Updated: Jan 6
When asked to pile more on our plates, it’s much easier just to say yes.
Or is it…?
Often, actions to avoid conflict reduce tension in the moment but rarely pay off in the long term. After taking a passive and agreeable stance, we can quickly begin to feel regretful and overwhelmed. When chronic stress sets in, sleep quality starts to suffer, frustration sets in, even the most trivial inconveniences elicit irritation, and before long, we hit a breaking point and might take our emotions out on someone who doesn’t deserve them. As even more regret sets in (along with guilt and shame) we might pause to ask ourselves, how did we get here and what is there to do about this all-too-familiar spiral?
Let’s see if we can “rewind” and discuss how this could have gone differently.
First, we should acknowledge that it is perfectly natural to want to avoid conflict or the potential backlash that might come from standing up for ourselves. In today’s world, tensions and tempers can run “hot” and it might often feel as though saying yes or simply saying nothing are the safest courses of action.
However, let’s next consider the consequences of “yessing” others and “silencing” ourselves. Too often, we might allow others to insult us, slight us, and feel superior to us. We develop a personal boundary only to see others step right over it. We stay late at work, offer to foot the bill for a person that still owes us for the last outing, and smile and nod in the face of a joke that belittles people who look, worship, identify, or love like we do.
Sure, so many of us are taught from an early age to consider others’ feelings and to put ourselves last. As a happy consequence, we’ve successfully evaded conflict and a case of raving narcissism; however, many of us have swung too far in the opposite direction. Some of us, in effect, have ensured a lifetime of people pleasing, self-sacrificing, and guilt.
For instance, deep down we might believe: “I don’t deserve to get what I need.”
“I can’t stand it if anyone is upset with me.”
“Saying yes to everything is how you get ahead in the world.”
“I’m not worth standing up for.”
In many ways, our culture reinforces that type of thinking, especially in women. But we do have a choice in the matter. If the previous statements sound cringeworthy, we probably owe it to ourselves to find out why they have been quietly operating behind the scenes in our minds. After identifying difficult beliefs, we are a step closer to being able to replace them with more functional and believable thoughts.
Potentially healthy and assertive statements might sound like:
“It is ok to want or need something from someone else.”
“The fact that someone says no to my request doesn’t mean I should not have
asked in the first place.”
“Standing up for myself over ‘small’ things can be just as important as ‘big’
things are to others.”
“I sometimes have a right to assert myself, even though I may inconvenience
“If I say no to other people and they get angry, that does not mean that I should
have said yes.”
“I can honor another person’s request and still say no if they are asking too
much of me.”
Even if this second set of statements sounds foreign, we can still try those on for size and see how different the world might look as a result. The process of changing deep and engrained beliefs is a hard but impactful one. Many people seek Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and assertiveness training for the reasons described above and, before long, enjoy the benefits of improved confidence, stronger boundaries, and fairer relationships.
Skyline clinicians are trained in these therapies and ready to tailor our approaches to meet the unique needs of each client. Contact us for more information or to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation.