You do realize there is only 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week and 365 days in a year (not including Leap Years), right? Okay, so why is your to-do list 2 pages long?! Because you, my friend, are the classic People Pleaser. Yes, you have been infected with the Please Disease. You just can’t seem to say no even when you really want to. You offer your free time to do extra work at the office without being asked, you agree to walk your friend’s St.Bernard even though you are allergic to dogs, you volunteer to babysit for a relative who’s children give new meaning to the word uncouth, and agree to house sit for your neighbor who you rarely speak to. All this on top of your already overbooked schedule can lead to serious deteriorations of relationships.

In order to maintain healthy relationships with the people around you, you must first establish one very important rule. The rule of personal boundaries- yours especially! Know them, protect them, and above all else inform others of them! There is no shame in the “Know your Place” game. I know it may seem a bit harsh, maybe even arrogant, but believe me, it’s for your own good.

Now are you ready to get down to the nitty-gritty and figure out how to work your life back into a manageable and happy one? Ok, let’s break it down together. Don’t worry, I’ll be nice, but only if you promise to be honest. Shall we begin? Here are a few questions, along with pointers to help you understand why we do what we do. (Yes, I said ‘we’. I am a recovering People Pleaser myself. I’m about a year into recovery)

1) Be honest! Ask yourself, “What do I get out of this?”
Most often, a People Pleaser will stand to gain something out of the predicament they have brought upon themselves. Examples: Recognition from the boss, being the go-to girl (or guy) amongst your group of friends, the family favorite, etc. All of these labels come with a reward of some kind. Whether it be a self gratification sort of thing or outright recognition from somebody shouting how wonderful you are from the rooftops, you do it because you get something out of it.

2) Realize this behavior is unhealthy. When you over-extend yourself, it eventually wears you down and sometimes you can develop feelings of resentment/remorse.
You may begin to resent the people you are “helping”. The fact that they may be your nearest or dearest doesn’t matter. Feelings of remorse fall right into the same category as resentment, almost as if they were one in the same. The remorse is what you feel after you realize the time you lost doing something you really wanted to do but didn’t because you offered your services elsewhere instead. . . and then you sit in the feelings of guilt. This is a very unhealthy cycle of codependency.

3) Establish boundaries. Once you define where your boundaries begin/end, you can build a sense of security for yourself. It may take a while to learn to stick to your guns, but nonetheless, do so. In order to be a well-rounded individual, personal space is imperative, you can’t have yours constantly being invaded. Follow you instincts, go with your gut. If it doesn’t “feel” right or leaves you feeling like you’re about to lose your cookies, then odds are your boundaries have been crossed. Self knowledge and self awareness of your own wants and needs will allow you the ability to look at life objectively. What is it exactly you want out of life?

4) Make deliberate choices. Do not be apologetic when you make a decision. It is your right to choose to say no just as much as it was the other person’s right to ask. It’s called freedom of choices, you just have to exercise yours as freely as those around you do. There is no need to “explain” your decision either. It is what it is, you made your choice and that’s it. Nobody should be guilting you into submission. A courteous decline doesn’t warrant an interrogation!

5) Have courage. It is difficult to say no to loved ones, friends and co-workers when you (and they) are used to hearing yes. However, if you really care about those around you, you will wage the battle in order to win the war. You don’t want to live the rest of your life over-extended, codependent, or as a ticking time-bomb. The healthier approach is to examine the relationships you have around you and define each of them.

You will find the initial change in your character may leave some of those around you looking a little shell-shocked, it’s ok. Again, establish where you want your boundaries to begin/end. Share your feelings with the people around you, if they are true friends or as loving as you’d always thought they were, then they will embrace your new outlook. They will be supportive of the choices you have made for yourself in order to live a happy, less stressful life. All in all, they will be as understanding- if they are keepers. If they are aren’t and turn on you, well, then all I can say is it’s a good thing you drew the line on boundaries and personal space because now it is that much easier to let them know that until they are ready to respect your decisions, they are not invited to the party. What party? Yours,silly! You have just reclaimed your life and that, my friend, is something to celebrate!

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