We can often look to others to affirm our value as a person and give us a sense of worth in our community. While there is an importance in recognizing how you’re contributing to society, it’s also crucial to make sure this is an outflow of who you are as opposed to an inflow of consuming validation. When our focus is on receiving what others can give us we may inadvertently be undermining our capacity to give to ourselves effectively diminishing our self-trust and self confidence in meeting our own needs.

In simple terms, an unhealthy desire to seek the acceptance of others is most certainly a sign we don’t accept ourselves. This may be destroying our self-belief as we betray our own values, ideals, and needs in order to fulfill the desires of others. Now there’s a fine line between healthy self-love and self-absorption which leads to narcissim. One is focused on loving one’s self to the benefit of others and self, where as the other is loving one’s self to the benefit of self and the detriment of others.

When we’re struggling with people pleasing, the first thing we can do to empower ourselves is by determining what we truly value. For me, my top five values are integrity, wisdom, love, freedom, and growth. When I’m not honest with others, overextending myself to meet their needs to my own detriment, I’m effectively betraying myself and causing myself much unneccessary suffering.

As people we love to be aligned, in congruence with our words, thoughts, actions, emotions, and beliefs. When these don’t match up, we find ourselves in a state of cognitive dissonance, and we’re not aligned. For someone such as myself where integrity is a high value, this is particularly poignant. Understanding what’s truly important to you from your values, goals, and relationships will make things more clear when it comes to telling people yes or no.

A good rule of thumb is unless it’s an emphatic “YES!”, then it’s clearly a no. This is a discipline and it’ll take time for those of us who struggle with people pleasing, but bear in mind, self-discipline is in effect self-love. We are sacrificing the present self for the future ideal. It’s no different then having a child and making decisions with regard to their wellbeing for the future.

Some relationships don’t serve the direction of your life. Some people you’ll say “no” to will not respect the boundary that you’re putting in place. By being prepared for this by having the expectation ahead of time will make it much easier as you let go of the people who aren’t building you up to move towards people who do. Just remember, as you do this, become what it is that you seek in life. If you wish to have people who respect your decisions, be willing to respect the boundaries of others.