I came upon your web site while prowling about the net; funny stuff... You made a statement about "people pleasing" that I found interesting and since I want to sound interesting and look good I was wondering if you might expound on the statement..."If you can't say no, then your yes means nothing"
For the new kids, this is the post DS is referring to wherein I broached the dreadful subject of "People Pleasing."
Firstly, thanks for the kind words, DS, and I appreciate your wit as well.
When I first heard folks share about people pleasing in AA meetings I immediately thought, "My God! Yes! That's me!" It was one of those healing moments in which something that I hadn't even known about myself was named and brought forth into the light of awareness.
Full disclosure: This is a topic I must work hard to remain objective on, as I once proposed to someone and they said yes, only to call me the next day and tell me "actually, after talking to my therapist, I realized that I didn't want to say 'yes' I was just people pleasing."
Not one of my better days in sobriety. (When people brightly chirp in meetings that "My worst day sober is better than my best day drinking!" I certainly understand and appreciate the sentiment, but I sometimes think back to that day and want to go up to them after the meeting and say, "Live a little more, honey, and then get back to me on that one." Not bitter, just bruised on occasion. Pain is the touchstone of our spiritual growth.)
Thus, my own personal experience not withstanding, I believe, as with any idea, it can be either a healing insight or a rampant justification -- and because of alcoholics' unique vulnerabilities to both fear and rationalization it is a slippery concept. Pun intended.
To answer your question more directly, I think, as it so often does, it comes back to being honest with myself, and determining if my motives are fear based or coming from love.
In other words, if I am afraid to say no, for whatever reason -- afraid of losing you, afraid of being shamed, afraid of looking bad -- maybe that's where I lose my choice, and it is about people pleasing.
But I would argue that being reluctant to say no out of a right-sized understanding of someone's need for help is not about fear, it's about compassion.
Or not saying no because we're trying to be of more service to others in an effort to walk our talk about ego smashing and getting out of ourselves is not about fear, it's about practicing the principles in all our affairs.
Or understanding that the effort I'll expend in saying yes is minimal to me, while the no would create some real difficulty for you, is not about fear, it's about relative perspective.
Those are just some examples of how I try to navigate this issue -- though to continue on would become just an exercise in word play I think.
Ultimately, if I don't have a choice, that is, if I can't bring myself to say no to something, then I didn't actually say yes, I was, through fear and spiritual sickness (synonymous, I know) coerced.
People pleasing is one of those things that can lead to deeply suppressed but powerful resentment in alcoholics, (not to mention a serious trigger for super toxic passive/aggressive behavior) so it's always been, for me, a very worthwhile thing to examine.
Again, thanks for emailing, DS, and I hope that was of some help to you in your own self examination too.