The Power Of Saying No (Even To People You Love)

“When you say yes to others, make sure you are not saying no to yourself.” ~Paulo Coelho

“Yes, of course…”

“Yes, that’s no trouble at all…”

“Yes, I can do that…”

“Yes, I’d love to help…”

Yes, yes, yes. “Yes” seemed to be the key word in my relationships with partners, family, friends, and colleagues.

I wanted to be helpful, kind, and thoughtful; I wanted to be there when people needed me. I didn’t want to let them down or disappoint or displease them. I spent a lot of my time devoted to my self-image as a capable, nice person who could be relied on. As a people pleaser, I held niceness close to my heart.

Unsurprisingly, people always assumed I’d drop everything to help them or do what they wanted me to do. They were used to me giving up my time for them and putting their needs and wants before my own.

This was especially the case in my close relationships, in which I found it hardest to say no.

I grew up believing saying no to others was negative, unhelpful, and selfish.

As a child I was often told not to cause a fuss or bother anyone, and to expect very little. As a result I believed that others were worthier than me, that their needs and wishes should take precedence over mine. I felt guilty for saying what I wanted or how I felt, as if I had no right to do so.

Unsurprisingly, I found it difficult to voice my opinions and needs, and I believed that what I thought, felt, and wanted wasn’t important.

I was also fearful of confrontation and avoided it at all costs. Saying no risked provoking someone’s anger and making them think badly of me. It meant possible abandonment, the withdrawal of approval and love. So it seemed far safer and easier to say yes, even if I wanted to say no.

My readiness to say yes certainly didn’t gain me other people’s respect or consideration. Even though I consistently gave a lot more than I received in return and often felt hurt, resentful, and unappreciated, I kept saying yes.

My habit of people pleasing attracted into my life the sort of people who disrespected and used me. This included a relationship with a guy who turned out to be a bully.

Throughout our time together I went along with whatever he wanted. I kept saying yes to the relationship despite the fact that he emotionally and psychologically mistreated me. I kept putting his needs and happiness before my own, and of course he had no respect for me. Why would he when it seemed I had no respect for myself?


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