Confessions of a People-Pleaser: On Advocating for your Needs and Boundaries

There is no such a thing as someone with no needs and no boundaries. I used to believe I had none or at least no right to my own boundaries because I was placed in a role of mostly serving others. Specifically, many women are raised to believe this about themselves. And yet, many western cultures have this expectation that women still need to be these boss women with unbreakable spirits. I couldn’t reconcile these expectations before the time came for me to participate in a college lecture or start my first internship. 

I knew I had to dig deep within myself to find out why I had found it so challenging not to sacrifice myself for the needs of other people. To believe that I didn’t deserve to be listened to, helped, or have my identity affirmed as friendship coach Danielle Bayard Jackson loves to say. This was clearly impacting the quality of relationships I had with potential friends, my coworkers, family, and supervisors. And it was only blinding me from the potential I had of fulfilling my dreams and of living the kind of life I desired in the end. 

I mostly talk about boundary-setting with family in the second chapter of my ebook; but I would like to expand this conversation to include friends. Family is more or less our first introduction to how relationships are formed and how people view us. Some of us may have more chaotic families than others and follow scripts that strip us all of our autonomy, but they nevertheless serve as a blueprint for our friendships and other relationships important to us. 

As the eldest daughter in my family with two younger brothers, I was raised to constantly look after others, listen to their troubles, be available for when others had urgent matters to be taken care of, and always be open to visiting and being visited by other extended family members, even when the relationship was clearly one-sided. I grew accustomed to turning to journals and talking to myself to keep me away from the true feelings dying inside of me. And to still feel alive after a busy day of being a machine.

I’ll provide an example of a time I should have set boundaries with a “friend” in college. One woman approached me as I was waiting to meet with my advisor in the hallway. She seemed like the kind of person who was over-eager to talk to any new person she could find. I was surprised that she had ended up in my English Critical Theory class. From that point on, she always sat next to me, always asked me questions when the professor was speaking, called my phone several times in a row after class hours, and even plagiarized parts of an essay of mine. What looked like flattery in the beginning started to look more and more like obsession and jealousy (and she admitted to being jealous too). I should have told her that I clearly didn’t see her as a friend like she did. I should have let her know that she was exhausting me. I needed space, but because of the scripts I was fed as a eldest daughter, I willfully gave myself away to energy vampires like her.

Never been the most comfortable in front of a camera.

This was the script I carried with me into my young adulthood. I second-guessed my intellect during college lectures, which stopped me from participating. I felt guilty from wanting to lean on someone when I felt down because my supposed friends’ problems seemed more important, and I felt ashamed for ever using my free time because it was time I could have used to do more work at home or at the office. We all play roles in every aspect of our lives, but we have to decide what roles are depriving us of our humanity. How can we all get what we need without sacrificing ourselves and/or other people? That is my ultimate question. 

It requires a lonely journey to arrive at the answer simply because we live in a world that encourages us to treat each other like slot machines and less like humans. We all have a responsibility to show up for those we care about and hold them accountable when our boundaries have been crossed. Communicate openly and honestly, respect each other’s right to personal space, and learn the art of self-reliance because that will surely come in handy. It first starts with acknowledging we need things from others and learning to fulfill those needs in a healthy way.

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By Daeli Vargas

Daeli is a recent graduate from the City College of New York with a BA in English and a publishing certificate. She is from the Bronx and is very passionate about all things literary. She hopes one day to publish many books of her own and share her passions worldwide.

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