“Hello, my name is Nikki and I am a recovering people pleaser. I have been in recovery for 1.5 years.”
This is how an AA, NA, or any addiction meeting goes and how I assume People Pleasers Anonymous would go, too.
When John became sick last year, I was forced to say no. I didn’t hesitate because there was no way I could do anything extra other than taking care of my family. Between doctor’s appointments, the girls’ schedules, and work, I was consumed by family. People would ask me to do things and I couldn’t. I did not have time to explain. The answer was no. However, I got used to saying no and I am glad I realized how easy it is to say no without an explanation.
“My name is no. My sign is no. My number is no.” (a pop song by Meghan Trainor) The girls say this is my song and I have to agree. It speaks to me on a different level than the writer intended, but at my age, I can make it say what I want it to say….no.
- People pleasers that learn to say no, will find freedom.
I was raised in a home where your performance was rated and earned you love. Did you do well in school? Did you do well in dance class? Did you win? This earned you a pat on the back, a right for your parent to say, “Look at Nikki, she did great…” Also, you had nothing to ever be sad about. “Pick up your lip before you step on it.” Or “You are crying? I will give you something to cry about.” Feelings were not good and they were not necessary, put on your happy face and smile, smile, smile…
I became addicted to pleasing people. This is how I knew love and if people didn’t like me, I needed to do more. If I was thinner. If I was better. If I was nicer. If I worked harder. If I could earn their respect, I would be okay. But it never ends. People pleasing is based on purely outside motivation to comfort the inner need of love and acceptance.
To overcome the people pleasing addict in myself, the verse I repeat constantly in my head is “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10 I use a variety of questions to help myself say no and when I say no, I do not explain myself. I simply say, “No, I can’t.”
- What are your priorities?
There are only 24 hours in the day and I need at least 8 hours of sleep to be a nice person. That leaves me with 16 hours to get a lot done. My first priority is to be a wife and a mom. Then there is work and working out, which I plan for everyday. That doesn’t leave a lot of time to do anything else, but I ask these questions to discern if I will do something extra.
- What is my motive? If it isn’t pure and I truly can not serve with a servant’s heart, I do not do it.
- Can my family be involved? This is huge. If we can serve together, then yes, I will consider it.
- Will this truly benefit people or just myself? If I am serving out of a “look what I did” motive, no. If I serve from a life on life influence mentality, then I will consider it. I have found that my gift is one on one with people and I make time for that. Serving for large fundraisers gives me great anxiety. I want to please God by spending time and loving people on a smaller scale.
- Just because you are busy, does not make you important.
When John was lying in bed, unable to get out, we learned that life goes on with or without us. I learned that life goes on when I tell others no. People do not get distraught when I say no, I am not that important. The people that asked simply find someone else.
If you have toddlers, your days are physically busy because their dependence is solely on you. If you have adolescence or teenagers, you are busy because their lives are busy. You spend most of your time in the car. When parents get together, we talk about how busy we are and many times it is in a spirit of complaining.
Now that John is capable of doing more and is healing, we are very aware of the blessing and the privilege it is to have a life, but now, we discern how we spend it. Most people will not learn this unless they have been through a life changing event, however I encourage everyone to learn to say no without explaining yourself.
- What am I modeling to our children?
Everyone and everything in life tells us that their thing is the most important. Everywhere you turn, we are bombarded with advice that says, if you want to succeed, you must do this and this and this….How do we as parents teach our children to discern these claims? As a parent, when I find myself saying “If I can get through this busy week, then I will be okay.” Or “If I can just get to this, then I will be better.”, I have to stop myself and say, “No. This is not how this is going to go.” My children see a wild woman living from event to event, not having time to give to anyone, and usually yelling because I am stressed. (True story.)
I have a child that is a pleaser. She hates to make anyone upset or mad. We are diligently working on this so that as she grows, she can say no and will understand when and how to do it. Her first step is to be able to say no to me in a respectful way. This is not about chores or helping around the house, but in small things. For example, the movies we want to see, or an outfit I think looks great, but she hates, or when she is asked to perform at an event, but does not have adequate time to prepare. She is learning to find her voice. It is okay to say, “no”.
The word “no” sets boundaries with toxic people. The word “no” protects your family time. The word “no” gives us more freedom to find our purpose and time to love others with a pure motivation. The word “no” sets us free from a bondage that ensnares us to please. The word “no” gives us more time to say “yes” to the people and things that matter the most. As I learned this last year, tomorrows are not promised, so living today well is the only choice I have. The weight of “yes” can be a yoke around our necks and the heaviness can be lifted with just one small thoughtful “no”.