Sometimes showing up authentically around certain people feels confrontational. One reason for that may be that you’ve never honored yourself in front of them before, so they may not have ever been exposed to you practicing self-respect or self-compassion.
If you’re ready to start being more authentic and letting other people know what’s acceptable and what’s not, you may have to ease them into the new you instead of dropping it on them like a brick. Some people need time to adapt.
(The following podcast transcript has been modified for easier readability and to benefit the Deaf and hard of hearing)
The following email is about a year and a half old, but it has a topic that I want to talk about. It’s about transitioning from being one of those balancing, people-pleasing type of people, to somebody with healthier boundaries, and someone who stands up and honors themselves in situations.
The people that knew the old you have to get used to the new you, but how do you transition from being someone who used to be that type of people-pleaser, neutralizer, balancer-type person, into someone who has the healthier boundaries, and isn’t so much about pleasing everyone else, but showing up in a way of caring for yourself and others?
Sometimes that involves caring for yourself first, if not always caring for yourself first. Because if you’re the type of person that I used to be, I wanted to make sure that everyone else was pleased, everyone else liked me, everyone else cared about me. And I cared about their opinions of me.
If that was you, or is you, then life can be more difficult. Life used to burn me out because I was like that. And I’m not going to talk too much about people-pleasing today. I’ve had episodes specifically dedicated to that but I think a lot of us have these qualities that we walk around with, that we might look at as kindness and caring and being helpful to other people, but in reality, it’s actually an energy drain for us.
If you ever feel like your kindness and your caring and your helpfulness is an energy drain, you’re doing it wrong. You’re doing it all wrong because kindness and caring and compassion and generosity and support, all of these wonderful qualities that you can have, and probably do have inside of you, have to come from a place of self-care. That place of self-care is what gives you the abundance of energy and the abundance of love and compassion that you can use on someone else because you have enough of it.
When you have enough self-care, self-love and self-compassion, and self-respect. When you have enough of those things, then you have enough to give away.
It’s like if you have plenty of cash. If you have you have plenty of cash and extra leftover, you have plenty to give away or buy something for someone, or whatever. I believe it works in the same way where we have these resources at our disposal and in order to be able to be a kind, caring, loving, generous person to someone else, we have to have enough of those resources
That doesn’t mean that we can’t be kind, or caring, or generous to somebody else. There are people that are very poor that give to other people. That can mean financially poor. It can mean emotionally poor. It can mean a deficit in their own love and support in their life, yet they still give to others.
But even if that’s true, the idea behind what I’m talking about today is to give to others without losing anything, without losing your power. Because giving to someone else, whether that’s kindness, caring, or respect, or even money, giving to someone else usually requires you to have somewhat of an abundant supply to be able to give.
This why people pleasers get burnt out. It’s because they don’t have that abundant supply. They just have enough to give, then they hope that the person they’re giving to reciprocates, so that they can re-energize. That’s how I did it. I would give in hopes for reciprocation and if that reciprocation came, I was refilled. That emotional fuel came and I was able to walk around energized again, because, “Hey, I got it back! I gave and got it back.” But I never had an abundant supply.
That’s not how it’s supposed to work anyway, in my opinion. That’s not how it’s supposed to work. I believe it’s supposed to work in a way that when you give, you get immediately. It feels good giving.
Some people might think well, yeah, that’s what happens when I give, whether that’s love or care or energy or money, it feels good giving in that moment so I don’t necessarily need anything back. That’s a good thing because If that’s happening with you, then you probably do have an abundance of whatever resource we’re talking about.
But if you don’t have that abundant resource available, then this when it feels like you’re losing more than you’re winning, and people-pleasers of the world will know that you get burnt out. You get burnt out in your relationships, at your jobs, in family, wherever it is that you feel like you need to be helpful and caring and supportive.
If you do that in deficit of resources, you will burn out, and then you will feel worn down and you will also develop resentment. Because people pleasing does lead to resentment. Again, I don’t want to go too deep into people-pleasing now, but both people-pleasers and those who don’t consider themselves a people pleaser will get a lot from this episode.
If you don’t consider yourself a people-pleaser, but you offer your time, energy, and resources to others, and when you do that it feels like you’re burning out, then this episode could resonate with you. My main point with today’s episode is the transition that you make from being this kind and caring and generous person that gets burnt out by doing that, to being someone who can honor yourself and have enough resources and abundance that then you can choose to give or not.
And I know “give” is a loaded word. Give could mean time, energy, or those resources I mentioned, but whatever it is to you, after giving, you should not feel drained. It’s going to happen. You’re going to feel drained every now and then because you give and give and it could be out of love, and you could have had an abundance, but it’s still draining. That’s a different type of drain though.
When you feel drained because you gave your heart at building a home for Habitat for Humanity or something. If you did that, then that kind of giving can be very rewarding but it’s not necessarily looking for reciprocation, you just feel joy or a sense of accomplishment or pride in what you did, and that’s how you regain your energy. That usually doesn’t require someone’s personal contact with you.
It’s like paying for the person behind you at the drive-thru or in line at the coffee shop, and you walk away and you don’t look back, because you know that they’re going to receive something that you gave them. You feel fulfilled just by giving instead of feeling fulfilled by them coming up to you and saying, “Thank you so much for what you did,” which feels great when they do, but when they don’t, where are you with that?
If you’re okay with that, then great! You’re probably not the typical type of giver and you probably do have an abundance to give. Maybe that’s only with financial stuff, but this works, like I said, with all the resources I’m talking about: Time, energy, and all these other resources.
