People-pleasers naturally want to give away all their time to help others.
If you are a people-pleaser like me, it comes naturally to you to accommodate the needs of others and add them to your to-do list. This is part of our caring nature. Unfortunately as helpful as you are, you’ve probably had people cross your boundaries to take more than you were comfortable giving.
How to Protect Your Boundaries
The problem is that there are only 24 hours in a day. There were many occasions where being helpful led to me running out of time for my real responsibilities. The way I got better at protecting my time and what I choose to do with it, was by getting out of the habit of always saying yes when people asked for favors.
Protect Your Time
I only had so many hours in a day to accomplish all the things I needed to do. But I instinctively seemed to want to give all my time away to others and put myself last on the priority list. Deep down I believed that being constantly selfless was the only way to prove that I was a “good” person. And if I put my highest priority first even once, that meant I was selfish.
I was mindlessly filling up my calendar. I said yes to everyone until my planner was overflowing with obligations that often were at cross purposes with where I wanted to go in life. So, I know how challenging it can be to avoid overbooking yourself when trying to help others. What I’ve learned from experience is that protecting your time is the first step in protecting your boundaries.
Creating boundaries and not overbooking yourself is vital for a balanced life. As an ex-overbooker, I’ve found two techniques that work wonders.
First, I learned the art of politely declining an invite or request. Let’s take a moment and really internalize the truth that saying “no” doesn’t make you a bad person. It shows that you have respect for yourself. None of these tips work if you don’t accept that as a universal truth.
When I started declining non-essential commitments graciously, I felt empowered and focused on what mattered.
How to politely decline a request
Here is how to step-by-step politely and respectfully decline a request:
1. Express gratitude and appreciation: Start by thanking the person for thinking of you or considering you for the request. Acknowledge their kindness and show genuine appreciation.
Example: “Thank you so much for reaching out to me; I’m truly honored that you thought of me for this opportunity.”
2. Be honest but brief: Share your reason for declining without going into unnecessary details. Keep it simple and straightforward.
Example: “Unfortunately, I won’t be able to take on this project due to prior commitments.”
3. Offer an alternative or suggest someone else: If possible, propose an alternative solution or recommend someone else who might be suitable for the task.
Example: “While I can’t participate, I know [Name] has expertise in this area and could be an excellent fit.”
4. Set a future possibility: If (and this is a big if) you genuinely wish to be involved in the future, express your interest while explaining the current constraints. But don’t say this just to fill an awkward silence or a pause in the conversation.
Example: “At the moment, my schedule is quite packed, but I’d love to explore working together on a similar project in the future. Thank you again for understanding. If anything changes on my end, I’ll be sure to let you know.”
Remember, it’s okay to prioritize yourself. Embrace these techniques, and you’ll find the freedom to savor life’s precious moments without feeling constantly overwhelmed. I am loving life so much more now that I avoid unnecessary stress and manage my commitments better.
Set Clear Boundaries
It’s essential to establish boundaries and communicate them kindly but firmly. Remember, that saying “no” doesn’t make you a bad person!
For instance, a friend once asked me to help them move on the same day I had committed to another event. What I was afraid were the imaginary “what-ifs”. I let a pessimistic illusion of doom-and-gloom scenarios take root in my mind without knowing any facts. I imagined “What if this is the most critical day they need help moving?” “What if they have no one else?” “What if something terrible happens because I didn’t help?”
Instead of giving in to the imaginary what-ifs, I spoke the truth of my situation. I gently explained my prior commitment and explained that I would be free the next day.
To my surprise, they were understanding, fine with getting my help a day later, and appreciative of my honesty. They were a true friend and only wanted my help if it wasn’t detrimental to me.
They respected my boundary of the day which was off limits and were grateful for the time that I could help them.
