wisely and growing as a person. Remember, setting boundaries isn’t selfish—it’s a healthy way to live your best life.

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