CARLOS VETTORAZZI

A Slow Death by a Thousand Yeses: How Small Commitments Lead to Big Regrets

26 March 2024
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People-Pleasing:

It’s Not All Sunshine and Rainbows

If this was Anonymous People Pleasers, I’d start by introducing myself.

“Hi, I am Carlos, and I am a people pleaser.”

You would then respond, “Hi Carlos.”

Next, I’d share how I never turn down any requests and deceive myself into thinking that the obligations I take on are from others, but I know it’s not true.

Demands for my attention also come from social media and the Internet. Each request chips away at my soul.

It’s the humorous video, the Netflix series with 10 seasons that I can’t stop watching.

Distractions turn me into a passive consumer and ruin my chances of creating something, and I hate myself for that.

When I finish sharing, you will say, “Thanks for sharing.”

Have you ever felt the creeping dread of a growing commitment that you wish you hadn’t said yes to? Does saying “yes” feel more like a reflex than a conscious choice?

You’re not alone. Overcommitting chips away at our time, energy, and identity.

In this article, I share my brush with a “slow death by a thousand yeses” and how I learned to say no to 95% of everything that is demanding my time.

The Human Need to Connect:

Why We Crave Approval

We often seek approval and fear rejection from our social group, whether it’s family, friends, or colleagues.

Historically, being part of a group meant better chances for survival.

Early humans lived in groups and depended on each other for safety and food.

Being agreeable helped us survive by creating group peace and avoiding rejection.

The behavior of pleasing others remains deeply rooted, even today.

In the modern world, our need to please others sacrifices our own needs and well-being.

Unexpressed Needs Lead to Frustration

Caught up fulfilling others’ desires, I often found my own needs slipping into extinction.

Frustration and a sense of self-sacrifice kept creeping in as a silent testament to my neglected needs.

Expressing my needs was a struggle in itself, the fear of rejection and judgement hovering over me like a dark cloud.

Haunting memories of my expressed needs being met with criticism or dismissal added to my fear of expressing them.

Like a ship lost at sea without a compass, I often struggled to identify what my needs were or how to express them clearly.

Three Actionable Steps

Understand

What steps can you take to better understand and value your own needs and desires?

Reframe

How can you reframe social norms or experiences so that they are an expression of your needs rather than a barrier to you?

Practice

How can you overcome the fear of judgement or rejection when expressing your needs?

Disrespect for Boundaries

In the past, my self-image functioned like a distorted mirror, only offering a skewed reflection of my true self. This affected my boundaries, making them misaligned and ineffective.

Throughout the first half of my life, I constantly battled with shadows of unworthiness, self-doubt, and low self-esteem.

Without understanding myself and the root of my actions, enforcing healthy boundaries was like fixing a deep infection with a bandage.

I noticed how I perceived or understood a situation influenced and affected how I reacted to it.

My perceptions shape my realities and, subsequently, my behaviors. How I interpret and understand what’s happening around me determines my responses to those situations.

Today, I value myself and my needs.

Confident in my decisions, I say no when needed.

I manage my time and energy effectively rather than letting others dictate how I spend it.

Despite the discomfort of learning to say no, the journey is well worth it.

Three Actionable Steps

Remove judgment

Think about situations where you have found it difficult to say no. If no one was judging you, what would you have done differently?

Recognize

How can you get better at recognising your boundaries?

Maintain

How can you train yourself to set and maintain healthy boundaries in your personal life and in your professional life?

Lack of Reciprocity

Healthy relationships need balance. Constant giving without receiving causes imbalance and… yes, you guessed it, even more resentment.

Constant giving without receiving is more about the giver, not the receiver.

The challenge isn’t that people accept help offered to them, but why we keep giving when it is clearly hurting our mental health.

We all have our own reasons for not setting boundaries. For me, it was always the same monster: I needed approval, feared rejection, and felt low self-esteem.

Once I understood the dysfunctional benefits I was looking for whenever I neglected to set boundaries, I became open to changing my behaviour.

Three Actionable Steps

Identify

Can you identify situations in which you continue to give even though it is ruining your mental health?

Question Limiting beliefs

What beliefs and fears prevent you from setting boundaries or expecting reciprocity in your relationships?

Replace Dysfunctional Behaviors

What is the driving force behind this behavior, and how can you change it?

Unrealistic Expectations

I expected people to read my mind or fulfill my needs without communicating them. In doing so, I kept setting myself up for disappointment and resentment.

