I’ve had a realisation today that may have been responsible for most of my problems. I have always found it difficult to say “no”. I’ve never really liked to say “no” before. This has been mainly due to me trying to be agreeable and it is often easier to say yes than to deal with the stresses of offering the negative. I have also done things because it has been nice to do rather than me needing to do.
In effect, it appears that I’ve been a people pleaser most of my life. I’ve done what I think I’m supposed to do to make the people around me happy rather than what I wanted to do and be seen as negative by those same people. My logic in thinking this is that I would be happy if the people around me are also happy.
But here lies the irony. The more you try and make people happy the more they want and so become less happy because of it. As a result, true happiness is never achievable. Even if this pursuit has cost me my own happiness.
Always saying “yes” is not a choice
As an adult I can see that happiness is about being able to make choices. And a valid choice is actually being able to say no without inner conflict.
Trying to please others takes an awful lot of energy to maintain. Perhaps this is why I have considered that I have never been ‘fully at my best’. I have tried to please bosses, partners, children, strangers, ex’s and so on without my own considerations. But like I have said, this pursuit of other people’s happiness may be an impossible achievement but I still unconsciously tried to achieve it at the cost of my own
I give, they take
When I consider work for example, I always arrived early not because I had to, but because I felt it was nice to. Again, my uniform (or suits when I wore them) were always pressed and immaculate. Again, not because I had to but because it was nice to.
Where has this got me? Nowhere. I have been constantly over looked for promotions (when lesser people with fewer qualifications and experiences have got them) and have had little support from my managers following my abuse and depression. Well what have I gained from this? Nothing. And why? Partly because I didn’t want to let other people down and couldn’t say “no”. I kept my mouth shut because I didn’t want to be seen as a problem and never said no because I wanted to be seen as reliable. In fact ladies and gentlemen, it transpires that every single one of us is expendable. So saying no would not have been detrimental to my career at all. In fact it might have improved it because my treatment couldn’t have been any worse.
Is that really a happy relationship?
With this in mind, it has dawned on me that I am aware of people ‘stuck’ in relationships that they don’t want to be in. They don’t want to break things off or cool things down because they don’t want to hurt their partners feelings. I don’t see any nastiness in this frame of mind but the status quo is hurting yourself and taking away your freedom of choice. Furthermore, by prolonging this agony will only make it more painful for the other person later on. You are also taking away their chance of happiness if it is built on a false hope. This upset will cause pain to them and to you as you are guilty of putting off the inevitable.
When I think about my upbringing of which was built on faith and religion (of which has no part in my life at all now) I became programmed to believe that pursuing my own happiness was selfish. Yes, it probably is right to think that way as no one likes a person who is considered to be selfish. But there needs to be a line drawn somewhere as this train of thought means that we’re not supposed to be happy until we make everyone else around us happy first. As an adult with responsibilities this is now a wrong philosophy to maintain.
By putting myself first means saying ‘no’ much more often than I’m probably used to. It’s a new concept to consider and it will be strange to apply after all of these years. But it has to be a step in the right direction. Not just for me but for everyone else around me. At least by being honest with myself I can be seen as being honest with other people.
Perhaps if I start saying ‘no’ to more people (in a diplomatic way) or not volunteering to assist, I may feel bad thinking I was letting people down. But I’m sure we will all get over it and it will be forgotten. Especially if it makes us all better people. It has to be worth a try don’t you think?
Who are other people to set such unrealistic expectations?
If I set a boundary it will show a line between helping because it makes me feel good and helping because others expect it of me. If we look back at the example of me arriving at work early – it eventually became expected and therefore, became a duty rather than a nice thing to do.
It’s a bit like living in an abusive relationship. If you choose not to reject the abuse it then becomes the norm and acceptable in the abusers eyes. Alas, I must admit that I allowed the abuse to happen because I never said “no”.
Perhaps by exercising my mindset of saying “no”, the more people may start to respect my decisions and appreciate those moments when I say “yes”. I will say ‘no’ to things that don’t support my values or I just disagree with. In fact, when I think about it I am sure every person who is reading this has done things against their better judgements or will. Perhaps this world would be a better place for everyone if we used the word ‘no’ more often.
What is the worst thing that can happen?
If I say ‘no’ it may mean “not now,” or it may mean “absolutely no way.” Either way, I will be clear or you might even know the answer before you ask it. But by being free to say ‘no’ will mean that I have the freedom to say “yes” in a liberating way. The things I choose to do will have a greater value not only to myself but to those around me because it will be done with pleasure or love or commitment. Surely this is a better option that doing things because they are expected, taken for granted or done through gritted teeth.
I know that if I had had the courage to have said “no” before I would not have suffered at the hands of an abusive ex and all that came from it. I may have achieved more at work and gained a better outcome and respect from my managers. Who knows, but it’s exciting to find out if anything will change.