This post is taken from my old website. It's message is so important to me I've re-posted it here for good measure!
It's taken me a long time to get to where I am today, and to feel comfortable with who I am.
On with the story....
Once upon a time, there was a little girl, who turned into a grown up girl, who liked to please everyone.
If someone invited her somewhere, she went.
If someone needed a lift, no matter how far out of her way..... she offered.
If someone needed a loan, she gave it.
Because.... it's good to be nice, right?
It makes you a good person if you help others, or do what they want, no matter how you feel about it, doesn't it?
Self sacrifice has to be good.
Surely it means you can feel worthwhile because you're always the one others rely on, and who can be relied upon to be there when others won't?
Once upon a time, there was also a little girl, who turned into a grown up girl, who often felt exhausted and used.
She felt guilty if she didn't turn herself inside-out to help others. But, resentful when others took advantage.
She wondered why people didn't offer to help her as often as she helped them. Why they always turned to her to off-load..... but didn't seem to pay much attention on the rare occasions she revealed she needed support, and someone to listen.
And why, oh why, did all this doing of good and wonderful things end up seeming like an obligation more often than it should?
Of course, as you've already guessed, that girl was me.
I used to be a 'people pleaser' out of what I now consider the false belief that 'people won't like you if you don't do what they want'. And, 'if you're invited somewhere but you don't go.... people will never invite you again'.
To the detriment of my physical, and sometimes mental health, I did whatever I 'thought' it should take to make sure others had no reason to dislike me.
I thought being nice and being compliant went together glove in hand. That one couldn't exist without the other.
Fast forward from my early 20s to my late 30s (about 12 years ago), and I started to realise there were plenty of other people around who didn't run themselves ragged like I did. People who none-the-less had plenty of friends and were almost universally liked.
And, I started to ask why?
Why did I have to put in all this spurious effort to be liked when they didn't?
What made them so different to me? Were they better? Smarter? More lovable?
Of course, the answer was, they weren't any of those things. It was all in my head! I think much of it stemmed from my very first boyfriend. I fell dangerously in love with him. I thought I had to jump through numerous hoops to keep him happy (at the expense of my own emotional stability), or risk being dumped by the school 'spunk'. And boy, did he like hoops. And control. And obedience. My complete naivety with regards to the opposite sex, and my secluded country upbringing, left me a bit open to this sort of manipulation.
After many trials and tribulations, plus much reflection, I now firmly believe that caring for myself MUST come first.
I don't have to accept every invite, help every person, and give more than anyone else to be liked or valued as a friend by others.
What a relief!
Of course I still love to help and be there for my friends. BUT, I also say 'no' when I need to protect my own health and mental well-being.
If I'm tired or feeling unwell, I no longer feel bad about refusing an invitation or letting others help instead of me.
I also no longer feel bad about missing things simply because I plain old just don't freaking want to go. For no other reason than I'd have a crappy time, or it's not my thing.
If I really don't want to go, I say no.
Everyone wins this way. I get the relaxing evening with my partner, nap time, or quiet creative space I've been craving. My friends don't get the version of me that's pretending to be pleased to be somewhere.
They don't deserve that version.
They deserve the me who's not feeling resentful, or just a teensy bit annoyed because I'd rather be somewhere else as that's what my body/mind/soul needs at that time.
Of course, sometimes once you get yourself up and out, you end up having a ripper of a time, and the company of good friends is a real boon. But, for those times when I just can't see that happening, I now give myself a break and just say 'no'.
I trust my gut, and take time when I need it.
Of course, sometimes saying no is hard.
But, what I've learned is, you actually don't need a reason most times.
Simply saying 'I won't be able to make it,' has always been accepted as reason enough in my experience.
No need to blather on with long-winded explanations. Once people hear the 'I won't be able to make it' statement, they're usually starting to move on in their mind.
However, I get that we often feel like we need a real reason when we're delivering a 'no'. Something to provide us with a bonafide excuse so we don't hurt anyone's feelings.
I now have the perfect reason nearly every time.
It's basically the same one, and it's almost fail-proof.
It's always true, it's generally received with grace, and it gives you a valid excuse.
It's only one line, and it's easy to deliver....
... "I have an appointment/engagement already booked at that time (or the equivalent)."
Or a simple, "Sorry, I can't make it, I'm already booked up then!"
The appointment is usually with a good book, my cat, the couch, creating something.... but they don't need to know that!
No-one's ever asked what the appointment is for!
Or who my prior engagement/booking might be with.
The most a couple have asked is if I'm okay (they think it might be a doctors appointment). I always say 'I'm sure I will be fine'. And I am.... once I get to my book/couch/cat!
You'd be amazed at how effective this is.