The reason I’m telling you all this is because of the email I received over a year ago. She said that she listened to the show, and she learned a lot and she was changing. She shared a bunch of stuff I didn’t read, but the rest of it read, “Through all this, I came to realize that I’m a people pleaser, which I’m working on. But as much as I’m improving my people-pleasing habits, the damage feels like it’s already been done. I’ve been people-pleasing for so long that now I feel like I don’t know myself at all. My entire identity was wrapped in my relationship that ended.
“My entire identity was wrapped in my relationship, my interests, my goals, even my choice of wardrobe. Nearly every damn detail of how I lived was heavily influenced by my people-pleasing. I even dropped out of school and put off a career because that’s what I felt my boyfriend wanted from me.”
Before I continue reading this email, I’m going to comment on this. I’m so glad she observed this. I’m so glad she figured this out, because this exactly the path of a typical people-pleaser. They will give up aspects of their life to accommodate someone else. And they think that’s a good thing.
That’s never a good thing. Well, that’s rarely a good thing. Because what’s happening here is you’re giving away your power. “Power” is another loaded word. What does that mean? That means you’re giving away your happiness. You’re giving away your freedoms. You’re giving away your interests. There’s a lot that could be in there.
When she started changing her interests and her goals, and she put off her career, that’s a huge one because that gave her boyfriend the power, meaning he didn’t have to give up anything. And he actually had control of her life, whether he wanted that or not, it turned out that’s what she gave him is basically the reins to her life.
When you do that with someone, the chance of losing it all is even worse. What that means is that you could have a great relationship, and then one day, the relationships over. Then where are you? What are you made of at that point?
If you gave all of it up, and you did everything to please the other person, or at least accommodate them in some way, then who are you at that point? Really, all you are is an extension of them.
This something I’ve talked about with narcissism. It’s not an original concept from me. It’s studied. Narcissists believe that their romantic partners and other people in their life are extensions of them, which is why they want control over them. If the extension of your shoulder is your arm, you want control over your arm.
A narcissistic person wants control over the people they love (typically romantic partners and sometimes family) just like they were controlling an arm, which is why the victim of narcissistic abuse feels like a shell of their former self after they get out of the relationship. Or even during the relationship, but certainly when they’re done, they feel like that shell because they don’t know who they are anymore.
They gave up so much to accommodate someone else, in hopes of, and this probably what many people have experienced, being loved. In hopes of satisfying the other person. In hopes that the other person will see that they are doing everything they can to please them, so they believe it should enrich the relationship, but it never does. It’s never satisfying enough for the narcissist. A victim of narcissism can do everything exactly the way the narcissist wants, and the narcissist will still not be pleased enough.
You cannot satisfy someone that not only lets you give up your life and all your interests, but also controls you and wants you to do what they want you to do because they need to feed off their ability to control you.
If you’re doing everything “right”, then when there’s nothing else you can do, that control seems to disappear, taking away the narcissist’s supply, meaning they have to administer more control in a different way.
If you are with someone who has narcissistic tendencies, or is a narcissist, or is emotionally abusive, and they are treating you as if you are a part of them, instead of apart from them. When you’re a part of them, you are like their arm or leg, you’re going to lose yourself if you are playing that game. You’re going to lose yourself because they want to control you. Their control is their narcissistic supply. And as you give more and more to them, they take more. And they will continue to take more.
A relationship with someone like this goes nowhere. It only suits to feed them and drain you. So any type of person that does this to you where you feel like an extension of them in the way I explained, you’re going to feel drained.
What’s interesting is that people-pleasers do this to people that aren’t necessarily narcissists. People-pleasers do this to themselves. The person that likes to placate, that likes to balance, that doesn’t like confrontation, that wants to make everything okay, they have a tendency to drain themselves in order to bring peace and balance to what they see is perhaps conflict that might be starting or existing. If that conflict exists, that is a very uncomfortable place for the person I’m talking about.
Conflict is an uncomfortable place for a lot of people, but especially for the person who just wants peace and balance all the time and they do extra work to make sure it happens instead of taking care of themselves, and standing up for themselves, and honoring themselves, and telling people where the line is and what their boundaries are.
When they don’t do that, then they’re trying to make the peace with everyone in the room or everyone in the situation and it rarely goes their way and they lose a lot of energy because they’re doing this.
Coming back to this email, the person said that her entire identity was wrapped in the relationship. We can do this to ourselves. This is something that we do to ourselves because as soon as somebody says “It would be better if you dropped what you were doing to accommodate our relationship, or accommodate me, either because I make more money or because it will give you some time off…” Whatever they say, it might sound appealing when you’re first doing it, because you want the relationship to go great. But think about what you’re losing, especially if you’re no longer in a relationship with this person.
One of the questions I love to ask myself is:
If I were alone, would I make this decision?
If you were alone, would you make that decision? If you say “Yes, I would make that decision. I’ve been wanting to make a change. I would love to give up this career or give up this thing that I’m doing because it’ll give me more time to do what I want. And having someone in my life to do it with, that’s even better. Yes, I would do that if I were alone.”
Great! I think that’s a great gauge, a great way to test if this the right decision for you.
But if the answer is “I don’t think I would do that if I were alone, because I really like what I do, or I really like this interest that I have or this hobby that I have. I really like it.” Then you have to say, “No, I’m not going to give that up. I really like that. I’m going to do that for me.”
I think a healthy partner will say, “Okay, we’ll work it out. We’ll figure it out. You keep doing what you’re doing. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, and we’ll figure it out.”
I think that’s a great compromise, a great way to balance where you’re both working with each other.
Then there’s the response that somebody might have, which is, “You have to do that. You have to give that up. If you don’t give that up, then this isn’t going to work.”
I can understand that there are situations where giving something up might be a compromise for the greater good of the relationship, of something that’s going on, if you’re saving money, if you want to save more time, if you want more time off, whatever it is, there can be compromises that can work. My only fear when it comes to giving something up is any regret or resentment that might form.
