Do You Really Matter?

Date posted: July 18, 2013

Last week, I was clearing out the trunk of my car and organizing it so my in-laws could easily get to the beach chairs when they stayed at our house while we were traveling. I neatly tucked away all of our kayaking gear and yoga mats in the cargo storage, and threw away any trash. This got me thinking about a client of mine.

Sally (not her real name) recently posted a great insight in her weekly check-in. She mentioned how quick she is to clean her car when picking someone up, or to tidy up her home when company’s coming over, and she wants to start focusing on providing that same loving care and attention to herself. I know a lot of you can relate.
Why are we so willing to go the extra mile for friends, family, and even strangers, but not for ourselves? Do we not feel worthy? Are we just used to tolerating the mess/energy drain/pain? Has it become our baseline?

Where do you sell yourself short? Do you add an extra errand to your already busy day to bring lunch to your husband or wife when you’d really rather not? Do you often skip your bath/massage/workout because a family member or friend called with yet another crisis?

Here’s an important reminder: You’re not the victim in any of these scenarios. Each of these sacrifices you make is a choice. If you find yourself rolling your eyes at a request and fulfilling it begrudgingly, let it be a head’s up to think about your reasons behind agreeing to it.

Give these questions some thought:

  • Is it too uncomfortable to disappoint someone?
  • Do you fear the person will get mad at you/not like you?
  • Do you define your worth by what you do for people instead of by who you are?
  • Is your tendency to always say “yes” a means of ingratiating?
  • Is dealing with others’ needs easier than dealing with your own?
  • If you said “no” more often, might you be forced to stop and look at what’s not working in your own life?
  • Who would you be if you weren’t the go-to person?

A while back, I challenged a client to disappoint one person a day for two weeks. Although she was terrified at the idea and thought I was nuts, she accepted. Two short days after agreeing to do it, she emailed me to say I’d created a disappointing monster! That she was disappointing more than one person a day. And, (this is the best part!) she wrote, “I feel like I’m living life on my terms for the first time.

Her willingness to accept this challenge taught her a lot. She learned that the consequences of saying no weren’t anything like she had feared. Most people accepted her response just fine. Those who voiced their disappointment simply gave her the opportunity to sit with her discomfort about that.

By knowing she had to say no at least once per day made her take a close look at how she spent her time and who she spent it with. She began evaluating the items in her calendar in a whole new way. She was surprised to notice how many coffee dates she agreed to with people she’s not terribly excited to spend time with (or may even dread being around!)

She also learned that by saying yes to so much was, in essence, saying no to herself. This reality was a bit shocking and eye-opening for her.

It’s true. All those yeses to others send a loud and clear message to yourself that everyone else matters more than you. Pretty shitty, eh?

When your soul feels neglected or tossed to the bottom of your priority list, it’s gonna find ways to get your attention. Things like anxiety, ticker tape of negative messages running through your head, illness, body aches, and heightened stress are just some of the fast tracks it’ll take.

The secret is to hear your soul’s whispers before they become screams, and that’s pretty hard to do when you’re running around taking care of everyone else.

So here’s my challenge to you: For the next week, pause and evaluate each request of your time, knowledge, skills, or resources. Ask yourself, “Is this something I really want to do/agree to?” Try to catch the very first answer that pops up — that’s the voice of your soul.

Even if you don’t yet feel ready to start saying no, this pause alone begins to send a message to yourself that you to, in fact, matter. Cuz guess what? You do!

Now I want to hear from YOU! Are you willing to accept my challenge? Think you may take it a step further and start saying no? What excites you about the idea? What scares you? Let’s keep the convo going in the comments section below.

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  1. This is an awesome post, and so timely for me. I answered yes to every single question. I feel constantly drained of energy, hardly any of which has been spent looking after my needs. If ‘putting everyone else first’ was an Olympic sport, i would be a multiple gold medal winner. I am genuinely terrified, but i accept the ‘disappoint one person every day’ challenge. Gulp.

    • Yahoo, Karen! So glad you’re taking on the challenge. Let’s get you a gold medal in disappointing people! Please let us know how it’s going….


