The Reflectere

Your Plate Is Full // Getting past people pleasing

Your Plate Is Full // Getting past people pleasing

John sat at his desk, staring at the stack of reports he needed to finish before the end of the day. His phone buzzed incessantly with messages from colleagues asking for favors, each ping tightening the knot in his stomach. It was always like this. He couldn’t say no. His boss, Mr. Greaves, walked by and dropped another file on his desk. “John, can you handle this too? Thanks, you’re a lifesaver.”

John forced a smile and nodded, the words “No problem” slipping out before he could stop them. Inside, he felt like he was drowning. Every time he agreed to something he didn’t want to do, he lost a little more of himself. It wasn’t just at work; even with friends and family, he found himself bending over backward to please everyone. He feared their disappointment more than he valued his own peace of mind.

That evening, John met up with his old friend, Alex, at a local pub. Alex had always been the confident one, the guy who seemed to have it all figured out. As they sipped their beers, John confided in him. “I don’t know what to do, man. I can’t keep up with everyone’s demands. I feel like I’m being pulled in a million different directions.”

Alex leaned back in his chair, studying John for a moment. “You’ve got to start putting yourself first, John. People pleasing is a dead-end road. Trust me, I’ve been there.”

John was surprised. “You? A people pleaser?”

Alex nodded. “It was bad, but I learned to break the habit. You need to set boundaries and stick to them.”

The idea seemed simple, but the execution felt impossible. John decided to take it one step at a time. The next morning, he walked into the office with a renewed sense of determination. He started small, declining a request from a coworker to cover their shift. The guilt gnawed at him, but he reminded himself that it was okay to say no.

As days turned into weeks, John’s newfound assertiveness began to take root. He still struggled with the fear of disappointing others, but he realized that his own well-being was more important. He started to recognize that his value didn’t come from how much he could do for others, but from who he was as a person.

One day, Mr. Greaves asked him to take on yet another extra project. John took a deep breath and said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t take on any more work right now. I’m at full capacity.”

Mr. Greaves raised an eyebrow, clearly not used to hearing a ‘no’ from John. “Alright,” he said after a moment, “I’ll find someone else.”

John felt a rush of relief and empowerment. Each time he stood up for himself, it got a little easier. He noticed he had more energy and a clearer mind. His work improved, and so did his relationships. He was more present and less resentful. His friends and family began to respect his boundaries, even if they didn’t always understand them.

A few months later, John was invited to speak at a small business conference. He was nervous, but he saw it as an opportunity to share his journey. He talked about the struggle of being a people pleaser, the toll it took on his mental health, and the steps he took to reclaim his life.

After his speech, a young man approached him. “Hi, John. I’m Peter. Your talk really resonated with me. I’ve been a people pleaser my whole life, and it’s exhausting. How did you start changing?”

John smiled. “It wasn’t easy, Peter. I started by setting small boundaries and gradually worked up to bigger ones. The key is to understand that it’s not your job to make everyone happy. You’re allowed to prioritize your own needs.”

Peter looked relieved. “Thank you. I’ve been so afraid of letting people down, but I can’t keep living like this.”

John placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “You don’t have to. Remember, it’s a process. Be patient with yourself.”

Over the next year, John continued to work on his boundaries and self-care. He joined a support group for people pleasers and found solace in sharing his experiences with others who understood his struggle. He even started writing a blog about his journey, offering tips and encouragement to others facing the same challenges.

One day, he received an email from a woman named Rachel. She was a single mother struggling with the same issue. John’s blog had given her the courage to start saying no and set boundaries with her demanding family. “You’ve changed my life,” she wrote. “I finally feel like I’m living for myself, not just for others.”

Reading her message, John felt a profound sense of fulfillment. He realized that his journey had not only transformed his own life but was also making a difference in the lives of others. It reinforced his belief that overcoming people pleasing was one of the most important things he’d ever done.

John knew there would always be challenges, moments when old habits threatened to resurface. But he also knew he had the strength and tools to face them. He had learned that true strength wasn’t in pleasing everyone but in being true to himself. And in doing so, he had discovered a deeper, more meaningful way to connect with others.

As he closed his laptop that night, John felt a sense of peace and accomplishment. He had come a long way from the man who couldn’t say no. Now, he was someone who respected himself enough to prioritize his own happiness, and in turn, he had found a more authentic and fulfilling way to live.

This story showcases the importance of establishing proper boundaries in our lives, whether it’s with work, our personal life, or romantic partners. Many men learn not to set boundaries and that they must do what they are asked of, especially if they grew up in households where they felt like they were the ones who were needed to keep order and organization within the family.

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