If you’re willing to look at something and say, “I’m willing to give that up for the greater good, ” (whatever that is) then I believe you should come to a full acceptance:
“Okay. Since this for the greater good, I can give this up and be okay with it.” Then try that on in your mind. Ask yourself if this is going to be something you’ll regret or resent in a year or five years? Is this something you can be okay with?
If the answer is Yes, then great. I think that’s a good direction. Give it a shot. If the answer is No, you might have to have that talk. “No, I can’t give that up because I really want it in my life.”
That’s important. I said that because this person wrote their entire identity was wrapped in the relationship. Yes, you have to be so careful about this. When you get into any type of relationship, and you start giving up parts of yourself, who are you when they’re not around? Even if you stay in the relationship, who are you when they’re at work or visiting family for a few days? If it’s all about them, what happened to you? Where did you go?
I know there are people resonating with this right now and I’m sorry, but this important. You need to understand what you’ll lose, especially if they’re no longer around. I’m not saying that you can’t make your entire life about them. I sort of am, but I’m not saying that specifically, because there are people that have been together for 30, 40 years, or even 5 or 10 years that have intertwined everything about their lives together. They’ve mixed them up, it’s become very enmeshed. And everything that one person does affects the other person.
This can absolutely work, but not to the extent that if this other person were to leave or die, then where do you land and how do you land how do you recover? Because if you don’t have any part of “you” left because the whole thing was wrapped up in this other person, that’s the tough part. That’s when you fall even harder.
And I know you have this house and you have these kids and you have these jobs and maybe you work in the same business together and the whole thing is tied together… It can work. For some people, it can work. Then if there is a fall, they can recover.
I believe everyone can recover. It’s just a lot harder when everything is wrapped up which is why it’s important when you start a relationship of any sort, that you keep the things that you love about yourself with you. Not that you can’t share them. Not that you can’t be together and do them, but you still keep those parts of you so that you don’t lose your individuality. You don’t lose the components that make you who you are. And you just don’t make it all about somebody else. So that’s my comment on that.
I’m going to continue reading this email. She says, “Now I’m desperately trying to figure out who I am (exactly what I was just saying), and what I want. I’m trying to decide on a career path but my indecision is keeping me at a standstill. In fact, my whole life feels like it’s at a standstill. It was easy when the breakup first happened because I knew the next steps or to establish a new home somewhere and get myself together emotionally but now that I’ve accomplished that, what’s next?
“I feel like I’m waiting for something to happen, but I don’t know what that thing is. Do I start school? I’m afraid of student loan debt. Do I just get an entry-level job and start climbing the ladder? I can’t seem to commit to the idea that I might get stuck in something. Do I just take this time to float through space and see if a great idea hits me sometime in the next few months? That just makes me feel like a lazy good for nothing.
“All this confusion is making me feel depressed, which makes it even harder for me to take steps toward a better future. Where do I begin finding my new identity and my new path? And how do I ensure that this new identity and new path isn’t just another result of people-pleasing, like the old version of me?
“As confused and slightly lost as I feel I still carry an underlying foundation of peace and happiness. I know things will turn out well, and I’m so thankful for everything you’ve done to get me here.”
Okay, thank you for sharing that. And thank you for your “Thank you”. I appreciate that. And I want to say that this letter is over a year old so she probably has a whole new life now and everything’s going great (I’ll send her this podcast and tell her that I addressed it. And I would love to hear an update from her).
She went into an area that I didn’t expect because I didn’t read this ahead of time but she said “What do I do now? I have all these decisions to make, I’m not sure what to do.”
In every episode, I want to empower you to help you make the right decisions for you. How do you do that? There’s something I do when I’m stuck and I’m not sure what decision to make, it’s a two or three-step process.
The first step is to learn what I value most and what I care about. So I might look at my life and think, what do I really care about? What do I really want in my life? And that might be something simple like weekends off (which I never get), time with friends, time with family, time outside, time in nature… There are a lot of things that I might like that might not necessarily be conducive to a career or some of my choices but I like to write this stuff down or think about them so I know what’s important to me, so that when I’m making a decision, I can evaluate those decisions and compare them to what I have written down for what I value, and find out if they’re compatible.
Because if I said I don’t want to spend three hours a day in the car commuting to work, and I got a job that takes me an hour and a half to get there, I’m not going to meet that value, and that will make me unhappy.
That doesn’t mean I won’t get a job that is thrilling and I love it. I can make that small compromise. That can happen as well. But it is important to me to either write down or think about what I value most. It’s a values exercise. You just write down what you value most about certain areas of your life, whether it’s relationships or career or personal growth and development, your health, even your spirituality and other areas of your life. It’s important to know what your values are. Ask yourself, “What do I value most in that area of my life?”
You might ponder, “What do I value most about relationships? I want honesty, I want attraction, I want to laugh, I want somebody that I can hold their hand watch TV or walk down the beach. I want somebody that cares about me and supports me and respects me.” All these values that we can look at in our life, and make sure they’re being met. That way if we do meet someone, we can say, “Okay, are these values being met?” Because if they’re not, you will likely not be as happy as you could be.
I talk about this values exercise in the Stop Self-Sabotage Workbook. If you download that book, it walks you through helping you determine what your values are, and also putting them in order. You don’t have to buy the book, you can just listen to me right now and do this right now. You can write down everything you value and put them in order. Your top values are going to be most important.
As you line up these values and put them in a hierarchy, because the closer to the top you get if your values one through five are the most important values to you, then you don’t want to compromise those. If you compromise any of those top values, what ends up happening is that you end up unhappy because you’re not getting your values met.
That’s my first step with decision making. It’s asking myself, “Is the decision I’m going to make in alignment with my values?”
