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People-pleasers take note: saying no is good for your mental health

“All of us have a set of values that we live by and the more we are authentic about these values, the more self-esteem we will have. Caring too much about what people think can bring you a lot of anger, frustration, anxiety and stress.

“The best way to shift some of these behaviours is to start with small things. Set boundaries and limits with regard to what you will and will not do.”

Jasmine says these are rules you can establish ahead of time or that you can work out on the spot – in other words, at the time a colleague puts you in (what you’ve previously considered) an uncomfortable position.

“Ask yourself important questions. If someone makes a request of you, ask yourself ‘Do I want to do this?’ ‘Do I want to spend time on this?’ ‘Can I handle the anxiety or stress it will give me if I say yes?’”

Jasmine says it’s fine to respond to these internal questions in the positive, but if you do end up saying “no”, you shouldn’t feel obligated to justify, explain or defend that decision. By doing that, you may encourage co-workers to change your answer.

This brings us to another crucial point. Although this may feel like a problem of your making, the fact is there might be some people you work with who manipulate or take advantage of you. While many – probably most – won’t be acting with exploitative intent, it’s important to be wary of those who are abusing your tact, caution and gentle nature for their own ends.

Jasmine also suggests at some point taking a step back from the specific instances where you feel you’re being over-polite or panicking under pressure and considering what you want from work as a whole.

“At work, you need to set your priorities and set little goals for yourself. You need to consider how you want to grow in your job. What things do you want to learn from your current role? What projects do you want to work on? And, more importantly, what projects are going to bring you joy?”

If you want to do some further reading, Jasmine recommends The Disease To Please by Harriet Braiker and Stop People Pleasing: Be Assertive, Stop Caring What Others Think, Beat Your Guilt, & Stop Being a Pushover by Patrick King.

Do you have a question about work? Send it through to Work Therapy: jonathan@theinkbureau.com.au

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