It was the kind of text that made my shoulders slump. A friend of a friend had asked me to write a short e-book for her business. "It's super short," she explained, obviously hoping I'd be able to squeeze it in within the next week. It was a paying job, but I knew my schedule was already maxed out for months. Still, because of that nagging little voice that whispers, "If you don't do it, she won't like you anymore," I mulled it over momentarily, thinking maybe I could carve out some time over the weekend.
But the thought of hammering keys on my days off made my heart sink. Of course, I was honored at the request, but the truth is I just didn't want to flip-flop my schedule to take it on. I'd committed to not working on the weekends and to commit to anything new during the week would not be honoring myself or my time.
So, despite feeling a bit anxious, I said, "Honey, thank you so much for thinking of me for this project. That means a lot, but my schedule is jam-packed for months and I've committed to not taking on anything new—even for dear friends like you. Thank you for understanding and best wishes for your book endeavor!"
Sure, I felt a little nervous to send it, but I also felt relieved. I had honored myself. One thing I've learned over the years is that what I want matters. People are burning the candle at both ends, and we live in what seems to be a people-pleasing, just-say-yes culture.
I bet most people you know are overly busy, super-stressed, and bordering on burnout at almost any given moment. For some reason, we think we're showing weakness or selfishness if we say no.
As a former disciple of Camp Codependent, I've done my share of laps in the people-pleasing pool and, let me tell you, it gets exhausting.
You know when that guy at work comes up to you and says, "Hey, a bunch of us are catching a couple brewskies after work? Wanna go?" Time stops. You envision raising that glass and toasting to a great life. You can almost taste the finely crafted beer, but the truth is that you're wiped out. You were out late last night with the wife (who insisted you attend a dinner party), you've been up since 5 a.m., and work has been hell today.
You want to say no. You need to say no. But before you know it, you're blurting, "Sure! Sounds great!" and immediately that feeling of dread pops up. Oh, great. Another obligation.
Here's something you may not know: Most people want to say no to more than half of the things they're asked to commit to. So, why don't they? Why the pressure to go against what you actually want?
For me, it was that I just didn't know how to make boundaries. When I tried, my heart would start racing and my tongue would tie itself up. It was painful to speak my truth, because saying no made me feel like a selfish loser. But you know what helped me turn things around? I learned how to cultivate a vocabulary that allowed me to opt out, still like myself, and still be liked.
We all desire to be liked by others, and there's nothing wrong with that—as long as it doesn't cause you to compromise what's really important to you.
The good news is you can learn how to say no in a lighthearted, respectful way before you're asked to commit to anything! This way the next time you're tempted to people please, you'll go a different route, saving you from resentment or burnout.