The woman who wrote the email said, “I want to start school” but she’s afraid of student debt, I’d ask her, “Is student debt a fear you have? Because if one of your tops values is that you never want to be broke, then student debt might make you feel broke.”
The value may not be about a fear of being broke. You may be able to handle student debt, I don’t know, but if that’s something you’ve been wanting to do, and you don’t have a big fear about getting in debt, and you can picture yourself in the career of your choice after that, then that might be something that’s in alignment with what you want to do which will make you feel good.
You can evaluate these things the way I do if you want. That’s my first step. I line up all these values, and I make sure that my decision is aligned with those values so that I’m not off track. It’s like following the lighthouse to the shore. As long as I’m in alignment with my values, I can always see the light from the lighthouse and I’m always moving in that direction. And as soon as I make a decision that’s out of alignment with my values, I’m lost. I’m like, “Where’s the lighthouse? I’m not there. I am still lost at sea!”
That’s a little dramatic, but it’s the idea of losing your way when you get out of alignment with your values which is why I call that workbook Stop Self-Sabotage. This how you sabotage yourself is by getting out of alignment with your values.
That’s my first step. My second step with decision making is reaching a point where I make a decision no matter what. And yes, that might mean I make the wrong decision. You might make the wrong decision. And the reason I do that “no matter what” is because it helps me practice commitment. It helps me practice follow-through.
If I have path A and path B in front of me, and I’m not sure which one to take, I’m just going to go with one or the other. I’m going to make a decision. I’m going to say, “I’m taking path B, I don’t care. I’m just going to follow path B.”
If I’m wrong, what does that mean?
It means that I’ve learned that I’m wrong while following the path instead of thinking I might be wrong and not following either path. It’s the only subtle difference but it makes a massive difference in your life.
If you have a binary decision in front of you, one way or another, then you make one decision, and you follow that decision until it proves you right or wrong. That is my simplest formula for decision making: Lining up with your values and taking one path no matter what.
What happens is that you can take path B and do it for a month, then you realize that path B is awful. You feel like you’re trudging through mud. You’re trying so hard to get through it but it’s not working and you’re not enjoying it at all. Then you realize path A was the right choice.
I know you can’t do this with everything. You can’t say I’m going to take path B and do something major that is irreversible. That is a little tougher, yes, but I don’t think many decisions in life are like that. There are a bunch but many decisions aren’t like that.
Many decisions, you go down one path and you discover that, “Oh, This the wrong path, I spent a lot of money, I spent a lot of time, I spent a lot of energy. I should get off this path and take the other one.” When that happens, then you get off the path.
I know I make it sound easy. It’s not always easy, and sometimes you have to break commitments. Sometimes you have to say, “Sorry, I made the wrong choice.” But that’s okay because this how you learn. This how you discover what decisions are right for you. It’s probably not the best way to do it or the most perfect way, but what ends up happening as you repeat this over and over again, this ability to make a decision no matter what, even if you find out it’s the wrong path later, is that you get very good at making decisions in the future.
If you make the wrong decision this time, then make the wrong decision next time, I guarantee you you’re going to get very good at making the right decision going forward because going down the path gives you the experience instead of thinking about going down the path, which is only your imagination. Your imagination gives you something pretend that you’re visualizing in your mind that may or may not be.
That doesn’t mean that your visualization is always false. It just means that you’re just making it up. “If I take that path, this could happen but if I take this path, this could happen…” And because you can’t make that decision, you’ll never find out if either choice is right, so you might as well take one path and just deal with it. Just do it and see what happens.
This why it’s important to have a solid foundation of who you are. This works against what this person said. She didn’t really know who she was.
When you fail or make a decision that turns out to be wrong, and you don’t know who you are, then falling is harder.
But sometimes you have to rebuild yourself by falling. A baby learns to walk by falling. That’s how it works! A baby doesn’t learn to walk by studying videos and doing it right the first time, they have to learn to walk by falling over and over again.
I know this is common sense. It’s personal growth 101. But I think sometimes we need to re-hear it. We need to re-hear the basics. Making a decision is no different than learning to walk again, especially when you have no solid foundation of good decision making. You’ll get some bruises as you go along, but you’ll get through it. I know there are exceptions. You can’t do this with major life changes. But if you do it with simple things, you’ll get better at it.
That’s my one-two punch for decision making. It has helped me because I’ve gone down the wrong path and I’ve learned beyond a shadow of a doubt what doesn’t work. And sometimes that can be a huge success to learn what doesn’t work. It’s helped me.
Next, I’m going to give you some tools to use so that when you make the transition from being any type of person that wants to stay out of conflict and wants to make sure that everyone is still peaceful around you, that you can do so with hopefully less stress and more acceptance without getting too much grief from the other person.
I want to help you transition from being any type of people-pleaser or balancer, or neutralizer, those are weird words, but that’s what my mom used to do. That’s where I learned how to balance situations. I was born the middle child in my family so that helped me become sort of the balancer, the person who wants to make everything very calm, even, balanced and neutral, and I had to go through this transition myself. I had to go from being this people-pleasing-avoiding-conflict type person all the time, to someone who learned how to honor myself and still stayed out of conflict.
There are probably times that you want to honor yourself and speak up for yourself but you want to do so without creating conflict. There’s an overlying philosophy that I utilize in my own life that has to do with not only speaking up or standing up for yourself but also allowing the other person to reveal who they really are in that moment.
Sounds a little strange but what I’m saying is that when there’s an opportunity to honor yourself, you can allow the other person to help you honor you, or reveal who they really are. But you can do in a non-confrontational way.
What I mean by that is let’s just say that somebody came up to you and said, “I need you to do this for me. Will you do it?” Let’s just say it’s not a boss, and it’s somebody that has always known you as a yes person. Your typical response might be “Okay, yes, I’ll do that no problem,” but that is really burning you out because you are finally standing up for yourself. And you’re realizing how much energy it takes just to say Yes to everything so you decide that you don’t want to do this thing that they want to ask.
