Guide

How to Stop People Pleasing and Start Saying Yes Authentically

Based in south-east London, Natalie Lue is an author specializing in writing about self-worth, boundaries, unhealthy relationships and other topics related to emotional baggage. She joined Nnegotiate everything to talk about pleasing people and share their advice on setting better boundaries in relationships.


How to recognize human-pleasing

Before we can effectively manage our philanthropic habits, we need to know how to recognize them.

“Some people know the term philanthropic and they suspect they might do it, but they don’t really know what it actually means,” Lue said.

According to her, we often mistake obvious signs that we like people for innate personality traits. Simply put, Lue defines people-pleasing as the things we do to achieve or avoid certain outcomes. This includes suppressing our needs, desires, or feelings in order to avoid rejection or to gain recognition, affection, or validation.

By distinguishing habits that people like from personality traits, we increase our ability to change them. In Lue’s experience, the most common symptoms include constant feelings of guilt, anxiety, being overwhelmed, helpless, or depressed.

“Our feelings are there to let us know how we’re feeling and what’s going on in our inner world, but they also give us clues about what might be going on around us,” she explained.

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with being a giver. Still, Lue encourages people to evaluate the why behind our actions. If we agree to tasks because we are looking for validation, it could be a sign that people are content. Similarly, we must also consider whether we hope that our efforts will give us something else in return.

“It makes so many people uncomfortable because we like to think of ourselves as benevolent people,” Lue continued.

Rather than disguise our requests and needs as generosity, Lue encouraged listeners to be direct and explained that saying “no” doesn’t really hurt people’s feelings.

“If saying no leads to a breakdown, then the problem isn’t the border, it’s the relationship,” she explained.

The powerful feeling of letting go

According to Lue, for most people, the habits and behaviors associated with pleasing people originate in childhood. Through social activities and systems such as school, church, and peer engagement, we believe that if we are good or kind, we will get back the things we want.

While this is sometimes true, learning to say no and set boundaries can be incredibly empowering.

“What I’ve discovered is that there’s so much joy in saying no,” Lue shared. “I have learned not only to tolerate my discomfort, but the discomfort of others.”

She reminded listeners that, contrary to popular belief, we have no obligation to spare people discomfort, especially when it comes to trying to set a healthy boundary. To accept this reality, it can be helpful to consider all of the ways in which saying “no” to one thing opens doors to saying yes to others.

“Being a recovering people pleaser is about saying yes, but saying yes authentically,” Lue said. “When we say yes inauthentically, we angrily say yes. This leads to far more problems than if we had said no in the first place.”

Simple techniques for setting better boundaries

Learning to distinguish between desire and obligation is a powerful way to start breaking your philanthropic habits.

“Pay attention to how you’re feeling and how you’re thinking about things,” Lue advised. “Then [ask yourself] – Is it a wish or an obligation?”

To help with that, she encouraged listeners to remember the last time we really wanted something.

“We know how it feels when we want to do something or when we make a wish,” she shared. “If we can’t turn it into a wish, we have to say no.”

Never underestimate the importance of taking some time before making a decision. Just because someone has a need doesn’t mean it’s your job to meet it. It’s okay to remind people that if they need an answer right away, the answer will be no.

While many of us believe that saying yes improves our self-esteem and relationships, it’s setting boundaries that makes the real difference.

“[Humans] like to know where we stand,” shared Lue. “When we know where we stand, we value those relationships.”


Visit www.baggagereclaim.co.uk to find out more about Natalie Lue and her podcast. To listen to the whole episode, click here.

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