The Detriments of Being a “Yes” (Wo)man
Updated: Oct 12, 2021
Note: I wrote this post about 4 months ago, but never got around to posting it. I was dealing with the initial emotions that came with graduating from college, planning my summer trips, and closing the door on a 3-year experience that really shaped the person I am today. But even after a couple months, I think the following post is an ongoing ‘problem’ I find myself dealing with, and I think it’s something we all deal with at different capacities. With that being said, I hope you enjoy it!
Overworked. Burnt Out. Tired. Exhausted. We’ve experienced it all. But, despite the restless nights, the overthinking, the habit of filling up our plates, some of us continue to take on more than we can handle. We continue saying ‘yes’ to tasks, organization involvement, helping out a friend, and hundreds of more requests even when our batteries have completely died out. So what lies behind our choice to extend our lives to every living person, place, or thing around us? Let’s try to unpack that together, shall we? ^_^
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always said ‘yes’ to any request for help. When my grandma babysat my brothers and me, I would help her clean up the kitchen after every meal. I’d grab a mini dustpan & brush and sweep away under the kitchen table. When my parents hosted family parties, I always did my best to help my mom out with cleaning or greeting guests - I felt like a mini host. As I got older, I continued to help wherever I could - drive my friends around, help them with their homework, career planning, or just be there anytime they needed someone to listen to them vent.
However, opportunities to help slowly became self-volunteering opportunities and they began to extend to people with whom I was barely acquaintances with. I no longer waited for someone to ask me for help. Instead, I’d offer them my help without a second thought. For example: throughout my college career, I was a tutor/teaching assistant for stats-based courses in the college of business. Students would come in and ask me a couple questions regarding concepts or homework problems they didn’t understand. I’d sit there and guide them through their work, but I’d offer to make them a personalized formula sheet to help them remember what we covered in our session. They didn’t ask for that “additional service”. They were there to just get their assignment done. So instead of my tutoring sessions ending within my 20-hour workweeks, I’d take an additional 5-7 hours to create extra *personally curated* content for each student who came in. It sucked. I was exhausted and left work feeling drained. The funniest (but also not really that funny) part about it is that I did that to myself. No one made me do it.
I know there are quite a few people who feel personally called out after reading that short story (& I’m not sorry about that lol). I hope that the following post, although long, will help you understand your personal ‘why’ behind what you choose to say ‘yes’ to.
A Duty to Your Community
There are many reasons why we say ‘yes’, and everyone has their own unique motivations for why they choose to do what they do. After reading through some articles online, I found a common overlap of some reasons. I’ve taken some time to think about what these reasons look like in my life, and I hope you can find some relatability in them as well:
1. The desire to be liked
Let’s face it. We’ve all wanted to be liked by others. This has started since the day that we were born. We wanted our parents to pay attention to us when we learned a new trick from gymnastics or when we got a good grade or when we painted something or when we fell and couldn’t help but cry. There are a plethora of reasons we wanted attention when we were kids. We sought comfort in our parents, family members, teachers, etc. Fast forward to middle school and where we sought attention from family/authority figures shifted to our peers. We wanted someone to compliment our outfit, hair, or how we did at the football game. The desire to be liked never goes away even when we tell our friends (or ourselves) that we “don’t care”. Because the truth is that we all do - we want someone to want us for a job, a promotion, as an athlete on a team, even as a life partner. We want to be wanted, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s completely human. But this fixation on the desire to be wanted can shift unhealthily towards someone wanting to be everything for everyone.
2. You are a natural “caregiver” type
I don’t think there’s a science to this point. I truly believe there are people out there who are naturally gifted with caring for others. I personally relate to this “type”. I naturally fall into being the “mom” of the group - making sure my friends get home safely, that they have their next meal in order, I freak out when any of my friends are remotely close to getting hurt (falling off a skateboard, bumping their head, etc.) - I personally enjoy this role, but I have found that because this is the role I take on, I say ‘yes’ to when any of my friends need help. I take more time to make sure they are taken care of before I think of myself - like most moms would do with their own children (except I wouldn’t personally know because I’m only 21, and I don’t have any kids of my own haha).
3. You see yourself in the person that you are helping (The Golden Rule)
In the past, I noticed that my reasoning for helping people was usually victim to the following mentality: “Oh, well if I was in their shoes, I’d want someone to reach out and help me too.” I believe there is a time for this kind of empathy to take the wheel, but most of the time, when we tell ourselves this, we really are guilting ourselves into helping someone. We basically shame ourselves into lending a hand. One of my friends told me a story of how he knew someone who always took notes during work meetings. He kept meeting minutes to share with the rest of the team afterwards for them to reference. One day, he wasn’t able to attend the team meeting. When he came back, he realized no one took meeting minutes and that no one ever used them in the past. He offered a service that no one asked for because he believed that since he found the notes to be valuable, that others did as well. But in the end, he realized he was exerting more energy than needed to be given. :/
4. You were taught to ALWAYS help
Growing up, many of us were taught that the polite thing to do was to help wherever/whenever we could. However, an innocent lesson has, at times, been transformed into a self-manipulative habit. Rather than the desire to help coming from a genuine place, it begins to come off as a chore or an “I should do this cause that’s what I’ve always known” type of activity.
5. You haven’t established your priorities
I believe this is the biggest reason why we say ‘yes’ to people. When we don’t have our priorities in line, we say ‘yes’ to everyone & everything. We extend ourselves to situations we genuinely don’t want to be in but have no solidified reason as to why we should say ‘no’ to it in the first place.
A Duty to Yourself
Some of us can apply all of the ones listed above, while others may have a completely different list for themselves. I think one of the root causes of why we say ‘yes’ is a lack of boundaries. When we walk into a chaotic room without any heads up as to what will happen, we easily become frustrated, confused, and even vulnerable. The same goes with saying ‘yes’ to the people in our lives. You never know when someone will ask you for help. In the same fashion, you don’t always know when you need help yourself. A lack of boundaries may stem from the fact that you haven’t grown the awareness or established what your personal needs & desires are in your life. These change ALL THE TIME, so it’s okay to be lost and confused about them from time to time. But, the longer you prolong setting boundaries, the longer you stay in a state of exhaustion, frustration, and even unhealthy relationships with others as well as with yourself.
Sometimes it’s really really hard to say ‘no’, especially to people who you want to help or to things you really want to do. But, the reality is that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you always should. You may be reading this and have already heard all of these things before. I know I have. But, we all need a wake-up call sometimes. I really needed one, and my family and close friends gave me quite a few in my last months before graduating from college.
I’m dealing with the aftermath of years of overextension, and as I’m sitting in a coffee shop with my best friend working on her homework across from me, I will honestly say that I still overextend myself after having had the wakeup calls. It hasn’t been easy saying ‘no’ to people. It hasn’t been easy narrowing my circle of people I still go above & beyond for. But in doing so, I’ve been able to find genuine rest mentally, emotionally, physically, & spiritually. I’ve been taking it day by day asking God to guide me with my decision-making and how I spend my time. Where my days were filled with exhaustion from being all over the place, my energy is now spilled in pretty finite things throughout the day. I’m still finding what time for others & time for myself looks like. I want to be everything for everyone, but I’m beginning to understand that, that’s a wonder purely feeding my ego.
So, to those of you who have/are struggling with being that ‘yes’ person, I hope you find your balance and your rest. Take care of yourselves, & I pinky promise to do my best to do so for myself as well. <3