“Hey, will you help me carry this couch down 14 flights of stairs?” And you think I’m getting older, I probably shouldn’t do that anymore, but you realize if you say no while feeling this little fear that kicks in and maybe it’s a fear of not being liked or a fear of abandonment or rejection, whatever it is, I’m sure it comes from a deep place inside of you. But if it comes up, then that will tend to alter your behavior into agreeing to something that you don’t want to do, instead of just standing up and saying, “I can’t do that. I’m going to say no.”
The person who is used to you saying yes might take offense to that. Hopefully, they don’t. The whole point of this isn’t to reveal what jerks people are. At least I hope they’re not jerks. But it is to help them realize who they’re going to be when you stand up for yourself. What I’m going to teach you is that it makes them face themselves.
It’s very difficult to be an all-time people pleaser that goes from saying yes all the time to suddenly saying no to the people who are used to you saying yes. Or they’re used to taking advantage of you. Or they’re used to walking all over you because “You never complained before so why can’t I just use you for what I need you for?”
Some people don’t even realize they’re doing it because you’ve allowed it to happen for so long that they are now the automatic bad guy without even trying. I’ve had that happen in my life. People became the bad guy because I simply waited for them to figure out that I didn’t want to do what they wanted me to do.
I never told them. I just waited for them to figure it out. And of course, they never figured it out. They never did. Because I always acted nice and said yes. Or, didn’t say no. I always did what I felt like kept the relationship copacetic. I wanted to make sure that there were no waves. And I definitely want to make sure there was no confrontation. So I would say things like, “Oh, yeah, I’ll do that. I’ll help you with the couch and that 14 flights of stairs. No problem.” Even though I just had back surgery, because I wanted to be liked!
I had a fear of rejection. I believed that if I said no to someone, they wouldn’t like me and then I wouldn’t have them as a friend anymore. That’s a false belief. If you have people that you say no to, and they’re not your friend anymore, they never were. They were never your friend. They were just using you. And we don’t want those people in our life.
These steps that I’m sharing today help reveal who really is supportive of you, and who really wants you to honor yourself and wants you to be happy. I’m really generalizing it here. It doesn’t mean they don’t want you to be happy but we need to find out who in our life is going to accept this new version of us as we move into this new stage of our life: From always pleasing others to finally taking charge of our own life and honoring ourselves, and choosing to please others because at that point, when you honor yourself, you’re creating an abundance of resources inside of you.
That’s what I mentioned in the first segment. As you honor yourself more and more, you’re going to have the time and energy to be able to give to others without losing any energy or power. And that’s important. You want to be able to do this stuff for yourself first so that you have it available anytime somebody else needs it if you want. This the choice that you give yourself. “I have it if I need it and if I want to use it.”
The first thing I look at when transitioning from always pleasing somebody else and making sure everyone else is okay is to know your own boundaries. You have to know your boundaries. You have to know what you will and won’t accept in your life. That needs to be defined because if you don’t know your boundaries, then you don’t know when someone’s really crossing the line.
For me, I made the boundary when I feel disrespected, then someone’s crossing the line. That means when somebody starts to disrespect me, I’m either going to tell them, “Hey that’s disrespectful. Don’t do that again.” Or I could leave the situation. I could leave the conversation because I am getting disrespected. And I might just say, “Look, I can’t talk to you anymore.” Or I could just walk away. I could do that. There are a number of things I could do.
Because I know that boundary well, I can see it a mile away. I can see it starting and as soon as it starts, I don’t go into surprise mode, I go into prepared mode. I am prepared because I know that boundary. When you know your boundaries, you are prepared.
One of my boundaries is I sort of demand respect. It sounds narcissistic right there, but I’m not saying I walk around like that, I’m saying if disrespect starts to come my way, then I might have to demand respect. Or we’re not going to have a conversation, we’re not going to have a relationship. It’s just not going to happen. Then I can walk away or whatever.
It’s important to know your boundaries. What are your boundaries? You may not know them. You may not have them! You might have to define them. The way you define them is to make sure that you know what acceptable in your life and what’s not. If somebody calls you a bad name, is that acceptable? You can find out if it’s acceptable just by asking yourself a simple question:
Am I okay with it?
You could response, “Yeah, if somebody calls me a bad name. I’m okay with it. No big deal.” That might be! You might be okay with it. But if you try it on and you feel it and you think that doesn’t feel very good, you’re probably not okay with it.
I’m not saying that these are hard and fast rules, I’m just saying you start to define them so you know what you’ll accept and what you won’t.
“Okay, somebody calls me a name, I realize I’m not okay with it so, that’s a boundary. I have established one boundary. What’s the next one? How about when somebody peels out on my lawn?”
If you have a house and a lawn and somebody comes up and parks their car in your yard then starts peeling out, it’s probably not something you want. It’s probably not something you’ll ever deal with, hopefully, but if you do, that might be a sign of disrespect. You could look at that as respect boundary, or disrespecting your property, that could be a boundary. So you might think to yourself, no, that’s not acceptable.
That might not be the best example but you can think along those lines, “That’s not acceptable. And I will definitely say something about that, at least when I’ve developed the ability to honor myself without confrontation.”
A better example might be when somebody wants to borrow your car, if you have a car, and you don’t really trust them because they’ve had four accidents in the past two years. You might think I don’t think that’s a good idea because they’ve had accidents. You might want to say that to them, so that could be a boundary. That could be unacceptable to you.
