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  • Christof Zellweger

Saying Yes when you should say No?

Have you found yourself doing any of these?

  • Taking on that big task even though you're already swamped with work? Sure.

  • Saying Yes when you want to say No and then be upset with yourself for having betrayed your own better judgement? Yep.

  • Hang out with friends or join your colleagues for after-work drinks even though you're in desperate need of some alone-time? Of course.

  • Not asking for a raise because "that's pushy" and they'll increase your pay when you deserve it? Mhmm *sigh*.

Does it often feel as though you are putting in more than you get back? And as a result, have you experienced frustration, resentment, bitterness or hidden anger, directed at others as well as yourself?

Sound familiar? You're not alone!

If you are anything like me, you have agreed to things in the past that you actually didn't want to. You said Yes because, likely, you see yourself as a "nice person", and "nice people help out" - or some similar sentiment to the same effect. And, it feels good to be there for someone in need and to support them through a rough period. Also, it has likely been quite a successful strategy for building strong social bonds and getting along well with your co-workers, family and friends.

If coming close to the niceness of a door mat is also not your highest value and life goal - read on!

What do you believe - really?

We all have an identity: the set of beliefs, characteristics or feelings that distinguish you from other people and make you You. The beliefs we hold true of ourselves can have all sorts of positive as well as negative consequences, among other things they define what we can, cannot or will and will not do.

"Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right." — Henry Ford

Your beliefs control a large part of your behaviours. And the totality of the beliefs you have of yourself form an important aspect of your identity which is how you experience and perceive yourself.

One such perception I keep observing in my own behaviour - especially the more painful side of it - is that of the Nice-Guy, i.e. always empathise with other people, behave altruistically, avoid confrontation and have a lot of compassion. To be clear, it's not a show or having ulterior motives in the back of my mind - this just comes very natural to me. Yet, there are also less-than-positive and challenging aspects of such conduct (also check out my Instagram post a while back on this topic).

As I started noticing tangible negative effects of my constant niceness, including saying Yes when No was my first gut-instinct, I started digging more into my overly compassionate and cooperative behaviours. As a result of that journey inward, a very interesting set of beliefs and rules came to light:

  • Level 1: "If you can help, you must help. Nice people help. If you don't, you will feel guilty and bad."

  • Level 2: "If you're not nice, people will leave you and you will be alone."

  • Level 3: "If you're alone, you're not whole."

Now that was quite the revelation! Especially that last rule came as a bit of a surprise. How is that for creating a blueprint for constantly denying your own needs and desires, putting others first and yourself last, and not standing up for what you want?

What struck me as well is the escalation of seriousness at each successive level, acting like a multi-level firewall to prevent any conceivable break-down of the Nice-Guy persona.

Level 1 is about what one ought to do and emotional consequences in case of failure to comply.

Level 2 ups the ante by suggesting that not behaving properly will result in a situation which you cannot control, therefore making it likely for a sense of helplessness to emerge - who in their right mind wants other people to leave them?

And then at Level 3, you'll find the fiercest and most insidious defence against any remaining "wrong-doing", a direct attack on your intimate sense of self, suggesting a deep-seated lack of wholeness.

The most challenging realisations are also the most freeing

And now what? What do you do with such a realisation? Is there action to be taken? Or is the mere realisation of these previously unconscious beliefs enough to make a different choice when finding yourself in a situation where your Nice-Guy-belief gets you into trouble?

My experience has been: it depends, and it's not always obvious which is which.

Taking yourself serious enough to really question your beliefs, and thus face part of your shadow and unconscious, is not an easy bridge to cross, nor should it be done haphazardly. But it's also a necessary part of the process to move forward and transform a piece of your personality in such a way that you can confront obstacles more courageously.

The challenge lies in finding the right mix of seriously contending with what is real, raw and present, and a sense of curiosity, openness and light-heartedness without which life would become increasingly less enjoyable.

Once you take the red pill and strap in for the ride, there is usually no going back. Looking at your own driving forces can be revealing but also disrupting for a moment. You will be required to adjust an image that you had of yourself that might not be very flattering, more likely it'll be embarrassing which, of course, can be upsetting or even scary. That is the price you pay for your situation to improve.

Often the most challenging realisations are also the most liberating and freeing.

“Your success in life can be judged by the amount of uncomfortable conversations you are willing to have.” — Timothy Ferris

Sometimes having your beliefs brought up from the depths and into the light is sufficient for you to change. Their far-reaching influence over your life comes into view in one big flash, allowing you to trace back a lot of your past troubles and behaviours. Realising what was just uncovered, you let go of your old ways in an instant, never to look back.

At other times, transforming your thoughts and beliefs takes conscious effort over a prolonged period of time. Their simplicity, yet vicious effectiveness are both marvellous and horrifying at the same time. It requires practice and courage to explore unchartered territory. Especially when it's not yet confirmed that the new ways of being end up giving you a more desired result. It also extracts a certain level of faith and stoicism to push through the inevitable small setbacks that come with trotting new paths.

All roads (hopefully) lead to Rome

Going back to the revelatory beliefs from earlier, the coach in me wanted to take these beliefs apart, integrate and transform them into something more useful. The nerd and philosopher in me wanted to understand more deeply how these correlate to my personality and behaviour.

Just as the Roman empire had built roads that would eventually lead back to the great city, I ventured to approach these mental rules from two different angles to see what further wisdom I could gain from them.

What I have found is that both angles and perspectives have provided very useful and important insights into how to experience an improved quality of life as a result of changing my ways. #agreeableness #mindset #beliefs

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