Learn to Delegate
People pleasers tend to think they’re the only ones who can help, but that’s not true! Embrace the power of delegation. When organizing a team event, I used to take on all the tasks, leaving me stressed and exhausted. Then, I realized that by delegating some responsibilities, not only did I feel lighter, but others also felt more involved and appreciated.
Trim Your Social Groups
If you showed me a list of 5,000 charitable organizations, I would see a good reason to donate to every one of them. The problem is that I have limited resources. If I had $10,000 to give and I tried to help all the charities on the list, I would end up donating just $2 to each of the 5,000 charities.
That would hurt rather than help the organizations. It would likely cost them more than $2 to properly document and account for my donation.
Social groups are the same way. Friendships, civic organizations, family ties, and romantic relationships that you put the bare minimum into end up doing more harm than good. Truly beneficial social relationships have depth and trust. That is something impossible to reach with surface-level acquaintances.
“One good friend is better than a thousand acquaintances.”Matshona Dhliwayo
The other reason to cut back on a social group is if they do not respect you, your time, or your boundaries. If someone disregards your boundaries after you have set them, said no, and made your feeling clear, it may be time to remove yourself from that group. You are being disrespected. You should never accept that from anyone or anything.
Get into the practice of taking some time and really deciding what people are worth your precious time. You should not be expected to say yes to everything or deal with everyone. It is your right to say no to things that do not serve you well.
Protect Your Feelings
People pleasers also let others cross their emotional boundaries. This is one of the most difficult things about having a people-pleasing personality. You are naturally predisposed to taking on the emotions of others.
You may notice that some people have a strong effect on the emotions of others around them. Observe this closely. You may find that you are among those being emotionally manipulated.
Pay attention to if forceful personalities change how you feel or the emotional dynamic in a group of people. See if there are certain tactics they use. Is it imposing body language? Do they use a dramatic tone of voice?
If you feel uncomfortable analyzing others, it’s ok. Don’t try to be something that you are not. But just recognize that others may be purposefully trying to sway your emotions to get what they want.
You can also practice mindfulness techniques to settle yourself in the moment. Learning about breathing exercises and yoga positions that calm the nervous system can be a good way to strengthen your emotional boundaries so that you are less likely to be influenced by other people.
Own Your Personal Space
This is about the physical space that you take up with your body. Learning to preserve spatial boundaries is something that people-pleasing personalities will benefit from.
Part of being an accommodating, people-pleasing personality is that you may unconsciously give away your personal space. People pleasers do this with their posture and body language.
We, women, tend to shy away from taking our rightful amount of space. Whereas men more frequently take extra space by manspreading.
Do you tend to assume submissive body positions? Are your shoulders back, chest up, and head held high? Or do you find your shoulders slumped, your head tilted downward, and your legs crossed?
Observe people who seem to have more forceful or influential personalities. Observe leaders whom you know such as coaches, teachers, and bosses. If you can think of one or more of these who embodies the role of the strong leader, start paying attention to how they stand, move, and command the space that their body occupies.
People who are generally confident leaders will be more free and take up more physical space with their bodies. They stand up taller, assume a wider leg stance, walk with free and easy mobility of arms and legs, feel confident in reaching out and touching others in conversation, do not hesitate to make affectionate gestures, and may display lively and animated movements when speaking, and conveying thoughts to others.
Also, consider aggressive body language. You do not have to become an aggressive person. But the simple observation of how people change their body language when trying to assume dominance over others can help you recognize the importance of defending your own physical space.
Establishing stronger physical boundaries means assuming a confident posture, believing that you too deserve your own space in this world, being prepared to defend your space, and feeling comfortable and at ease in your own protective, invisible bubble.
Practice getting better at defending your physical boundaries. Notice your posture when standing in line out in public. What can you do to take up more physical space?
Notice your stance when out and about walking around. What does your posture communicate to others about your right to take up space in this world? What can you do to emphasize your presence in a positive, physical way?
How does your increasingly positive self-image affect how you use body language to approach others in a spirit of friendliness, warmth, and affection?