You might think I’m not going to let this person drive my car, that’s unacceptable. But you could also have the thought it’s insured, and if they crash it’s under their insurance or is it under my insurance? I don’t know, I have to figure that out. And then they don’t crash or they do crash, but you make that decision anyway (whether they’re going to use it or not) but either way you find out if they are trustworthy from this point on.
You look at these events in your life and you decide if they are boundaries or not. I think the best way to do this, instead of just making up every single scenario that could come down the line, is to think about things that happened in your past that you didn’t like. “So and so did this to me. Oh, I didn’t like that. That’s unacceptable. So and so said this to me. I didn’t like that. That’s unacceptable.”
And you can start knowing your boundaries, then. It takes time. It takes time to figure out what is acceptable and what’s not. And I think probably the best way to do it is as you move forward in life, as things happen in your life, when they happen, then you define a boundary. Then you can say, “Oh, that just happened. I didn’t like that. I’m going to make that a boundary.”
Again, these aren’t hard and fast rules. It doesn’t mean you have to obey them every time something comes up. It’s just a matter of noticing them. This is for people who don’t necessarily know their boundaries well, and you want to figure out how to create them. I gave you several ways to do it, but I do believe it’s important to know if it’s a boundary. And just asking yourself the question, “Is this acceptable to me or not?” will help you determine if it’s a boundary. Step one: know your boundaries.
Step two is the question that you ask instead of the boundary that you present. What I mean by that is the people that have known you as a people-pleaser, or the one who keeps the peace, they’re the ones that are going to be the most challenging when it comes to transitioning from being that person to someone who actually honors themselves and presents their boundaries in a way that you hope is non-confrontational.
I believe one of the ways you can do this is when there’s a boundary violation, instead of saying “Hey look, you’re violating my boundaries, would you please stop?” Or in my case, “Hey, look, that’s disrespectful, will you please stop?” Instead, you can ask the question, “Would it be okay…?” Or, “Would you mind…?” You can use either one of them or both.
How does this work? With the disrespect example, somebody is disrespecting you so you could ask, “Would you mind not being so aggressive toward me?”
That does sound like it could still be confrontational, but what you’re doing in this case, and this is a more severe example of when you have to calm someone down from being aggressive, yes, but what you’re doing here is you’re making them have to admit the type of person they are. In other words, are they going to reveal to you that they just want to take advantage of you? Or they just want to yell at you? Or they just want to disrespect you?
Or are they going to reveal that of course they want you to honor yourself and of course they don’t want to hurt you or be aggressive toward you? Some people might be oblivious they’re disrespecting you, but the “Would you mind…?” Or, “Would it be okay…?” approach is a great non-confrontational way that makes them have to hear themselves say the next thing which is, if you said, “Would you mind not using such an aggressive tone?” You’re asking nicely of course. You don’t want to sound aggressive yourself.
They might say, “Oh, I didn’t know I was being so aggressive. I’m sorry about that.” Or they could say, “What do you mean? What’s the problem? I’m not being aggressive.”
In that moment, they had an opportunity to check in and choose to continue their aggression or not. Which is what I mean when they say they’re going to reveal to themselves and you if they are just that person or not. If you ask, “Would you mind…?”, you’re asking for someone to honor you, in a way. You’re asking for them to consider your thoughts and your emotions.
So you’re giving them that opportunity. You are empowering them with the decision to move forward in the same manner or not. The question “Would you mind not using those particular words when you’re talking to me?” Again, it could be confrontational, but it still gives them the opportunity to check in. But disrespect is kind of a harsh one to start with. It can be very confrontational in the first place. So I like to start with something simpler, like a yes or no question like, “Hey, can you do this project for me?” And you don’t want to do it.
“Hey, can you help me carry this couch down 14 flights?”
The “Would you mind…? or “Would it be okay…? questions are really perfect. Because you can say something like, “Would it be okay if I said no?”
What are they going to do? Are they going to say “No! It’s not okay!” They might say that. Or they say “What, you never say no. You always say yes.” Hopefully, they don’t say that because now it does sound like they’re taking advantage of you. But hopefully, they say, “Okay, yeah, of course, if you can’t do it, that’s fine.” At that point, you can say, “Yeah, I’m just not available for that day…” Or “My back hurts,” or “I just had surgery,” or “I shouldn’t be doing that because my doctor said this or my back gets sore…” Then you can get into a conversation.
But the whole thing starts off without the initial confrontation. The idea is to avoid the confrontation so that you can ease into honoring yourself.
Let’s use the car example. “Hey, can I borrow your car? I want to go to the store.”
A response to that could be, “Would you be okay if I said no?”
The way I worded that has to make them reflect on how they feel inside about you honoring yourself.
I think that’s key. I think if you can get them to reflect on how they feel about you honoring yourself, this is where they reveal who they are to you. Because if they say “No I wouldn’t be okay, I need this car and I can’t believe you’d say no, ” that does reveal a part of them, or all of them, that doesn’t necessarily want you to be your own person. And that’s important to know because if you are around these people, even after a non-confrontational question that you just asked, “Would you mind if I said No?” then you realize that these people aren’t playing fairly.
No wonder they’re draining you. No wonder that you always feel like you are wearing down around these people because they probably have been taking advantage of you and they know it. So we have to be very careful around those people, that when we give them the opportunity, when we empower them, giving them the choice to reflect and realize that we are presenting a boundary that they can choose to honor or not, hopefully they reflect in a way that is supportive of us, instead of self-serving. That doesn’t benefit us at all. In fact, it can even hurt us or the relationship.
So those two questions help you to understand who they really are and how they’ll respond from that point on. This also helps you ease into the boundaries thing, giving you the choice to do it non-confrontationally, at the same time honoring yourself which can be very helpful.