  2. The timing could not be better. I have started implementing the “I am no longer a people pleaser” method. Like any bad habit that needs to stop, I found this to be the most difficult. I too, accept the ‘disappoint one person every day’ challenge.

    If what I am about to tell you will help another person, then I am happy to share. I am 50, and I have spent nearly that many years trying to please others. In February of this year, it finally caught up with me. I had a mini stroke and ended up in the hospital. This is when I woke up!!! It truly hit me that, if I did not get help and ended up with a disability or dead, I would be of no use to anybody. Aha! I was the selfish one all along, because my inability to say no has done more damage than good! Everyone has their own journey to fulfill and indirectly, I was getting in their way!

    Your teachings Kerri, finally hit my soul. I agreed and understood your teachings all this time…in my mind! Now, it has become a part of me! Thank you so much for all you do. Your sister is right, you are a great coach!

    Love & Blessings,

    • Cathi,

      Thanks so much for sharing your story (and for your very kind words). I know it’ll help lots of people. It certainly helped me! I’m glad to read that you’re taking on the challenge! Give us an update when you can! (Or you can say NO to that request! lol)

  3. This post was just what I needed this morning Kerri, thank you! My Dad died back in March, and as executor I have been gathering his belongings and liquidating assets–all the stuff that needs to be done to finalize his estate. IT’s been complicated by the fact that my step-mother is a pack rat, and has about 100 boxes in her basement filled with she-knows-not. She thinks I ought to travel 500 miles to her house and spend a few days to go through them, in order to make sure there’s nothing of Dad’s in there.
    I’m fairly certain that I’ve already gathered everything of value because my Dad was an organized person and would not have packed anything that mattered to him in an unlabeled box. So I have refused, because I feel that my step-mother is trying to get someone else to do her purging for her. But I also have compassion toward her, recognize her difficulty in letting go and I’ve been feeling guilty that i have refused to help….
    Your post reinforced to me that her boxes are not my problem or my responsibility. She has her own children and friends who can help her with this, and I need to take care of myself and my many legitimate obligations. Thank you, Kerri!

    • Jill, I’m so sorry for your loss. In this difficult time comes a wonderful learning opportunity — for you to stop running to people’s rescues at the expense of yourself. Her boxes and stuff are not your problem, and, in fact, by getting involved is actually interrupting her spiritual journey. So, your not going to help is really a win/win, even though your stepmom may not be able to see it that way just yet.

  4. I have taken your challenge and as an ex-people pleaser I have no problem saying no, in fact I say it quite often. My life before your challenge was not good, I would do so much for others that at times I would literally burn out and need bed rest. It wasn’t worth it and I was only doing and not living, hence I’ve noticed the family/friends I pleased no longer call, guess that says it all.

    • Powerful point, Kate! Congrats on taking on the challenge, and very interesting and sad (though not surprising) that the recipients of your over-giving have disappeared since you began making yourself a priority. While it’s possible some of them may circle back around, you sound pretty darn solid in the new dynamic that your relationship will take. Brava!

  5. The title of this piece is “Do You Really Matter”. Over the last year my relationship with my mom has been awful, I have wanted for so long for us to sit down and talk things out and she would have none of that. I have tried endlessly, my little girl within wouldn’t let it go, born under the sign of Cancer I can be so emtional, somewhat needy, stubborn and have a huge heart, so yes, this was important to me, but traveling around the same mountain with her, I got nowhere, still feeling the resentment and anger at her. Finally just a few days ago she asked if we could talk. OMG! Of course, when, really? I was so excited, my prayers were finally answered she was willing to talk to me and work things out. But wait, at our sit down as I waited to hear she was sorry for her part, she takes a deep breath and says after much thought she has done nothing wrong. What? Did I miss something? We didn’t talk about anything, the bottom line she will never take accountability/responsibility for her actions. To say I’m devestated is an understatement. I will make peace with this and move on as the eternal optimist that I am and I do matter to me, maybe I don’t feel like it right now but I will get there.

    • So sorry your conversation with your Mom didn’t go as you hoped, Kate. There’s always that little girl inside of us who gets really hurt when she doesn’t get what she needs from mom. Think about how you can give your little one what she needs directly. While it’s not the same, self-parenting can be an exceptionally loving practice that soothes a lot of wounds. Sending love.

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