Recovering people pleaser

Hi! My name is Maryann. I am the a daughter of the King of Kings. My current struggles are people pleasing and codependency. I also have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety.

If you have ever attended an Al Anon meeting or Celebrate Recovery meeting (Christian recovery small group), my statements above are a normal way to introduce yourself. It also allows me to accept my flaws and move towards more healthy habits/boundaries.One of my main unhealthy boundaries is being a people pleaser. It is still something I struggle with today but I have learned how to navigate the feelings and thoughts around this boundary in a way that still allows me to fill my cup – as they say – with desires/interests/passions. 

Currently I am involved in the following:

  • Creating content for my blog
  • Managing the multiple social media platforms linked to the blog
  • On the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) leadership team
    • Leading a MOPS table of 9 women
    • Running the Facebook group for MOPS
      • Creating content & graphics
  • Serving on the events team for the women’s Christmas event at our home church
    • Lead for guest services/greeters
  • Work part-time remotely for a software consultant company
  • In school to be certified as a life coach
  • Preparing to launch a new project at the beginning of the year
  • Researching how to launch my life coaching business next year

Oh yes, my everyday life also includes:

  • Managing a home with
    • A husband
    • five kids
    • 2 dogs
    • 4 hamsters

When I list everything out it is no wonder I am exhausted all the time. You would assume that I should subtract a number of things but the crazy thing is that these events/meetings/functions bring me great joy. Sigh. Guys, I am notorious for overscheduling myself. I like to be included in all the things even if it doesn’t make sense with all that is going on in my life. My husband says quite often that there are too many things I have my hand in right now. That I need to make sure to not overcommit because I will get burnt out. It has happened more than a handful of times. You would assume I have learned my lesson but of course I didn’t. 

The art of saying ‘NO’  

This year has taught me how to choose what functions, events, and meetings I will say ‘no’ to. It hasn’t been an easy to say that simple sentence. Guys, did you know that the word ‘NO’ is a complete sentence. Yup learned that recently and I am floored. I however am not able to say ‘NO’, it triggers all of my codependent feelings and thoughts. So I have learned to say a simple statement that I use on a regular basis – “My plate is full right now.” This statement allows me to put a boundary while still giving a vague explanation of what my schedule is like right now. 

Bayanihan. Pronounced like “buy-uh-nee-hun,” bayanihan is a Filipino word derived from the word bayan meaning town, nation, or community in general. “Bayanihan” literally means, “being a bayan,” and is thus used to refer to a spirit of communal unity and cooperation1.

I know in the Filipino culture, it is frowned upon to say no. Moreover, boundaries are more of a western concept so learning to politely decline isn’t always easy. As it is part of the bayanihan spirit to always lend a helping hand. I have lived my life this way for as long as I can remember – helping those around me. I have also taught my kids the bayanihan spirit and they are the type of kiddos who will always lend a helping hand. This collectivist culture has its benefit as we will always help other but it can also be hard to set boundaries on what we can help with because it is ok to say ‘no’. 

Questions to ask yourself

I have learned over the last few years questions to ask myself before I commit to another event/function/meeting. The next time an opportunity arises and you are presented a function you are unsure if you can add it to your current schedule, please ask yourself the following questions:

  • If I do this [insert event/function/meeting here] am I ok with missing [family time/self care time/etc here]?
    • If the answer is no, then do not commit to the event/function/meeting
  • Is my answer an absolute ‘YES’?
    • If not, it’s a no. You will hold resentments towards the individual who invited you. 
    • The Christ Follower caveat to this is to listen to what God has told you about this event and if it is in line with His promises. His promptings will always be in line with His Word.
  • What am I willing to give up if I commit to [event/function/meeting here]?
    • Again, if its a ‘no’ then don’t do it. 

There are many versions on these questions but you generally get the point. Sometimes saying no means sacrificing time with those most important to you and most of the time, I am not ok with doing that. So I will decline the invitation. I recently decline an opportunity to lead a women’s bible study table as well as attend a women’s bible study at a friend’s home. I politely decline the first invitation but agreed to the second invitation. Committing myself to the second invitation proved to be too much for my schedule, so halfway through the bible study, I politely removed myself from the group. It was not an easy decision and I don’t regret the interactions I had with the ladies in the group but I had too many things on my plate (see above) and I was beginning to feel very very overwhelmed. Once I left that group, I was able to focus more on my current obligations.

How to say ‘NO’

This might be an easy thing to say to people but for me it is the hardest sentence to muster. Here are a few ways I have said ‘NO’ in the past few months.

  • I’m sorry my plate is full.
  • I don’t have the mental capacity to add another thing to my schedule right now.
  • My schedule is jam packed right now. I can’t.
  • No but thank you for thinking of me.
  • I am not able to right now but please keep me in the loop for the next opportunity to serve.

Theses statements allowed me to say ‘NO’ in the most polite way possible without disclosing my current schedule as well as my feelings towards the event. I challenge you to use one of these. They work.

I tried to add one more thing

As of this week, we will be on break from MOPS until January and the two women’s Christmas events will be completed this week. For the women’s event, I knew that I wanted to participate but didn’t want to immerse myself in the event that I would have to not serve on the events team. So I asked if I could serve as head greeter for both nights. That would only include recruiting volunteers to help checking in, greeting, and assisting our guests with anything they needed. It has proven to be a great compromise for my current schedule and it allowed me to pour my Christ Follower heart into the women coming through those doors. I will tell you the event was a great success and we received wonderful feedback. I am so proud of myself for only signing up for an attainable responsibility. This is a huge step forward for me. 

I am happy to report that I will be focusing on more quality family time, self care, and filling my cup with things that will sustain me until the next wave of events. I pray that this post gives you the strength to put up healthy boundaries around your time. It isn’t easy to set these limitations but know it is for you to have a healthy mental space because that is the most important space for everyone. 

Remember…its ok to NOT be ok. Tomorrow is a new day!

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