A friend phones to ask you for a favour.
You’re already swamped and you don’t have the time or energy to help them out. Plus, this particular friend never seems to return any of the favours you do for them.
They wait expectantly for your answer.
A voice in your head is advising: “don’t agree to this. You have too much on already. Say no”.
Into the phone, you say with a smile:
“Yes, of course, I’ll do it – no problem”.
Did you want to do something nice for them? Did you want to show them how much you care? Did you want them to think well of you?
But I’ll hazard a guess the real reason you said yes when you wanted to say no was guilt.
You said yes because you knew you would have felt guilty if you hadn’t.
If you’d said no, the instant the word spilled out of your mouth your Inner Bully would have popped up to punish you: “You’re so selfish. I can’t believe you did that. They were just asking for a small favour. What harm would it have done you?”
The sense of guilt would have made you so uncomfortable, even if you’d initially declined their request, you may well have ultimately agreed to it.
Sometimes it feels just too hard not to please people.
But have you ever considered the price you pay for people-pleasing?
If you’re too focused on other people’s needs, your needs inevitably get shoved to the bottom of the pile. While it’s perfectly fine to be considerate and help others, it’s no good if your own needs are ignored.
And if you continually ignore your needs, you’ll turn to food – not only as means of compensation for not getting what you really want out of life, but also as a way of filling the tank so you can keep going and carry on providing for others.
The Inner Bully will then give you a hard time about eating too much and gaining weight.
You just can’t win, can you?
Because your Inner Bully doesn’t want you to win.
It doesn’t care about the expense to you of people-pleasing. It maintains you’re selfish if you don’t comply, don’t give in, don’t give unceasingly of your time and energy to others.
Have you ever noticed how your Inner Bully holds you to exacting high standards but not other people? It doesn’t assess if others are behaving reasonably or considerately. It just beats you up if you don’t instantly concede to their demands.
And that’s not fair.
So, if you’re a chronic people-pleaser, the best thing you can do is learn to deflect your Inner Bully’s guilt attacks.
Dismiss them with a swift – “there’s nothing wrong with saying no” or “meeting my own needs isn’t selfish, it’s self-care”.
Better yet, come up with something in your own words that has real truth in it for you.
Whether we realise it or not, we’re teaching people all the time how we expect to be treated. If you’re used to complying with other people’s wishes, that’s what they’ll always expect. It’s OK to teach them a new way to relate to you.
If they truly care about you, they’ll adapt.
Because life’s about balance, it’s not about pleasing other people at the expense of your health and wellbeing.
I can hear your Inner Bully arguing with that statement. Do you want to tell it where to go or shall I?