The Art of Becoming Positively Selfish


Uncategorized / Thursday, February 25th, 2016

People pleaser

As Anne Hathaway has said here “There’s something very addictive about people pleasing. It’s a thought pattern and a habit that feels really, really good until it becomes desperate”

People pleasing is one of the issues that I see in my therapy practice on a regular basis, the feelings of guilt of saying no, wanting to be liked and not wishing to upset anyone

I can hold my hand up and say that yes I have in the past been a people pleaser. We are told that helping others is not only good for us but it can make us happy and healthier too and it helps build connections to others and stronger communities. This is all true but giving too much can be negative, exhausting and damaging to our own well-being.

We grow up with the notion that if we are not putting others before ourselves then we are being selfish. We are hardwired to give and as a woman we have that inbuilt need to nurture and care for others, how many times have you felt totally exhausted at the end of the day, because you have given your all to others, but have neglected your own wants and needs.

Being positively selfish is all about the balancing act of putting ourselves first without neglecting our relationships and responsibilities. In life not only is it okay to put ourselves first it is necessary for our health and well-being.

Here are some common people pleaser traits:

  • Saying yes to something you really do not want to do just to have an easier life and to keep someone happy.
  • You feel guilty for saying ‘no’ and then spend the next x amount of time feeling guilty, justifying your decision and worrying what people will think of you.
  • Your tank is running on empty and you feel exhausted putting everyone’s need before your own and not having any ‘me’ time.
  • You believe that you are responsible for other people’s happiness
  • Struggle to accept compliments from others
  • Tries hard to please strangers whilst neglecting loved ones
  • You overthink and reply conversations and events imaging how things would be different if you did or said something different.
  • You put being nice over being your real self
  • Apologising when no apology is necessary

So is it time that you became ‘Positively Selfish’. Is it time to change your people pleasing mind-set?

Choice & Control      

Realise you have choice and control over your actions, your people pleasing mind tells you to say yes, you have the choice to say no. Banish the excuses and learn how to say no firmly. Ask yourself the following three questions:

Do I really want to do this? How stressful is this going to be? Do I have the time to do this? What am I going to give up? Often you have said yes and then left thinking ‘What did I say yes for? If the person needs an answer right away, “your automatic answer can be no,” By saying no automatically, “you leave yourself an option” to say yes later if you’ve realised that you’re available.

Not Everyone is Going to Like You

Make peace with yourself that not everyone is going to like you and that is ok. If you think about it, you do not like everyone you meet. People pleasing can come from a feeling of low self-esteem and doing everything you can to make someone like you. That is not only soul destroying but exhausting. Start with working on loving yourself.

Accept that you will feel guilty when you say no to something the first few times.

When people pleasers say no to a request they often feel guilty that they are letting someone down. Take heart in the fact that you have done nothing wrong in saying no, and think how much worse you would feel if you said yes to another thing you did not want to do. Generally people find another solution or way to solve their problem and the guilt you are feeling will quickly fade away.

Set your priorities and boundaries

An important element of being ‘positively selfish’ is knowing what your values are and your priorities. It means listening to and trusting your feelings and intuition. If something does not feel right then do not compromise because you are feeling guilty. You know when you feel comfortable saying yes or no. It may be useful to write down all the things that you have done over the last few months that you didn’t want to do and look at the reasons why you didn’t want to do them. An example boundary could be:

-If it cuts into my family time too much, I will say no.

-If it goes against my values, I will say no

People who take advantage

Watch out for those people are take advantage of your good nature. They often flatter and coax you into doing something even when you have said no. They will say something like ‘No one can do this as well as you’, or ‘you are so good at making cakes, would you make x amount by tomorrow’, before you know it you have said yes. As you begin to be more assertive you will be able to notice those people who trigger your people pleasing tendencies and who try to overstep your boundaries.

So start changing today and bring back some balance into your life, it is not always easy to make the change, but you will feel much better for it.

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