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Mental Health & Wellbeing

Are You A People Pleaser? How to Stop Being A Yes Girl

Read Time:4 Minute, 42 Second

So, let’s name it: you’re a chronic people-pleaser. You’re the yes-girl. You don’t ruffle feathers. You don’t rock the boat. You don’t create a hoo-ha. You say yes. And you’re so good at it that you say yes, even when it seems most sensible that you would say no. You’re predictably and reliably yes. You’re rock solid. And people love you because yes-girls are nice girls, right? And you’re a nice girl.

It’s a nice feeling to be selfless, extend your kindness and put others’ needs before your own. It makes you feel good and passes on good juju. But the perpetual act of people-pleasing as a default life position is not really juju inspiring; it’s just downright exhausting. But more than that, it’s not great for your self-esteem and self-worth.

Somewhere along the line, we have equated people-pleasing with being nice. Should we put our needs first by saying no, our self-created identity of niceness is then challenged? And that’s scary.

People-Pleasing Is About Fear

People-pleasing speaks to fear. Fear of not being liked, fear of being abandoned, of what others may think, of causing upset, of having the wrong opinion or any opinion at all, of wasting others’ time or appearing ungrateful.

These underlying and seemingly never-ending possibilities for rejection create the fear that drives yes-girls to be actively avoidant in putting their needs into the equation. The result? The constant knee-jerk reaction to make people happy. All. The. Time. Even to your detriment.

It is no surprise then that anxiety is a significant contributor to mental ill-health. In fact, 1 in 3 women will experience anxiety in their lifetime.

The avoidance of fear-inducing scenarios means you place your needs last. It is self-protective, but it’s not healthy or sustainable in the long term.

When you are selectively selfless, it’s no big deal. But when your responses always put your needs last, this is a cumulative emotional upheaval. Then what happens is emotional exhaustion. The familiar old feelings remerge – burnout, being pulled in all directions, having no time for yourself, feeling overlooked or unimportant, resentful, helpless and hopeless…and into a deep dark hole, we go. 

I’ve decided to make myself strong. As far as I can tell, that’s all I can do.

Haruki Murakami

Who Encourages The Yes Girl?

There is a perceived correlation of nice = quiet = good for many women. A nice girl knows her place, and her place is putting others’ needs before her own. The association of assertion aligns with negative words like bossy, aggressive and bitch. And that’s challenging for a yes-girl or anyone. Moreover, these words are also highly offensive in the context of asserting one’s needs.

Let’s look at the prevalent and problematic stereotypes in decision-making for men and women: Men are often stereotyped as being decisive, strong-willed, insistent and correct. This points to power and importance.

On the other hand, women are stereotyped and often encouraged to be passive observers, unassuming, agreeable, opinion-free and obliging, which all point to “nice”.

The way we see ourselves and others is all shaped by our experiences, personality, and worldview. Those immediate thoughts are not going to change overnight but being self-aware is an excellent place to start, and the good news is that you do have a choice.

How You Can Put Your Needs First

Develop good boundaries

Saying no is the first step, a big step. This is tough if you fear what the word ‘no’ may bring. Scary yes; impossible no. But what does it mean to have good boundaries? Good boundaries mean putting out to the world ‘this is what I’m about.

Boundaries demonstrate how you value yourself, how you see yourself relative to others and the limits you set within relationships. Good boundaries are predictable, and this creates safety.

People may not be used to you saying no, and that’s ok; you are respecting yourself with this small but powerful act of self-love. Weigh up what you need at that moment, and if saying yes causes you a determent, really evaluate the impact of this and consider how your needs matter in this too.

When you consider yourself and consider your needs, your boundaries will become clear. This will take time and practice, but you can do it by being consistent.

Understand that yes does not equal nice

It’s time to quash the belief that only those who place their needs last are nice. This is simply not true. You can respect others, value them in your life, work productively and enjoy healthy relationships while respecting yourself. Having boundaries where others respect your value does not make you a horrible person.

Ask yourself:  Does this decision mean I’m valuing myself? Am I making this decision because I feel pressured or coerced? Will this decision result in an equal outcome for myself and others? Consider your needs and the needs of others in your decision-making.

Back yourself and know your worth

Know that you are worth the time and effort you put into changing the yes girl mentality. You know you best, and you know what you need. You have the power to create a version of you who is not afraid of saying no, who is not scared of losing people in your life when you put your needs out there. After all, what is the value of the relationship if that person does not value you?

Back yourself so that you can make good choices for yourself.

Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash

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