Better Boundaries: How to Quit Being A People Pleaser

Hello, my name is Ana, and I'm a recovering people pleaser.

I used to do things I didn't really want to because I was worried what people would think of me. I picture myself as, "nice" and saying no doesn't fit in line with that image. I've also learned that I'm overloaded with empathy: I don't want to hurt anyone or their feelings, so to avoid that, I end up hurting myself instead.

Ok, hold on -- "used to do things I didn't really want to" is a bit of a lie. I did it this morning. I guess awareness is the first step.

There is nothing wrong with compromising or making sacrifices for people you care about, but it needs to be because you want to, not because you feel obligated or you fear the consequences. Here's an example.

My guy and I bought a futon mattress we ended up not needing from a store that's a 10 minute walk from our house. Last week, he asked if I wouldn't mind returning it on Monday. Mondays are my writing days, laundry days, cooking days, and "he's-out-of-the-house-and-I-can-work-from-home-uninterrupted" days. I said no. He was a bit annoyed, but he got over it. More importantly, I got over him being annoyed with me. Before learning about boundaries, I would have gotten mad that he was annoyed and we'd probably argue about it. Anyway, three days later, it was, like, 35 degrees outside, and I was heading to the local ward office to sign up for Japanese lessons. The ward office is right across the street from the store. He asked me again to return the mattress. I sighed. "Sure."

"Only if you want to."

"I don't really want to." It was hot AF, and the stupid thing is so-o-o-o awkward to carry. "But I'm going right past Shimo, so it just makes sense. It's fine, I'll do it."

That's the difference having strong boundaries makes. If I'd returned the thing on Monday, I would have been doing it because he was annoyed with me, and then I would have been annoyed back with him, and it would have been the feedback loop from hell. But returning it on Thursday --even though I wasn't excited about doing it-- was because I wanted to. I looked at the situation, and chose to do the thing that made the most sense. Anyway, it was good practise for my Japanese: "Henpin shitain desu ga" ;)

People with strong boundaries are not afraid of temper tantrums, arguments, hurting someone's feelings, or getting hurt. People with weak boundaries are terrified of those things and will mold their behaviour to fit the highs and lows of others. Everyone experiences ups and downs in their mood, but it's silly to accept responsibility for how someone else feels. You can't fix anyone or make them happy. The only feelings you can manage are your own.

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