If I don’t identify my own needs, others will decide for me, which I dislike.

Nowadays, I communicate my personal needs and expectations effectively to others to prevent disappointment and resentment.

Three Actionable Steps

Change your Expectations

Can you think of times when you’ve expected others to have an intuitive understanding of your needs, even though you haven’t clearly expressed them?

Change your Mindset

How can you change your mindset to avoid disappointment when others do not meet your unexpressed expectations?

Change your Strategies

What strategies can you use to improve your communication of personal needs and expectations of others?

Unhealthy Relationship Dynamics

Being in a relationship with someone who is manipulative, narcissistic, or abusive lead me to experience chronic feelings of being treated unfairly.

It took me years to realize that I was manipulative, using people for approval to avoid confronting my fear of rejection.

This was difficult to accept initially. However, this realization eventually led to self-improvement. It planted the “seed” for self-love.

Three Actionable Steps

Identify your Patterns and Behaviors

Can you identify patterns or behaviours in your relationships where you have pleased others in order to gain approval?

Replace

How can you replace dysfunctional behavior with healthy ones?

Create a Measurable Plan

What steps are you willing to take to cultivate self-love and reduce your reliance on others’ approval?

From People-Pleaser to Powerhouse:

How to Stop Sacrificing Yourself

There was a time in my life when I constantly bent to the will of others.

I would always answer with a “yes” to every request, regardless of my own feelings.

Neglecting my own needs resulted in resentment, which had a detrimental effect on my mental health.

Low Self-Esteem

I struggled with self-esteem, unable to value myself and my needs. This made to be more prone to people-pleasing and, ultimately, resentment.

I felt resentment because my self-esteem relied on others’ opinions of me.

When others’ approval didn’t meet my expectations, I felt resentment.

I allowed others to dictate my self-worth, leading me to feel anger, disappointment, and resentment towards those I perceived as withholding their approval or acceptance.

Over time, I learned to value myself. This led to happiness and satisfaction, no matter what others think of me.

I find it reassuring when someone doesn’t like me, because it shows that I’m no longer pleasing everyone and I’m being true to myself.

Three Actionable Steps

Understand

What steps can you take to better understand and value your own needs and desires?

Reframe

How can you reframe social norms or experiences so that they are an expression of your needs rather than a barrier to you?

Practice

How can you overcome the fear of judgement or rejection when expressing your needs?

Finding Balance:

Demands and Resources

The concept of “Demands vs Resources” is key for me, as it provides insights into the balance or imbalance of stressors in my life.

A stressor is the root cause of stress and stress management is the techniques I use to reduce stress.

We all face different stressors, but what we have in common is that our stress comes from a mismatch between our demands and our resources.

It’s more effective to manage stressors because it tackles the source of the stress, preventing or reducing the stress response.

For example, if my workload is a stressor and I don’t relieve some of it, managing the stress will more often than not make me feel worse, not better.

While managing stress itself is important, it often only treats the symptoms rather than addressing the underlying cause.

By understanding and managing this balance, I’ve improved my mental health, self-esteem, and overall life quality.

This shift in perspective allows me to take control of my stressors instead of managing my stress.

To manage stress and stressors successfully, I had to learn to differentiate between high demands/low resources, low demands/high resources.

Three Actionable Steps

Identify your Stressors

Can you identify specific stressors in your life and categorize them as either high demands or low resources?

Identify the Root Causes

In what areas do you focus more on managing stress rather than addressing the stressors? How can you shift your focus towards addressing these root causes?

Make Sustainable Adjusments

How can you work towards finding your ideal balance between demands and resources in your life? What adjustments will be necessary to achieve this balance?

High Demands, Low Resources

This is the perfect recipe for long-term stress and burnout.

The demands I used to place on me myself were consistently high, and my resources limited. This made me feel overwhelmed and depleted.

The chronic exposure to high demands felt relentless and slowly drained the life out of me.

I’ve burned out twice from working too hard for too long, but more than anything, it clashed with my values.

We have different places we go to die a slow death by a thousand yeses. In my case, I lacked sufficient emotional resources and coping skills to meet others’ demands.

My fear of rejection and lack of self-love kept me stuck in a damaging cycle of seek approval by pleasing others.

Three Actionable Steps

Fall in Love with Balance

What steps can you take to balance your demands and resources, to prevent feeling overwhelmed and depleted?