The last thing I want to share in regards to transitioning from making everyone happy to honoring yourself is to remember to own your decisions. Own your path. What that means is when you make a choice, be comfortable with it. Be comfortable inside you so that when you present the person with that choice, with the opportunity to reflect, that they see that you are comfortable inside you with it. Because some people who aren’t out for your best interest are going to use your hesitation or your insecurity against you.
Those types of people will say, “Oh, come on, I want to do this.” You could come from a place of insecurity or lack of confidence and say, “Well… I’m not sure if I want to do that or not.”
Or you can say with confidence, “No, I’m very comfortable in my decision. I’m very comfortable with that.”
They’ll hear it in your voice. They’ll know you’re serious. That’s not saying that they’re wrong. That’s not saying that you don’t care about them. It’s saying that you like the decision that you made, and you’re going to stick with it because this what you prefer.
I really believe in owning these decisions that you make for yourself and these boundaries that you create for yourself because what ends up happening is that your confidence shines through. And it’s very hard for people to latch on to some sort of insecurity or hesitation that they’re sensing in you, so they have trouble taking advantage of you.
Because some people take advantage of these insecurities in us. If you say, “Well, I really don’t want you to use the car, I just don’t think it’s a good idea… ” Then they have an opportunity to get inside your head and convince you to do something else. But when you get comfortable going through these steps and making these transitions, feeling really good about the decision that you’re making and the boundary that you’re honoring inside of you, when you do that, when you feel so good about that inside of you, it comes through. And that is another thing that they have to face in themselves if they choose not to honor you honoring yourself.
They will have to face that they are taking something away from you. If you said “Nope. I’m comfortable with the decision I made that I don’t want you to use the car.” They’ll have to face your confidence in a way that causes them to make a choice to break you down at this point, because your insecurity is already a brokedown point.
If you say, “No, I’m not sure…” then they have an easier “in”. But when you own that decision, it’s very difficult for them to find that crack or that exploit that they can take advantage of, and say, “Oh, come on, you can do this,” when you are in a confident space. It’s more difficult and hopefully, the people that are in your life will allow you to be who you are, and honor you honoring yourself, and love you for taking care of yourself. Because people that love us really want us to be happy. And if they want us to be happy, they’re going to want us to make decisions that work for us.
This how it’s supposed to work. Not everyone follows that but this how I see it. So I hope this helps you with any decisions or boundaries or anything that you’re working on in your life, especially in areas where you feel like you might have to be confrontational. There are always ways not to be confrontational. My overlying philosophy about that is, if it has to come down to honoring yourself, and you feel like it might have some sense or semblance of confrontation in it, that you remember that you are doing this for you, not against them.
Because there’s a big difference between, “No, I don’t want to do this for you. You’re got into four accidents this year, and I don’t want to use my car,” and “Would you mind if I said no? Would you be okay with that?”
They might say, “No, I really need the car. Why don’t you just give me the car?” Then instead of attacking them like, “No, you smash cars!” You can say, “No, I feel more comfortable saying no. I feel more comfortable not letting you use it.”
It’s still about you when you say it that way. It’s about your comfort. It’s about what you want for you. Which again, they will have to face and try to talk you out of it, but that just shows that they aren’t listening to you, that they’re not honoring you honoring your boundaries, and they prefer to break through or violate your boundaries.
This reveals who they are. And it’s important to know who those people are in your life so that you don’t get yourself into other situations with them. You may not want to bother with these people sometimes, because they’re just unreasonable. And they definitely seem selfish. Because if you’re presenting these things, and they are trying to talk you out of it, they’re not listening to you.
These are the kind of people that maybe are a little tough to be in your life if they don’t listen to you and they don’t really care if you say no.
I’m going to read you a quick letter for the close of the show. This somebody who may be dealing with something they don’t need to deal with. They wrote, “I have gotten into three car accidents in three years. The last one, I broke my leg and my ribs as well as getting a brain injury. I’ve gotten to the point where my fitness is back to normal. However, my emotional state and well-being is distraught. I’ve been listening to you for a while and your work helps. I’ve even got my girlfriend to listen too.”
He goes on to say, “However, I keep reliving those moments, and none of these were my fault. Two were the weather where the roads were terrible and the weather changed suddenly. And then the other was a driver who ran a stop sign. I know I had no control and logically, it’s not my fault, but the latest accident also injured someone else and he is also recovering. Why am I blaming myself? I can’t get it out of my head. I’ve been seeing anxiety coaches, a therapist, and physio, but the only thing that helps me sleep is your voice, as silly as that sounds…” No, it doesn’t sound silly. I hear that a lot and I’m very grateful you have a way to fall asleep. I’m glad I help there.
He goes on, “Do you have any thoughts, any exercises or something to help me to be a better me? For myself, my kids, my girlfriend, my family, my friends? I appreciate your thoughts.”
All right, that was loaded at the end there. You just gave me the biggest question, a very loaded question at the end: ‘Can you help me with all these areas of my life?’
I want to help you with one area that will probably hopefully bleed into the rest of your life, and that is the blaming versus the taking responsibility. You said you can’t stop blaming yourself. You can’t get it out of your head.
I have a feeling if you stop blaming yourself, the rest of your life would probably go a little bit better. I’m not saying it solves everything, I’m just saying your life would probably go a little bit better if you were to get past the point where you can stop blaming yourself.
Here’s my take on this. Let me ask you this question. Let’s look at all three of your car accidents. If you knew for a fact that you were going to get into a car accident, and that you are going to react the way you did and do all the things you did that led to the accident, if you knew all of this ahead of time, would you have done it? Would you have gone through these accidents?
I’m giving you silence to answer.
You won’t say yes. Of course you’re not going to say yes! Unless you’re the type of person that says, “Everything in my past has led me to this point. And of course, I wouldn’t change anything because I am where I am now because of that.”
