When we think of helping others, we hardly ever see it as a negative thing. Our friends, family, and partner are extremely important to us and we can’t imagine telling them that we can’t help them with something. The problem happens when we become “chronic people pleasers”. When I say chronic people pleasers, I think about how impossible it feels to say no to the people in our lives or changing plans to help people at our own expense. Over time, denying our needs to help other people can damage our mental health. This is why it’s important to set boundaries with the people in our lives.
Imagine you’re having a bad day at work and the only thing you’re looking forward to is going home and spending time watching a movie or making a good meal for yourself. While you’re imagining this perfect afternoon, your friend or family member reaches out that they want you to hang out with them. Chronic people pleasers will know that the moment after your friend reaches out, you’re filled with anxiety about what to do. What if your friend is upset that you want time alone? How do you explain your needs without sounding selfish?
The thing is that sometimes it’s okay to be selfish, and taking care of yourself is never selfish. If you need time alone to process a long day at work or a bad mental health day, the people in your life should understand that. It may be odd to them that you’ve suddenly become unavailable, but the relationship isn’t going to end because you’re setting boundaries. If it does, then there is a fundamental issue within the relationship.
As a people pleaser, it’s possible that you believe you’re only worthy if you’re giving someone else your time and effort. Maybe you believe that you’re only as good as what you can give other people. Maybe you think that people won’t want to be around you if you set boundaries with them. All of these are valid thoughts, but they aren’t (or at least shouldn’t be) the truth. You bring more to the table in your relationships than just your ability to always be available to people.
If you spend all of your time being available to other people, when do you focus on what you need? If you need time alone, it’s completely valid to speak up for your needs to the people in your life. It doesn’t have to be a rude thing! You can simply say “Hey friend, I’m feeling like I need some time alone today. Can we catch up another day?” and if they don’t respond well to that, then you know that the friendship has deeper issues.
Setting boundaries can be a daunting task for anyone, but especially for a chronic people pleaser. However, it’s important to think of your needs before someone else’s. At the end of the day, your needs should be the most important thing.
If you are struggling with setting boundaries or being a chronic people pleaser, a therapist at Mindsight can help!
Shelby Case is a new therapist at Mindsight Louisville! Shelby's favorite things include spending time with her animals and her spouse, watching television (currently they are watching Big Brother), and taking road trips. When she isn't providing therapy to clients, she can be found playing video games (her favorite is The Sims 4) or spending too much money at a thrift store. Shelby's favorite color is green and her guilty pleasure is reality TV shows.
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