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Are You Too Nice To Say ‘No’? 4 Ways To Recover From Chronic People-Pleasing

Let’s be real–as a woman, I bet at some point you’ve fallen into the “people pleaser” trap.

You know, those moments where everyone looks to you for answers, assistance, and support…and somehow, your answer is always YES? That’s what I’m talking about.

For example, in your community, are you always being called on to join this committee, take on that project, or donate your time?

In the small town that I call home, I’m continually asked to lend my time to causes, projects, and volunteer opportunities. There’s no shortage of places for me to spend my time, energy, and attention. (At one point, I was even asked if I would consider running for mayor…)

If you’re a go-getter and a mover-and-shaker, I bet you’re likely sought after by every board, planning committee, and organization in town, right?

Now, don’t get me wrong–being in demand is actually a beautiful thing. It means that people see you as someone with a lot of energy, drive, and a “can-do” attitude. They know a high-achiever when they see one, and they want you on their team. (Can’t really blame them, right?)

But when you have a lot to contribute, you’re also going to be targeted for a lot of opportunities. And not all of which you might feel like jumping at.

What if you feel like you have to accept every invitation you get, and as a result, you’re getting exhausted just looking at your jam-packed calendar?

It’s a gut-check moment; a message that maybe it’s time you looked into the real reason that you can’t seem to say ‘no’.

Sure, we all want to support our friends, family, and communities. But what if you’re saying ‘yes’ to everybody every time because you’re secretly afraid of letting people down?


Now, there’s nothing wrong wanting to come through for everyone. The people pleasing thing only becomes a problem if the only person who isn’t pleased by it is YOU.

And unfortunately, that seems to be the result more often than not.

You might think that you just need to manage your time more efficiently. But it’s more than just watching what you’re squeezing into every hour of every day. It’s about managing your own energy.

We all get the same number of hours in a day. But everyone’s energy limits are unique. And it’s up to you to decide where you want to spend not only your time but also your most precious resource of all, your energy.

So how do you decide if you should go all in or graciously pass on an opportunity?

Start by checking your motivation. Are you taking on something because it feels right to you, or because you’re afraid of the consequences of turning it down?

When a ‘yes’ comes from your heart, it’s an empowered choice for everyone involved. But if you’re motivated by gaining the approval of others, it’s like stepping on the fast-track to burnout, resentment, and exhaustion.

It’s the difference between external motivation and internal motivation. And if you’re guided by what comes from within, it’ll nearly always take you in the right direction.

So keeping all of this in mind, how do you decide if something is ultimately a go or no?

I’ve got four questions to help you size up any opportunity that comes your way. Answer them honestly, and you’ll save your time, energy, and attention for the best-fit projects.

It might sound counterintuitive, but sometimes the best way to honor yourself and others is to say ‘no’. And I’m going to show you four ways to help the right choice for yourself and others, starting right NOW.

Let’s get into it!

Question #1: Does this opportunity align with your gifts?

You have a unique set of skills and talents. And more than likely, they’re skills so natural to you that you assume everyone does them with your kind of ease. But these are often the talents that others notice in you because they’re uniquely yours!

So when someone asks you to join their committee, project, or task, ask yourself if it vibes with the things that you truly do best. Someone else might think you’re perfect for the job, but only you can say if it’s aligned with your natural mojo.

If a project lines up with your skills, great! But if not, it’s probably best to move along.

Question #2: Will it bring YOU joy?

If you’re a chronic people-pleaser, you might believe that serving others is the all the joy you need. Fair enough. But do you get that immediate hit of pride when you agree to a project without considering what saying ‘yes’ would entail?

In other words, what if you say ‘yes’ for the sake of seeing someone smile, then find that the work itself wasn’t what you bargained for?

Of course, you can’t predict what every situation will entail. But find out as much as you can up front. What are you being asked to do, and what kind of time and energy investment are we really talking about?

That might sound a little selfish, but let’s be real. This is YOUR time, YOUR energy, and YOUR focus. All are limited resources, and they are yours to give. Or NOT.

So if it doesn’t bring you joy, it’s OK to say, “Thanks but no thanks.”

Question #3: Will you do the work from a place of love or obligation?

It’s one thing to accept a project because you feel like you should. But it’s another to jump in with the enthusiasm that says, “When do we start?”

Which case would you rather have?

Just recently, my husband finished a term on our school board. And throughout this past term, he was facing a lot of conflict about running again. After a lot of deliberation, I finally broke down and told him the truth: that it came down to whether or not he really wanted to spend his time and energy there.

In other words, if he ran again, would it be out of love and excitement or duty and obligation?

(Incidentally, he concluded that a second run was a no.)

In the end, it comes down to love vs. obligation. And you’ve got to let love win this one.

Question #4: Can you add this to your life without sacrificing something else?

It’s a common struggle among many of us high-achievers. You want to do it all…but what tasks, projects, and causes matter the most to YOU?

It might be time to take a look at everything on your calendar, and filter it through a new lens: the lens of your personal values.

Remember this undeniable truth: how you spend your time indicates what you care about the most. So think about what’s been taking up space in your day, and ask yourself if it reflects what you say your priorities truly are.

That can be a real gut-check moment, and it’s something that a lot of us avoid. Sometimes it’s easier to keep filling your plate, saying ‘yes’ to everything, and telling the world how “busy” you are. (Trust me, I’ve been down that road before…)

But life isn’t about how busy you are, but how fulfilled you are. And what if you could “busy” yourself with things that reflected your gifts, talents, AND values?

Believe me, it can be done. You just need to grab a pen and paper, make a list of your most treasured values, and use it to choose the opportunities that line up with the things that light you up.

The point is to ensure that you don’t add just “one more thing” to your list without sacrificing a true passion project. And when you know your most heartfelt priorities, making those choices becomes a lot easier.

So there you have it! Four simple questions to help you play to your strengths, sort out your priorities, and hold out for the things that bring you joy.

If you’re feeling like you’re “too busy,” take an honest look at what’s on your plate. Recognize that just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should do it. That’s the bottom line!

Remember: when you say yes out of obligation, nobody wins. You run the risk of ending up frazzled, burned out, and even resentful. That’s a lose-lose situation for everybody involved.

So use these four questions to narrow down your “to do” list, clean up your plate, and empower yourself by setting gentle but solid boundaries. It’s the best way to ensure that you approach your “to do” list from a place of want to rather than have to.

And that you’re filling your days with the things that matter the most to YOU!

Now I’d love to hear from you! Which of these four steps resonates with you the most? Does one stand out in particular, or are all four of them ringing a bell? Leave me a comment and let me know!


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