How to Stop Being a Pushover: 3 lessons I learnt so you don’t have to!

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How many times have you said ‘yes’ to something when really you wanted to say no?

Agreeing to help an acquaintance move house on your day off or volunteering to bake 3 cakes for the cake sale…

We’re all guilty of it and we all have our reasons for saying yes in the first place! Whether that be out of politeness, fear of missing out, wanting to climb the career ladder or the innate British inability to deal with awkward situations.

I am no different – bending over backwards to please others despite being overloaded with a million of other tasks on my to-do list.

At least I was anyway, until I decided to stop being a pushover and learnt how to say ‘no’.

Lady with hands in head in front of laptop
Lady with hands in head in front of laptop

Saying Yes to the Stress

Throughout my life, I’ve always been the person that has struggled with the two letter ‘n’ word. Whether that be in a social setting or at work, I was always putting myself last to help in the fear that somebody would feel let down by me. The truth is, I was a massive people pleaser who hated confrontation.

The place I encountered this worst was in the workplace, where the word ‘no’ just wasn’t in my vocabulary. I was in a corporate finance job, where it seemed that everybody around me was effortlessly giving 110% all the time, while I was sometimes struggling to stay afloat.

Despite my assigned project normally pushing me past my contracted hours, picking up extra side projects was pretty much expected and taken into account for job progression and promotions.

So I joined in, saying yes to almost every opportunity that came my way, no matter if I had time to do it or even found it interesting!

Soon my busy days became even busier, sometimes beginning at 8am and not finishing until 10pm at night. My diary exploded with never-ending meetings for everything I had taken on, often with actions to take away and complete afterwards.

This left almost no time to actually get any of the work done!

Whilst I was known for being a trusted pair of hands who was able to complete work on time and to a good standard, this only increased the amount of work that was given to me. They say, if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it!  

Whilst I wasn’t showing it on the outside, on the inside I was stressed, tired and burned out. I was eating 3 meals at my desk and had zero time for the gym or any type of self care. Taking a shower was my break!

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Breaking Point

Imagine you’re the captain of a sinking ship. You’re in charge of handing out the life jackets to passengers but you soon realise that you forgot to save one for yourself. Instead of causing panic, you need to remain calm for the other passengers and accept your fate. I was that captain.

Having taken on too much, I finally felt like I was drowning in deadlines, expectations and work – all whilst keeping up with the appearance of coping.

Of course this had a massive impact on me mentally and physically, as well as taking a toll on my relationships too. The ship was sinking and I was going down with it.

One day I decided enough was enough and something in me flicked like a light switch.

As people began asking me to help, I started to politely decline and let them know what else I was juggling. And guess what… nothing bad happened! In fact, the reaction I often received was ‘oh wow, I didn’t realise you had so much going on’!

As some side projects came to an end, I was able to claw back some time for myself and began to block out time in my diary for actual ‘work’ and time for breaks!

Soon enough, I was able to get back to being the happier, healthier Crissy that used to exist as I began looking after myself again.

The truth is, people aren’t mind readers and they don’t know what is going on in your life unless you tell them.

Lessons I Learnt being a Pushover

1: You can't give what you don't have

Like a battery can only give the energy it has stored, the same is true for you! By saying yes to everything, your battery is going to run out very quickly. Whilst you may think that this is fine in the short run, in the long run it’s going to affect you and what you give out.

I found that when I was a pushover and overloaded, the work I was giving was slowly reducing in quality. I started making simple errors like spelling mistakes or repeating words which didn’t look good on me or for my side projects when I handed them in.

Stressed lady in library

It’s better to give 100% to one thing than 20% to five things – for both you and the other person involved!

Stressed lady in library

2: Confrontation happens

Saying no can be awkward – I get it. Somebody has specifically asked you for help and you don’t want to seem rude or unhelpful so say yes to avoid any confrontation.

The thing is, confrontation is a part of life and the sooner you get out of your comfort zone the better and easier things will become!

In most cases, saying no to something isn’t going to lead to the other person liking you less or impacting negatively on you. Be honest and polite but remember to be firm too – you are a priority and more than likely there is someone else that can help out!

3: It's OK to set boundaries

As I mentioned earlier, people aren’t mind readers and 99% of the time, they have no idea of all the things going on in your life!

Boundary setting is an important tool that I learnt to help me understand what I could and couldn’t devote my time to. Remember that things that you say yes to are meant to be additional to your existing life.

Write down activities and things that are important to your daily life. This could be going for a walk daily or a hobby that you enjoy doing. Once you have these written down, make sure to block dedicated time in your week to do them.

You are your own person with your own needs and if these aren’t fulfilled then you’re going to start feeling very sad, very quickly. People will understand that you have other commitments and by setting boundaries, you may find that they have a new found respect for you too!


I’ll finish by saying: saying no isn’t a sign of weakness but a sign of strength. 

It not only shows that you value your time but that you also respect yourself and your limits. Don’t feel guilty for putting yourself first and letting others know when you’ve reached your capacity. 

Learning to say no can be difficult at first but with practice, you’ll find it easier in the long run! It’s only a two letter word – what are you so scared of? 

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