Healthy Selfishness: How To Stop People-Pleasing and Start Prioritizing Yourself

Chances are, you can name one thing you could be doing to take care better care of yourself. And despite knowing that drinking more water/meditating each day/ flossing your teeth is good for you, I’m willing to bet that you’re still not doing it.

It's likely because:

  1. You don’t have enough time
  2. It’s inconvenient or annoying
  3. The advantages/disadvantages are too far in the future to seem relevant
  4. It tastes/feels like crap
  5. It would involve saying “no” to something or someone else

I often write about issues #1-3 when discussing procrastination, time management, or motivation.

But, today I’m doing a deep dive into issue #5: Setting Boundaries. Or, as I like to call it, “how to say “no” to them and “yes” to me without seeming like a selfish jerkface.”
(And sorry, I can’t do much about Issue #4. Kale will never taste like a cupcake.)

Like most people, I care what people think. I care whether my friends think I’m supportive and I care whether the guy at the bakery judges me when I ask him to write affirmations in icing on the 5” chocolate cake I buy for myself (true story!)

Unlike most people, I’ve accepted and internalized that self-care needs to be my biggest priority. But that wasn’t always true. For most of my life, I put others first only to be surprised when I’d get sick, feel disappointed, burn out, etc. I assumed that I felt sick, tired, or sad because of the job, the boyfriend, or the autoplay feature on Netflix. But, like all things, the common denominator was me. If I wanted to feel balanced and blissful, I was the one that needed to change.

As we all know, change sucks and is never easy.

A lifetime of saying “yes,” people-pleasing, and over-achieving wasn’t going to change overnight. In fact, it was so ingrained in me that I often didn’t even know I was saying “yes” when I really meant “no.” Over time, all of those yeses added up to exhaustion, frustration, and unmet expectations. I struggled to find a way to support others sustainably without compromising my health and happiness.

Once I accepted that I was my biggest obstacle, I started looking at the ways I kept these patterns alive. And that’s when it hit me: I was giving away my time and energy, telling people I had no expectations when I most definitely expected them to reciprocate my actions in the future. I’d tell friends “of course, I don’t mind picking you up from the airport,” only to feel disappointed waiting for a cab in the dead of winter.

If my life is the result of my actions and non-actions, then changing my life is also within my control.

From that moment, I started employing a strategy that changed my life. It empowered me to communicate effectively, transform my relationships, and create more energy, happiness, and time. Here it is:

Is your “yes” really a “no?”

The goal of this exercise is to identify, manage, and communicate your needs so that you’re better able to prioritize yourself.

1. Pause.

Before offering to help, accepting an invitation, or saying “yes,” ask yourself:

  1. Am I prepared to do this without any hope that it will be returned to me in any shape or form (now or in the future?)
  2. What will this cost me now? 6 months from now? (consider your time, energy, and sanity)
  3. Is my desire to say “yes” driven by generosity or because I think that prioritizing myself will result in a negative outcome?

2. Decide.

If you can’t act without expectation, consider the cost.
If the cost is too great, consider your reason.
If your reason is based in fear, consider yourself more.

Simply put, decide whether saying “yes” to them means saying “no” to you. If so, choose to prioritize yourself.

3. Communicate.

State your boundary clearly, directly, respectfully, without qualifying statements or rationales. Saying “I can’t work late on the project today” is more effective than “I can’t work late because my cousin’s friend’s baby is having a birthday party, but I will work on the project when I get home at 10pm.”

4. Maintain.

The other person’s reaction has nothing to do with you. Avoid the temptation to weaken or take back your response. Doing so damages your self-trust, continues to prioritize others, and teaches others that your words have no meaning.

5. Reinforce.

You may need to remind yourself and others of your boundaries. That’s okay! Putting yourself first is a new behavior and will take practice and patience.

Use this tool to ensure you're creating space for yourself, your needs, and your happiness.

One more thing...

I want to hear from you! I’m committed to creating content that address your exact needs. Fill out this quick survey and get the time tracking worksheet only available to Take Back Your Time participants. This worksheet will help you identify your secret time-wasters, giving you the info you need to prioritize yourself more effectively.

The 5 Obstacles Standing Between You & What You Want

Here’s a secret most coaches and therapists won’t admit: We know within the first 10 minutes of meeting you whether you’ll achieve your goals. What?! How's that possible?!

While I can’t see the future, I do see the same 5 challenges hold people back from achieving their full potential. Not surprisingly, there are 5 traits that propel people forward. Coincidence? I think not.

