Why You Should Fail People Pleasing

When your friend calls and asks a favor, do you say yes even when you’re too busy? Do you agree to whatever your friend or date or partner suggests you do for the weekend? Or when you boss asks you to do a little something extra, do you put aside your plans and do it? Are you failing at what’s most important in your life? Chances are that you are a people pleaser. And this is why you should fail people pleasing.

A stack of cards with the word yes on them--say yes too often? that's why you need to fail people pleasing
Said yes too often?

Identify Your Priorities

Most of us have multiple priorities: an education, a family, a home, a job, a vocation, a dream. Add the things on our to-do list and the list can go on and on and on. Welcome to the land of overwhelm.

Stop. Focus. Choose up to three primary priorities. Seriously.

But how, you ask? 

Use a hierarchy of needs. 

A Hierarchy of Needs

Abraham Harold Maslow was a psychologist who created a theory of psychological health. It’s called Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. (Here’s a detailed explanation.)

Represented by a triangle, his theory of motivations starts at the base with fulfilling basic human needs. Once you meet those needs, you move up on the pyramid.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs pyramid--Make your own hierarchy of needs so you can fail people pleasing.
Saul McLeod [CC BY-SA 4.0]

Am I suggesting you get a degree in psychology so you can understand his theory? Heck, no. What I’m suggesting is that you use it as a model. 

Make three categories of the things you consider priorities. Perhaps it’s home, faith, and work. Or it could be the family, creativity, and economic stability. You choose your categories to suit you.

  • For example, if the family is one metaphorical level or bucket, that’s where you put being a chaperone for your child, attending all her soccer games, and pizza and movie night. 
  • If creativity is one of your categories, that’s where buying art supplies, time to create art, and activities that enhance your skills in this creative endeavor of yours. 
  • In the faith bucket, you might put daily devotionals, Sunday Services, and attending church socials. 

Get Picky

Here’s the tough part. For each of your three categories, choose ONE thing that you can NOT give up. Not because you’d feel guilty. Guilt is the worst reason to make something a priority. Choose the thing that would hurt you deeply to give up. The thing that is so integral to who you are that you’d feel broken without it. Go on. It might take some time. 

Those three things are your top priorities. 

Start Saying No

You thought the last part was tough? If you’re a people pleaser, this next part is even harder. 

Look at your to-do list, all the commitments you’ve made, and all the activities and must-do’s in your life. If an activity doesn’t fit in one of your three categories, say no. Cross it off your list. 

Saying no is hard for people pleasers. (Ask me how I know.) It’s a skill. But it’s more than that. It’s a protective device. Saying no protects your priorities. 

Politely Fail People Pleasing 

You don’t have to be rude when you say no. Blame your schedule— “I just don’t have time right now.” Plead exhaustion. (It’s not a lie. You know you’re exhausted all the time from constantly doing.) Use your spouse/job/family as an excuse. Or, confess that you over-committed yourself and are trying to do a better job of taking care of yourself. You don’t have to explain. Say no with a smile. 

And the next time someone asks for a favor or a commitment to do one more thing, stop. Protect your priorities. Think about the empowerment of saying no. Think about how much more will you be able to be present and real for the things that really matter. 

Still stumped? You might want to read (or re-read) How to turn I can’t into I can.

Should you fail people pleasing? What is one thing you haven’t said no to yet? If you’ve mastered saying no, what’s your best tip for protecting your priorities?

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