Putting me before others is a conscious battle – being aware of what I’m doing and preventing a disaster. It’s knowing when to stop, when to say no without having to tell a lie, being apologetic/remorseful or feeling guilty about it.
It’s been clear by now that the root of my problem is my desire to please everyone (shocker!). Pleasing everyone is of course something I know it’s near impossible and that my actions, blurting out yes when I’m saying no in my mind, have several times left me feeling resentful and stressed out.
And behind my desire to please everyone lies my lack of self-confidence and self-worth. For a long time I had measured my self-worth based on external actions and praise.
On my challenging journey of self-discovery, I’ve had to know and connect with who I am as a person. In the process, I’ve had to also realize and open myself to the fact that I’m not a bad person and by saying no to others didn’t automatically make me selfish or unkind.
Learning to say no is helping me deal with my fear of rejection. In addition helping me stay more in control. For when saying no, I avoid feeling resentful. Furthermore, I avoid putting myself in situations that will drain me emotionally and physically.
These lessons are not exactly groundbreaking or new. But they have been helpful to me:
Self-awareness. If it’s an issue raise your awareness of it. Boost your knowledge and perception when ever in a situation of having to say yes or no. Grab the problem by its root.
Know your limits. Know where to draw the line and it needs to be clear beforehand. Set boundaries, guard them and follow through. For when you know your own limits it’s easier to say no without feeling guilty. For me, I remind myself that with a family who needs me, a full time job, personal responsibilities and interests I can’t possibly take on other people’s responsibilities and problems. I’m not capable to assist everyone.
Be polite. Even if the answer is no, there is always room for politeness. Give your answer, say thank you (if thank you is in order) and show some encouragement. Saying no with a smile usually works too.
Practice makes perfect. You learn by repeating the process. Don’t avoid situations that will challenge you to say yes or no.
Selfishness vs Selflessness. To be afraid to be selfish! You will have more to give to others if you feel love, empowerment and connected to your inner self. In other words: you are able to give, share and embrace when your cup is full. Being kind to others is a good thing and we should all aspire to be more kind and generous. However, not at the expense of who we are as individuals. Just like the fact that other people matter, so does you.
Read my two part short story, In Session Pt 2 on The Bucket Metaphore. This metaphore gives a picture on how putting other first tends to drain us if we’re not careful.
Saying yes or no is a choice and we have to base the choices we make on our capabilities, needs and desires. We have to stay true to ourselves, our commitments and priorities in order to eliminate the feeling of guilt and pressure.