Whether in our personal or professional lives, we've all been guilty of self-sabotage (myself included!) Thankfully, you can spot and stop the obstacles getting in your way, replacing them with behaviors that serve you instead:

Obstacle #1: You don’t accept responsibility for EVERYTHING.

Whether it's other people, the past, or the outcome of the presidential election, there are many things we can't control. There are times when life simply sucks. And when that happens, those who bounce back focus on opportunity instead of blame. They don’t wait for an answer or apology because they know that solving any situation requires owning it in its entirely. Bluntly put, if you feel shitty, it’s YOUR problem, not theirs. The good news is that the fix is also up to you. Whether it’s stating your truth, leaving, getting help, or anything else, you’re in charge of how you feel. This is by far the most challenging obstacle on the list. But once you’ve mastered it, it’ll lead to the biggest results. 

Shift It: Accept that no matter your situation, change is up to you.

Obstacle #2: Your thoughts and actions bring you down.

For any outcome, there’s a specific way of thinking and acting that will get you what you want. Your current situation is the result of your current actions and beliefs. To create a new outcome, you need to identify the thoughts and actions of those who have what you want and then adopt them. For someone who's in debt, she might ask herself "what do financially savvy people do?" As challenging as it might be, she might start tracking her expenses, going to Debtor's Anonymous meetings, etc.  It might feel foreign at first, but soon these new actions will create new thought patterns (and lead to new results!) Over time, you’ll transform your beliefs into ones that serve you and release the ones that previously held you back.

Shift It: As they say, “fake it til you make it.”

Obstacle #3: You want the new without giving up the old.

There’s always a price to pay to achieve what you want. New results come from new actions. If you want to run a marathon, but you don’t want to get off the couch, don’t be surprised when things don’t go as planned. This doesn’t mean change has to be filled with pain, the truly successful view paying the price as a positive instead of a negative. They focus on the joy of what they’re doing, rather than the pain of what they’re giving up.

Shift It: To view new steps more positively, focus on the pleasure of achieving your goal rather than the pain of change. Simply put, look at what you’re adding instead of what you’re giving up. 

Obstacle #4: You imagine the worst-case scenario…and unknowingly create it.

Whether or not you believe in manifesting, vision boards, or the law of attraction, one thing is always true: What you think is what you see. For example, I have a good friend who wants to be in a loving relationship. But, since she’s convinced that “all the good ones are taken,” she doesn’t put herself out there. She won’t go on a dating site and thinks that any guy who comes up to her must be “a loser.” Not surprisingly, her fear of being alone forever ensures that she will be.

Shift It: Focus on what you want, not what you want to avoid. This subtle difference creates massive change.

Obstacle #5: You buy your own bullshit.

Harsh, but true. “Reasons” are just excuses that we’ve bought into. When people tell me they “don’t have enough time” to meditate/exercise/respond to emails, I often wonder how they still have time to stalk their ex on Facebook. If you truly want to achieve your goal, you’ll trade your rationalizing for resourcefulness.

Shift It: Prioritize your goal by creating more time and questioning why you haven’t achieved it thus far.

The Takeaway:

Don’t blame your friends, finances, or fiancé- You are your biggest obstacle. And that's a good thing! Because changing your mindset is within your control. Remember, you have everything you need to succeed, you simply need to get out of your own way.

Interested in 1-on-1 support? Click here.

5 Steps To Turn Your Resolution Into Reality

Today, we’re getting down to business.

Fair warning: If you want me to validate that you can keep doing the same thing and that 2017 will magically bring you new results due to some cosmic alignment finally working out in your favor, this is not the post for you.

If, however, you really want to make a change and are willing to risk trying something new, then I urge you to read on.

But first, if you haven’t checked out Part 1 of this 2 Part Series on New Year’s Resolutions, I highly recommend you stop and read “How To Reflect & Select Your New Year’s Resolution.” Not only because Part 1 comes before Part 2 (duh!), but also because the warm, fuzzy, spiritual, half of me wrote that post and she is notably absent from this post. Why?