Embrace your Fears

How can you identify and address the root causes of your fear of rejection and lack of self-love?

Develop Healthy Coping Skills

How can you develop better coping skills to manage high demands and avoid falling into the cycle of seeking approval by pleasing others?

Resources

In an ideal world, my parents would have exemplified integrity and self-respect, coaching me to create the tools to handle challenges.

For the first fifteen years of my life, my parents projected their own fears and anxieties to me. This influenced my perspective and the way I dealt with challenges and recovered from setbacks.

I became the architect of my misery, creating one dysfunctional relationship after another until I couldn’t bear to look at myself in the mirror.

My lowest point also became a turning point.

I had a choice to indulge in self-pity or change the way I approached relationships.

I realized that playing the victim was a dead-end, so I started practicing self-awareness.

I took control and respect my needs and uphold my values. Slowly, my life took a turn for the better.

Three Actionable Steps

Go to the Source

How did your parents or early relationship dynamics influence how you handle challenges?

Call Empowering Moments

Can you describe a specific instance when you felt like a victim but chose responsibility?

Honor your Ability to Respond

How does responsibility contribute to your ability to handle stress and honor your needs and values?

Low Demands, High Resources

This is not something that I personally struggle with, but with the rise of curling parents and social media, TikTok, YouTube Shorts, I’ve noticed an increase in the “slow death by a thousand yeses.”

While low demands appear ideal and our brain desires energy conservation, it leads to a lack of essential skills, decreased motivation, and boredom.

Relationships are the most important place we can go for personal development, Without the challenges relationships provide, we don’t acquire the necessary skills or motivation to strive for a better life.

Three Actionable Steps

Identify Areas

Can you identify areas in your life where you experience low demands and high resources?

Do a Motivation Audit

How do low demands and high resources affect your motivation?

Create Effective Strategies

What strategies can you use to ensure that you spend your mental energy on meaningful tasks rather than waste it on low demands?

Breaking Free from Resentment:

Reclaim Your Voice, Reclaim Your Life

The ideal state is a balance between demands and resources, which doesn’t mean eliminating stress, but managing stressors effectively.

A crucial turning point in my personal journey towards self-improvement began by reclaiming my voice.

I realised that the first step to improving my mental health, self-esteem and overall quality of life was to say “no” more often.

Every time I said no, I was regaining control over my time and energy.

Three Actionable Steps

Identify Stressors

Can you describe some of the key stressors in your life and categorize them as either being because of high demand with low resources, low demand with high resources, or a mix of both?

Determine Impact

What is the impact of stressors on your day-to-day life?

Cultivate Balance

What steps can you take to achieve a better balance between your demands and resources in order to manage your stressors more effectively?

Getting out of Resentment:

Setting Boundaries for a More Fulfilling Life

The psychological explanation of resentment is typically described as:

When we feel we have been wronged or treated unfairly, a complex mix of emotions can overwhelm us.

It often includes feelings of anger, disappointment, and bitterness.

We typically feel resentment when we believe someone has denied us something we deserve or violated our rights. This often leave us feeling hurt and stuck or unable to let go of these negative emotions.

While the psychological explanation provides detailed insights into the feelings and thought patterns associated with resentment, it doesn’t teach me anything about the root causes.

To Find the root Causes, I Focus on Three Things

Identify Needs

The first step is to become aware of my own needs and desires is to identify what’s important to me and what brings me fulfillment.

Set Healthy Boundaries

Learning to say no firmly yet politely requires unlearning of outdated beliefs and relearning of new empowering ones.

You learn a lot about yourself when setting boundaries.

Communicate Effectively

I express my needs and expectations clearly to avoid misunderstandings and resentment.

Final Thoughts

Saying no is powerful and empowering for me. It shows that I value my own needs and I am not afraid to express them. It’s a sign of my assertiveness, which is a key quality in many professional environments.

Confident people feel the same discomfort when saying no to other people’s requests. The only difference is that they don’t let their emotions dictate their actions.

It is a strange paradox to gain control of my life. To regain control, I must first come to terms with losing it.

Still, by saying no, I take control of my time and energy, rather than letting others dictate how I spend it.

Learning to say no is a journey. It’s okay to start small. Practicing builds up self-respect and the skills to manage life’s stressors.

Thank you for reading. If you have made it this far, you are part of the 1% in the world who finishes what they start.

Congratulations!

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