“Don’t be rude, give a kiss to your lovely uncle”. We have probably said that many times or at least heard that when we were a child. From a very young age we learn to be kind, selfless and giving. But taking these learnings to the extreme can turn everyone into a people pleaser promoting mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Always prioritising other people’s needs makes clear that our needs are not important, that we are not important.
Being a good person, an efficient employee or a nice friend has nothing to do with always saying yes and self-sacrificing at all cost.
Excessive selflessness is often the result of low self-esteem and a cumbersome fear of appearing rude and not being enough. But are we really sure that always saying yes makes us a decent human being?
Imagine being asked a task that you do not have the time to perform, but you “want to be kind” and accept to do what has been requested. The result is that you feel anxious, you won’t perform the task at a decent level (and probably more than just one task) and on top of that, you feel guilty and resentful, not to mention that you have not really helped the person that requested your help…
Here are some quick advice on how to set boundaries:
- Enjoy some self-reflection: ask yourself a couple of good questions about how often and easily you make your voice heard:
- Are you able to say no to a request you can complete?
- Are you able to end a conversation when needed?
- Do you think you could be defined as passive-aggressive?
- Start small: if you are used to being a people pleaser you would find it useful to start with small tasks. Observe your reaction and other people’s reactions. Rest assured that your friends can find someone else to go out if you are too tired.
- Be consistent: we teach people boundaries in many ways and consistency is an effective way. Letting boundaries slide can confuse and encourage expectation demands and pushiness.
- Speak up: communication is pivotal if you don’t want to turn into a passive aggressive person and nurture your resentment. You can express what you feel in a way that is not confrontational at all. You can still be gentle and kind while assertive. And do not underestimate other people, probably they can understand and accept. Or they will do in a while.
Getting a healthy level of selfishness is definitely positive and can help to develop better relationships with the people we love.