You'll never be loved if you can't risk being disliked.
I put together a list of the rights that people-pleasers need to know they have. Some people are inclined to let others govern their lives. They put other people’s needs first, considering their second-place role as the price of admission to a relationship. If you are a people pleaser, let this list be a guide as you reclaim your life. If your direction has been fear-based, it’s time to decide that from now on, you will act from a place of genuine self-motivation.
1) The right to set boundaries. People-pleasers believe that whenever someone needs, expects, or wants something from them, they must ALWAYS be available to accommodate. But they have the right to evaluate whether they have enough time, money, energy, and resources to meet the needs of others. See Chapter 33 on Boundaries.
2) The right to make decisions. People-pleasers believe that others need to agree with their decisions for their decisions to be valid. But everyone has the right to feel confident and happy about their decisions, even if others disagree. They also have the right to change their minds about a decision upon further consideration, without explaining their new decision (unless the decision affects others).
3) The right to be imperfect. People-pleasers believe they should never disappoint anyone or fall short of anyone’s expectations of them. We will talk about valid expectations a bit later. We all have the right to make mistakes.
4) The right to say how they feel. People-pleasers believe they always have to be nice, upbeat, and never hurt anyone’s feelings. But we all have the right to express our emotions, even if they might hurt someone’s feelings. There’s a difference between hurt and harm. Hurt is when pain is inflicted for someone’s growth because the “wounds from a friend can be trusted” (Proverbs 27:6, NIV). Harm occurs when someone’s well-being is damaged.
5) The right to identify their responsibility. People-pleasers believe they must have the answer to every problem in every situation for every person and take care of everyone, even people who aren’t asking for help. We all have the right to determine if we are responsible for finding the solution to a problem. We also have the right to say, “I don’t know,” “I don’t understand,” or “I can support you in solving the problem but it’s not my problem.” And everyone has the right to say “No.”
6) The right to ask for assistance. People-pleasers believe that they should never bother others when they need help with their own needs or problems. But we all have the right to ask for what we need and to be taken seriously.
If you’re a people-pleaser, I hope you recognize yourself here and this list serves you on your journey to getting your life back. Review this list regularly to evaluate your past and current choices and decide if you need to pull back and readjust how much you are giving.
If you are someone who manipulates and uses people-pleasers for your own benefit, let this be a moment of awakening for you. You might be robbing someone of their destiny. For a variety of reasons, people-pleasers feel they must give their power away. As a responsible, loving, and moral person, make sure that you are honoring the autonomy of others and ensuring that they are serving out of a genuine motivation—not being used.
Exercise for the People-Pleasers
Practice saying a powerful word, a word that people-pleasers struggle with. It’s a little, two-letter word, but it requires a backbone to say it and mean it. It’s the word, “No.”
Here is a set of scenarios that can come up over the course of your life that you may have to say no to:
1) Scenario: A financially irresponsible person who already owes you money asks, “Can I borrow some money? “
“No. I want to help, but I can’t until I can be confident that you can pay me back.”
I had someone in my life who would ask me for money constantly but never paid me back. Eventually, I realized I was enabling bad behavior. The next time they asked for money, I said I needed to see a budget of their expenses and a timeframe to pay it back. I even offered to help with the budget. Needless to say, it’s been years since this person has asked me for money. It’s funny what happens when you challenge people to be accountable for their decisions instead of enabling. This lesson is one that we should have learned growing up, but if you never did, it’s not too late.
2) Scenario: When you have to study for a test, your friends ask, “Do you want to catch a movie with us?”
“No. I really want to, but the reality of my school schedule says no.”
I remember failing exams because I spent time hanging out when I should have been studying. When I failed, some people felt sorry for me, but no one else was responsible. I carry that lesson until this day, and I hope you will too.
3) Scenario: It’s against your values and beliefs, but your friends ask, “Do you want to smoke with us?”
“No. Thanks, but I’m just not into it.”
I wrestled with these decisions in my younger days. Social pressure can be very difficult, even when you get older. But I remembered that, each time I did something contrary to my value system, it weakened my character—and that character would be the same one that I would carry with me into every situation for the rest of my life.
4) Scenario: Someone who always runs late asks, “Can you take me to the airport in 30 minutes?”
“No. I’m sorry, but I have a meeting at work.”
I know this sounds cruel, but for all my last-minute people who live in their own time zone, time is the most precious commodity. It’s irreplaceable. You can’t make more, and you can’t get it back. If you are someone who is always late to events, please review Chapter 18. One of my mentors said he could tell how much impact people will have in life by how they deal with time. I know things happen, but things don’t always happen. It’s better to learn about the importance of time when the stakes are low than to miss out on a major opportunity when they are higher. Your schedule affects your rhythm and pace. Your rhythm and pace affect the quality of your life.
In general, people want to be liked by others, but compromising your deepest values, mental judgment, or emotional safety to please people will only lead to frustration and regrets. “Yes” and “no” are two of the most powerful words in the English language. You might have to say “no” to someone so you can say “yes” to your values. Money, education, health, and time are valuable.