Yes, I get that. The philosophy is there, the spirituality is there. But I’m just talking about this one event. Let’s just say that we could change the past that didn’t affect our present. Or if it did, it only did in a good way. Would you, knowing what happened go through that again?
Typically, people say no. You might still say yes, and I might even say yes at that point, but I’m trying to make a point. My point is if you knew what was going to happen, and you could go back in time and do it again, would you go through that?
Let’s just say that you said, “No, I don’t want to get into an accident. I don’t want that other person to get hurt. I don’t want to be hurt myself. I broke a rib. I got a brain injury. I don’t want to go through all that.”
That’s probably where your mind goes if you’re not too spiritual or philosophical or whatever, because you probably don’t want to experience that pain and the suffering, and now you’re in this self-blame, you just want things different. So the reason I asked that question (Would you go through it again? Would you have done it?), if the answer is yes, then we could look at “blame” as something that you knew was going to happen. And you did it anyway.
Blame is still a strong word because philosophically, spiritually, however you look at it, somebody might say, “Well, all this stuff is supposed to happen.”
But let’s just play pragmatically for now. “Yes, I would do it again, Paul.”
If you said that, I would say “Then you’re probably to blame because you knew it was going to happen and you did it anyway.”
But my point is, if you said no here, then you’re not to blame. But you are responsible. You are responsible for your role in the events that unfolded. You’re responsible for getting in your car every time. You’re responsible for steering left instead of steering right. You’re responsible for everything that you did, because you didn’t know what was going to happen until after it happened.
You couldn’t know. You didn’t know what was going to occur. You didn’t know how to get out of the danger zone. You just happened to do the things that you thought you should do, and it turned into an accident. So you’re not to blame in that respect. But you’re responsible.
Just like the other drivers are responsible for their behaviors and for what they did to be a part of this. You were playing a bigger game with other people that everyone had a piece on the board. You know what I’m saying? The game board.
Everyone had a piece on the board. And you were moving toward a goal, which is your destination. They were moving toward a goal, their destination. And fate would have it that you met somewhere and crashed into each other. I don’t know if all your accidents involved other people, but I know at least one did. So let’s just say that all of these pieces are on the board, just like everyday life. All of these pieces are on the game board, and we’re all heading toward our specific goals and destinations. And we’re going to bump into each other. So you’re responsible for every step you take, they’re responsible for every step they take, and sometimes we just crash.
Then we suffer because of our decisions. But we’re not to blame. We’re just taking the next step that we believe is right. You’re just taking the next right step and every time you had an accident, every time something bad happened in your life, unless you knew it was going to happen beforehand which requires either psychic abilities, a crystal ball, maybe reading your astrology that morning, any of these things – you know what I’m saying.
I don’t know if anybody can accurately predict the future but if it exists, you didn’t have it. I’m going to assume that you didn’t possess that ability. And because of that, you really can’t be to blame.
Now, if you knew that the weather was going to change and that your car absolutely steers the wrong way in rainy weather, and you also knew that the other person coming the other way was going to be there on that specific day and time, and you also knew that you were going to have some sort of different reaction, or a bee was going to sting you and you were going to drive off the road, whatever it was, if you knew all of that ahead of time, (which again, requires psychic abilities of some sort), then yes, you might be to blame.
But I have a feeling that’s probably not what happened. I have a feeling what happened is that the players in the game of life either through random chance, or through predestination, or whatever you believe, they met. There was just no way around it. It just happened.
If you’re playing pinball, and another ball comes out and you’ve got two balls on the table, they’re eventually going to collide. They have no choice. The balls have their own journey, but they’re eventually going to collide. It just happens. Of course, they’re not sentient we really can’t say that these balls have a choice, but let’s just say they did. This how I see life in general.
A tiger is walking along the plains of Africa and the tiger decides to go west, and then there’s a zebra out there who makes a choice to go east and then they meet and you know the kind of trouble that can happen. But no one’s to blame. It just happened because that’s one of the random events that life just tends to bring us, and we have to deal with when it comes.
So I’m saying to you, the person who wrote, you are absolutely responsible for the actions you took that day, from waking up to going to sleep that night, every step you took is yours. And you have a responsibility there. When you are responsible, you take responsibility and you make things right. If you can. If that means that you’re carrying around some guilt, because you did something wrong, then you try to make it right.
If you can’t get rid of the guilt, then you have to listen to my episodes on guilt, because I talk about how to get through this and heal from it. Because guilt should be a fleeting thing. Guilt should only be a signal that says, “Hey, we need to do something.”
If you never do something and you hold on to the guilt, then you carry it with you. And you don’t want to carry it with you. You don’t need to carry this with you anymore. If you’re going to fall asleep to my voice tonight, you don’t need to hold on to this anymore.
This is not a feeling that was supposed to last. This was something that happened, you had some feelings about it, you had to get through it, you had to heal through it. And now you can release it as life goes on. Because if you’re holding on to something from the past, the past can slow you down from healing in the future.
And what I mean by that, is that when you’re looking in the rear view mirror, when you’re dragging your old emotional baggage around, then you can’t show up as the best version of yourself for yourself or for others. So others don’t get the whole you! They get the “you” with all this baggage.
And I know, like you said, there’s probably some PTSD in there and I do hope you’re dealing with that. Listen to my episodes where I talk about dealing with emotional triggers and PTSD. Listen to that stuff and maybe it’ll help you get through what you’re going through.
But you don’t have to blame yourself anymore. I’m releasing you from this. I want you to forgive yourself a break so that you can move on and show up as your whole self from this point forward.
It’s been a while since I received this email, so maybe you’re already there, maybe you’re in a good space, and maybe you don’t even need this show anymore because you’re out there speaking and writing books, or something but maybe you’re still in that space, and you need to hear this I hope this helps. And thank you for sharing it with me and sharing it with the world.
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