I had some feedback on last week’s post indicating I’m not the only people pleaser around! Here are some good articles about learning to say no from Lifehacker, Zen Habits, and Psychology Today.
People pleasing is connected to several other pieces of interpersonal functioning, like boundaries, power, authenticity and integrity.
The inability to say yes is as problematic as the inability to say no. If you can’t say yes, your no is meaningless. If you can’t say no, your yes is meaningless. This damages relationships with others, sure, but I think the more significant damage occurs in our relationships with ourselves. How can we trust ourselves if we don’t take responsibility for making and communicating honest choices?
It doesn’t matter if the relationship we look at is professional, family, peer or romantic. If we’re too cowed to give an honest yes or no, how healthy is that relationship? Why is someone trying to take away our power and, more importantly, why are we letting them?
I know. Love. Obligation. Even fear. But wait.
Do you feel loved when you can’t speak an honest yes or no without receiving indifference, withdrawal, scorn, drama, rage, sarcasm, a physical blow, tears or an emotional outburst? Maybe your intention is to love and be loved, but is that really happening? How can you be loved if you’re not showing up honestly? If you’re loved for your compliance, your compliance is what’s getting loved, not you.
Do we have an obligation and a duty to be connected to people who don’t respect our yes and no? Do we owe that to someone because they’re family, or someone we have history with, or our boss, or someone we want to love or be loved by? Who says? Did you sign a contract at some point?
And then there’s fear.
At this point in my life I’m not as concerned as I once was about making the wrong choice, whatever that means. I’m more interested in being clear about the choices I am making and why.
So, just to be clear, I’m choosing to stay in relationship with (fill in the blank), even though I’m not allowed to say yes or no honestly without (fill in the blank). I’m doing that because I hope one day they’ll love me, or because I owe it to them, or because I’m afraid of them. I’m doing it, in short, because they have something I think I need.
Now, pay attention.
They have something I need.
Do they really? Are we sure? Is the job or relationship or inheritance or influence more important than our ability to live authentically and fully in our own power?
If your answer to that is yes, I understand. I was in an abusive marriage for a time because I had two young children, no job, no car, no money, no childcare and no hope. I deliberately chose that relationship because I didn’t know how to survive without the financial support my husband provided. My children and I paid a heavy price, but he did help keep us afloat during a critical time. The marriage didn’t last, of course. Even now, on a summer morning more than twenty years later, I don’t know what else I might have done. I don’t know what might have happened to us if I hadn’t made the choice I made. Maybe something much healthier. Maybe a homeless shelter.
This, my friends, is the ancient and powerful archetype of prostitution, and we all participate in it in some way at some point in our lives. It’s part of being human and is much larger than the specifics of sex. More on archetypes later.
When you look at your relationships through this filter of making and communicating honest choices, what do you see? What’s your role in this dynamic? Are you the one who can’t say yes or no, or are you the one who can’t hear them? Why are you engaged in this dynamic? How is it working for you? Are you happy with yourself, and with your connections? Are you interested in learning how to do things differently?
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The black bird flying out of the shadows into the clear is so fitting . , ! You touch my moment with a saber dear one . Thank you . I see that I have hardly spoken …. Ever .
Thanks for reading, Jill. Speaking is hard, but it’s worth it. We won’t lose anyone we need. I love you.