How a 'Yes Test' Helped Me Curb My People-Pleasing Ways
November 8, 2018
A few years ago, a good friend mentioned I’m a perpetual people-pleaser. He also told me such people have a lower life expectancy. And while I never checked the science behind this tidbit, it did get me thinking.
My name is L’Oreal and I’m a recovering “yes” addict.
For far too long, saying “yes” has been my default mode. You need someone to check your resume? Of course! Someone has to work late to live-tweet an event? I’ve got you covered. Need me to pick up your grandma from the airport? Sure!
I constantly prioritized other people and their needs over my own, often putting myself at the bottom of my to-do list. In fact, when Shonda Rhimes’ book “Year of Yes” first dropped, I avoided it because I knew the problem wasn’t saying “yes,” it was saying “no.”
But when I read her chapter about saying no, I had a revelation: a) “no” is a full sentence and b) saying “no” to something is really saying “yes” to something else, usually myself or a project or cause that I’m truly invested in.
Back in March, I saw a tweet from Diddy that changed my life (never thought I’d write that sentence). He wrote:
If it ain't...— Diddy (@Diddy) March 12, 2018
Making me money, making me better or making me happy...
I ain't making time for it.
It may sound harsh, but it’s true. When I told my therapist that I’d adopted this as my litmus test for saying “yes” to requests and demands on my time, she laughed, but I insisted it’d been helpful.
Let’s break down why:
Does It Make Me Money?
The old saying “time is money” is true. Time that I use attending happy hours I have no interest in is time I could be using to work on a freelance article or build up my side-hustle as a career coach. Working on these projects also takes me away from spending time with my family and friends, so it’d better be worth it.
That’s not to say pro bono work doesn’t have it’s place, but you’ve got to determine your own set of core values and when you’re willing to work for free. For me, if it aligns with my personal mission to empower women and girls, then I’m all about it. What are the exceptions you’re willing to make?
Does It Make Me Better?
Another exception to the “does this make me money?” rule is personal and professional development. When I was starting out as a public speaker, I invested in workshops and said yes to almost every request to gain experience and exposure.
When you’re trying something new, saying “yes” to opportunities to hone your craft will only help you in the long run.
Does It Make Me Happy?
This, my friends, is the most important question of them all. With this question, I usually rely on a gut check. If my immediate response upon receiving an invitation or request isn’t “HELL YES!,” then it’s a no for me, dawg.
Life is too short to do things you really don’t want to do. Now, of course, there are things you have to do as a productive member of society. But if you don’t really want to attend your second cousin twice-removed’s baby shower all the way across the country, send a gift and call it a day.
You don’t owe anyone anything. And doing something out of obligation is sometimes worse than not doing it at all.
What’s Your ‘Yes’ Test?
It’s so easy to fall into the “yes” trap of agreeing to everything that comes across your desk, your inbox, and your phone. Sometimes we say “yes” without even thinking about it because it’s become such an automatic response (or it’s what people expect).
Maybe Diddy’s “yes” test doesn’t speak to you (again, I’m still shocked that my new go-to mantra comes from him), but you can create your own “yes” litmus test.
Maybe it’s “Does it make me stronger?” or “Does it help me grow?” or “Does it make me feel creative?” or “Does it challenge me in a good way?” or even “Does it involve tacos?” Seriously—your yes test is yours to own, and so is your time.
Time is a non-renewable resource and our most precious currency. Spend it wisely.