Attention People Pleasers and Chronic Volunteers:

How to Make the Right Decision When You’re having a Hard Time Saying “No”

If you are reading this, I am going to assume there is a part of you that serves others for a living or at the very least, at this point in your life, it’s clear that you are more of a GIVER than a RECIEVER.

You know which you are if the very topic makes you cringe. For people having a hard time saying no, sometimes the real reasons behind our feelings can run deep.  Conscious self-reflection is one way to begin changing the habits or responses that no longer work for us.


Are any of these You? 

  • Are you uncomfortable asking for help or saying no when others want something from you (even if you’re on the verge of exhaustion yourself)?
  • The type of person who understands the value (and power) of giving your time to worthy causes or people yet feels guilty saying no?
  • A seasoned professional immersed in the culture of service and stewardship?
  • A socially conscious citizen, student or recent graduate drowning in volunteering, internships, externships, placements, co-ops and/or job hunting?
  • A non-profit employee, faithfully working to serve your local community?

No matter where you fall in the Social Helper spectrum, we all know that the very nature of serving others is a sector of society that is largely volunteer driven; in other words, HEART driven. You are often pulled or expected to do more than your job description officially requires. This also rings true if you’re responsible for others in some way in your personal life.

It’s difficult to juggle everything if you can’t say no easily.

So what do you do if more is asked of you in any area of your life?

What do you do if most of the ‘opportunities’ coming your way are in the form of giving more of your time and energy without financial compensation?

What do you do if you are a Social Helper by nature and your values push you to say YES (to volunteering) but you are simply and truly exhausted?

What do you do if you really want to say NO because you’re actually feeling burnt out, frustrated and tired of not getting heard or paid?

How do you handle another request?

Ask Yourself these 4 Self-Assessment Questions:

  1. Is it a mental/emotional battle working up the courage to say “NO” in case you disappoint someone?
  2. Do you feel you will somehow miss out on a great ‘opportunity’ if you decline?
  3. Is it easier to just say ‘yes’ when really, inside, your soul-self screams – “Seriously, again?!!!! Are you insane? Your plate is already FULL as it is!”
  4. Does your mind-self pipe in (pleadingly) to convince you – “Yeah, but it’s a good opportunity. You can put it on LinkedIn. They need your help, etc. etc. and blah, blah, blah” (insert any rationale your mind comes up with here).

Sound familiar? This definitely has been a reality for me. I wrote most of the content for this post last year when I was completely overwhelmed and had a hard time saying no myself. What follows is the advice that came through my soul-self to my mind-self. It helped me take a step back and re-evaluate my true feelings about volunteering my time, yet again. I hope my words help you too.


Let’s Start at the Beginning…..

If you take an honest look at your life (and your patterns), you can’t deny that it’s kind of always been this way, right? A tiny, little bit of people pleasing? Don’t worry, you can’t help it; you’re Social Helper remember? You’re often the person people call, text, email or request assistance in some way or another, whether at school, at work, at home or in your social circles. Maybe you get paid to do this. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you were raised to jump at another’s request. Maybe you were taught that doing what others ask of you equals acceptance, approval or even love. Whatever the reason, one fact remains; you have a hard time saying NO because you don’t want to disappoint, let down or God forbid, decline yet another “opportunity” that strangely resembles the feeling of obligation that requires more of your time (which really means more of your life energy).

We’ve all been there; someone else asks you for more. More of your energy, skills and knowledge – all FOR FREE! You’re tired of it. If this is how you feel, you’re definitely GIVING more than you’re receiving. In the meanwhile, red flags are going off inside you; you are struggling.

Your life energy is not free!

No, it is not. It’s not free at all. Your life energy needs replenishing too. It is a living entity that needs to be fed, listened to and revitalized.

So, before you say YES to yet another request on top of what you already do, ask yourself the following questions below.


Conscious Self Reflection: 

To become clear about what your soul-self (intuition) is trying to tell you without your mind-self (ego) making you feel obligated to say YES, consider;

  1. When you were asked to volunteer your time, what was your initial gut reaction? Your body never lies. It is crucial to train yourself to listen to its messages. Did you get a feeling of dread, anger or did your stomach knot up? Did your soul-self clearly say ‘no’ but your mind-self jumped in to rationalize why you should say ‘yes’?
  2. Or did it feel right? Did you immediately feel a sensation of excitement, possibility, enthusiasm or even joy? If your energy was elevated with the request, then this is a good sign it is aligned with your purpose, even if you don’t know exactly why. If your energy dipped low, even if the other person seemed pleased, this is a warning sign to consider whether it’s worth your time. In either case, pay attention to your gut.
  3. Write down a list of all the assumed positive/beneficial things about the request and then make a list of all the real reasons you honestly don’t want to. Be truthful with yourself. No one is going to see this list. Be real. It’s okay to do so.  Once you’ve made that list, ask yourself:
  • “Am I gaining any new skills out of this?
  • Have I done anything like this in the past? If yes, how did that turn out?
  • Do I need yet another experience doing the same thing I’ve done before?
  • If I say yes this time, will it be different or is this another expectation of mine?
  • If I say no, what’s the worst that could happen?”

These questions will help break down whether the request aligns with your own needs, purpose, ambitions or goals. You’re allowed to do this. Perhaps, saying yes might be good for you (especially if you haven’t done anything like it before); you could use it for networking, you might get a job out of it, add it to your resume, or learn something valuable in the process that changes your life.

Being Real with Yourself

Being honest with yourself gets to the core of what’s really bothering you about this situation. At the very least, it points towards self-analysis to get to the heart of why you consciously feel unsettled or undecided about saying NO. If you didn’t have the “people pleasing” syndrome with this request, your gut would have given you a crystal clear answer without hesitation and your mind-self does not argue with authentic conviction. You know this.

When you ask yourself “am I doing this because I feel obligated? Or because there might be a chance of getting my own needs met? Or because I feel I have to, or because I don’t want to let anyone down” you can really get to the heart of what’s at stake and make a conscious and wise decision for the betterment of all involved.

Once you take the time to really dig deep, a clear picture emerges. This clear picture is your roadmap.

You will know what to do. And, if you’re like me, you don’t have to say “No” and leave people empty handed. You can say no and give them another option that you decide you have the life energy to give.

It’s Okay to Say No

It really is okay to say no. It’s okay to practice self-care. It’s okay to not please everyone. Because guess what? You can’t. So why don’t you shift your focus towards pleasing the very person who will always be there for you? YOU!

By taking the time to be consciously self-reflective, you become more aware of your true feelings and make better decisions. At the end of the day, no matter what happens, this will empower you to be more authentic towards others.

So, get out there Social Helpers and feed your life energy!

Revitalize yourself through self-care. Write down all the ways you serve others right now, in all the little and big ways, at work, at home and in the world. Keep this list handy. Look at it each time you are faced with a decision to volunteer your precious time and remind yourself of all the ways you already give.

It’s time to give yourself the greatest gift of all – peace of mind that you consciously made the right decision, whatever that may be, because you listened to your soul-self and it always has your back! You have learned to RECIEVE!