Because today, we’re turning all your introspective work from last week into an actionable, tangible, goal for 2017 that you can (and will!) achieve. I tested out this exact methodology on myself and of the 10 outcomes I wanted to achieve in 2016, I accomplished 9. Not too shabby! So, let’s jump in:

Ever wonder why most New Year’s resolutions fall apart in the first 3 weeks? No, it’s not your willpower or because “life got in the way,” it’s because a vague goal leads to vague actions which leads to…you guessed it: vague results! We avoid setting real goals and instead make resolutions like, “I want to get healthy” so we don't have to be held accountable to what we truly want. Sounds harsh, but it's true. And trust me, I get how terrifying it is! An undefined intention means we don’t have to feel like a failure when it doesn’t happen. And while it keeps us safe, it also keeps us stuck.

If you’ve typically set resolutions that are dreams and not goals, you’re not alone. I see this with my clients all the time. A busy mom recently told me her goal is "to create more work-life balance.” And while that sounds great, it isn’t clear what actions she'll take or how she’ll even know when she achieves it. You may have heard of SMART goals before (the acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time Bound), but chances are that if you’re creating resolutions or setting goals, they aren’t hitting each point.

Here’s how to define your goal and make it happen:

(BTW, I’ve included a worksheet you can use to implement the steps I outline below. Bonus: It includes my go-to strategy to maintain motivation when the couch calls my name. Download it here.)

1. Select the Specific thing you want to achieve.

Your goal should clearly define what you’re going to do. It should outline what you’ll achieve and how you'll get there. Be sure to include the exact steps you’ll take.

Example. Instead of “I want more work-life balance,” try “I will take daily action to create more balance by prioritizing self-care in the form of: Meditating for 10 min each day, action #2, action #3, etc.”

2. Make it Measurable.

Here’s where most people get tripped up. Not only does your overall goal need to be quantified, but so does each action step. This will help you to take feasible steps, maintain motivation, build momentum, and tell you exactly how much progress you’ve made toward your goal. 

To make actions measurable, be precise:

Example. Instead of saying “I’ll leave work at work,” try “On weekdays, I won’t check my email past 8 pm. On weekends, I will only check it once per day.”

To make your overall goal measurable, define your starting point:

Measure how many actions you currently take toward your goal and compare it to the number of actions at the end of your goal. Or, rate your ability/level of success on a scale of 1-10 now and at the end of your goal.

Example. If you exercise once per week, instead of saying “I’ll work out more,” try “I will go to the gym 3 times per week for 45-60 minutes.”

3. You only Attain what you act on.

An attainable goal is not dependent on others, your circumstances, or winning the lottery. In our work-life balance example, a poor indicator of success would be the amount of work assigned to you. While that relates to your goal, you can’t control what your boss tells you to do. You can, however, change how you respond.

Example. “When I’m assigned a new task at work, I will communicate with my boss about due dates, project priorities, what’s currently on my plate, and what can be delegated.”

Goals should be achievable. They should stretch you slightly so you feel challenged, but still be within your grasp. A common mistake I see clients make is trying to break goals into smaller pieces in an effort to make them more attainable. This is a slippery slope. For example, while saying you want to lose 5 lbs in 1 month is more realistic than losing 10 lbs., you can’t control your metabolism. Instead, focus on the action steps that promote you achieving your goal.

Example. “I will take daily action to increase my self-care by drinking 8 glasses of water each day, action #2, action #3, etc.”

The goal is not about the outcome, it’s about your ability to take consistent action toward that outcome.

4. Relevant, not random.

EVERY action step needs to be directly related to your goal. Don’t throw random “nice-to-haves” in there. For example, I had a client whose goal was centered around finding a new job. In her inspired and motivated goal-setting state, she wanted to add an action step of 20 minutes of yoga per day. While some may argue that yoga is great for everything, it’s not directly related and, thus, doesn’t belong in her goal. When selecting relevant action steps, ask yourself, “does this action directly impact my ability to achieve this goal?” If it doesn’t get you closer to your goal, don’t include it.

5. Time-Bound = Success-Bound.

It doesn’t matter whether you love or hate due dates, your goal still needs one. Pick a date that’s far enough that you’ll see results, but close enough that you can maintain motivation to achieve it. Linking your goal to a timeframe creates a practical sense of urgency and creates a healthy discomfort between where you are and where you’d like to be. My advice? Choose a date that’s 1, 2, or 3 months from now. It’s long enough that you can see a change, short enough to be relevant, and will allow you to fine-tune your actions should you continue for the rest of the year.

The Takeaway:

Use these steps (and bonus worksheet) to ensure you get results. Or, you can have the same new year’s resolution next year. The choice is yours.

Here’s to a bigger, better, and brighter 2017!

To learn more about virtual coaching or one-on-one support with your goal, click here.