Why Do I Say Yes to Everything?

Healthy Boundaries

Why Do I Say Yes to Everything? | Setting Healthy Boundaries
November 29, 2022 Ann Weiser Cornell

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Do you feel like you say Yes to everything, even when you’d rather say No?

It was like my “yes” was on automatic. And that absolutely got me in trouble sometimes… especially in dating situations! Looking back, I feel like someone must have been watching over me, because I had some narrow escapes, and I sure wasn’t watching over myself!

I want to share with you what I’ve learned about why I said Yes to everything, and invite you to check if some of this fits for you too.

By the way, I don’t do this anymore. Now, when I’m asked to do something, I check in with my own values and needs. If I say Yes, it’s because I really want to. It’s not always convenient – sometimes what I say Yes to is a lot of trouble! – but I don’t feel resentful or exhausted because the “Yes” is truly mine.

So why did I say Yes to everything? And why might this be a pattern for you too?

Number 1: I had no models in my family for not saying Yes to everything. 

My mother, as far as I could tell, said yes to everything that her friends or my dad asked her for. She was on a lot of committees! And she seemed to enjoy it. There was an unspoken message that Yes was the right answer to every request… for a woman, especially.

Number 2: I didn’t know what I wanted.

I didn’t have access to my own feelings and needs. I trace that back to my childhood as well, to an environment where no one ever asked me what I thought or felt or wanted. I didn’t have the skill of knowing how I felt. So in my 20s when someone walked up to me and said, “Let’s be study partners,” or “I want to be your friend,” I felt like I wanted that, too. So I always said Yes.

Number 3: I wanted to be liked.

I yearned to be liked. Being liked and being included felt like the ultimate prize. As far as I could tell, the way to be liked was to go along with what other people wanted. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t right about that, because having no wishes of my own made me a relatively uninteresting person, especially to the people I wanted to be interested in me.

Do any or all of those three reasons resonate with you? Believe it or not, that’s actually a good thing. When you know what your reason for saying Yes to everything is, you have a very good starting place for shifting that.

Let me show you what I mean with a helpful exercise on wanting to be liked…

A Helpful Exercise

First, take some time to settle in to your body and feel your grounded support. Allow your awareness to come inward, to your throat, chest, stomach area.

Second, invite “something in you” that wants to be liked so much that it would say Yes to just about anything. (Feel free to change that wording so it fits you better.)

What’s important here is that rather than saying “I want to be liked so much…” you are saying “Something in me wants to be liked so much…” Do you feel that difference?

What you’ll probably find is that when you say “Something in me wants to be liked so much…” it brings up your compassion and curiosity toward that part of you.

Take a moment now to sense what that part of you really wants or needs from being liked. Really take a moment… a quick answer is probably from your head.

And when you do sense what that part of you really wants or needs from being liked, let it know you hear it… and see if you feel a sense of release or a deeper breath.

This is a powerful step toward gaining clarity and empowerment about what you really need… and that’s what healthy boundaries depend on.

It’s pretty amazing what can change when you take the time to be with it…


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