Good girls and boys knows that being “nice” means that you say yes, not no. It means being agreeable, available for whatever others ask of you, and to do it all with a smile on your face… and maybe even a thank you, can I have some more?
Many kids take this is coping mechanism on and considering the sorts of expectations and demands that are put on them, it’s a great approach to keep the peace. But as adults, if we keep living as good girls and boys who always say yes, we do a huge disservice to ourselves because we don’t let ourselves grow up and mature into grounded, confident adults with integrity, healthy boundaries, and a clear sense of what does and what does not serve us.
Intellectually we get that coming into your own as an integrated, self-loving adult is what we’re all here to do. But in application, we still often say yes to people/things/projects/requests/activities that aren’t right for us because we feel we should… and then we spend a lot of time feeling frustrated, confused, and resentful in our interactions.
Knowing where you’d like to be (a self-loving person with clear boundaries) while living out old habits (being a nice yes-person) is how it goes when you’re dismantling an old pattern. But it’s also OK to take a spotlight to a limiting pattern and shine the light so you can have a breakthrough.
So I’m going to say it as clear as I can:
Being nice does not mean saying yes
to everyone and everything all the time.
Being nice is being nice – to you.
When you say yes because you’re making yourself available for more than is right for you, you’re only saying yes to the other person. To yourself – to the part of you that has requests and preferences that aren’t being honored – you’re saying no. You may not know it right away when you cross your own line but pretty quickly you do because you start getting that sinking feeling. And then your internal guidance system start firing off rockets of resentment, worry, bitterness, and exhaustion because it’s trying to connect you with your knowing that: this is not right for me.
Despite what you may’ve been taught by adults who only gave you approval when you behaved and did as they wanted – being a kind, generous. and loving person is not about being a sacrificial lamb.
It’s about loving yourself enough to truly listen to your needs. It’s about expressing your self-love through saying no when needed so you can say yes to what’s right for you. This is loving and honoring yourself. This is being true to yourself. This is having integrity. This is growing up.
Is the scared little kind inside of you saying:
“I’ve gotten you this far by being a yes wo/man. I’m scared of… what they’ll think, of loosing business, of being alone, that they won’t like me, that I’ll be seen as being “difficult” or selfish, and I can’t handle navigating the guilt, shame, and anxiety that comes up when I try to be more clear or assertive?”
This part of you may go onto say that it’s not the end of the world to say yes once and awhile when you don’t really mean it. And you’re right, in the grand scheme, it isn’t a big deal. But to your relationship with yourself, it is a big deal because every time you do that you’re saying to yourself: I matter less to myself than other people do.
What sort of foundation of a relationship is this? Can you imagine being in a relationship with someone who felt other people were more important than you? It wouldn’t last long! So how can this be the foundation of our relationship with ourselves? It can’t if you want the foundation of your relationship to be…
It’s not easy work to let go of being an approval seeking people pleaser and begin to place yourself at a higher priority in your life when that’s new territory for you. When I go through growth spurts on this front I feel vulnerable, exposed, and like I’m doing everything wrong. Waves of guilt, shame, and anxiety flood me and I have to really work at it to hold my ground and not collapse into the easy, familiar arms of being an agreeable (yet resentful) yes-person.
But how else are we going to come into a more trusting and honoring relationship with ourselves if we can’t say the no’s we need to say to have our true yeses?