Advice with the Arts Editor: A people-pleaser’s guide to saying no


Two students have a conversation in the Campus Center. Photo by Saichand Chowdary (He/Him) / Mass Media Staff.

Rena Weafer, Arts Editor

Everyone has been in one of those situations where you say yes to something just because you don’t want the other person to feel bad. It starts small, like going to a party with your friend that you didn’t want to go to, and it gradually gets bigger and bigger until you’re not doing anything in your life for yourself.

This is what one reader was feeling when they wrote to me, saying:

“I have a lot of trouble asking for help and saying no to things. What I thought was just me being proactive has actually turned into a toxic and unhealthy behavior, and now I don’t know how to stop or make it better! I’ve always been a people-pleaser, plus I’ve dealt with anxiety for years, so no matter how much I want to stand up for myself, I’ve found it’s just easier to keep people happy. However, it’s been bleeding into my work and personal lives, and both have become incredibly draining to be in.”

I’ve been there, in fact, I’m still there, but I’ve been actively trying to get better. I noticed a couple months ago how exhausted I felt, and it was mainly for this reason. I found myself always saying yes when my manager asked me if I could pick up an extra shift at work to the point I worked 35 hours one week on top of school and my other job. It hurt me mentally until I was just so tired that I didn’t know what to do with myself.

The first step in saying no is recognizing that your feelings are just as valid and important as anyone else’s. Just because someone called out of work doesn’t mean that I had to stop doing what I had planned for the day to pick up their shift. My plans for the day mattered and even if I had nothing planned, I deserved a break.

Putting others’ emotions and needs before your own is only going to lower your self worth. Before you can help anyone else, you have to learn how to help yourself, and sometimes that means saying no.

You don’t need a reason to say no. It’s your time and energy after all, and you can dictate what you spend it on. I think that’s what I needed to hear a couple months ago. You are allowed to take up space, especially in your own life.

If you are living your life for other people, it’s setting you back from becoming a more fulfilled version of yourself. How can you expect yourself to be happy if you can’t do what you want to? These constant favors for others are just going to build resentment in your relationships and hurt everyone involved.

After a long time of saying yes, saying no is going to be difficult. It’s going to be uncomfortable at first, but you just have to keep doing it. It will get easier with time, and eventually you will have so much energy for yourself you won’t know what to do with it.

As for asking for help, I get it, especially with all the hype around being strong and independent, but even the strongest people need support. Not asking for help deprives you of genuine connection. It shows your humanity.

The people that love and care about you want to be there for you. It’s okay to let your guard down and let them be there for you, as much as it might feel uncomfortable at first. Bottling up your feelings and building up walls is only going to hurt yourself more.

As you’ve seen, it’s draining to have no one to rely on, not because they wouldn’t be there for you but because you won’t let them. You won’t be burdening anyone with your problems. Friends and family are there to help you through life. They will make your life easier, so it isn’t so draining to be in.