I’m often described as an extremely unselfish person. Without blowing smoke up my own behind I think this is because I’ve often fallen into the trap of trying to please all of the people all of the time.

In my twenties I couldn’t bear for anyone to think bad of me, I always strived to be as nice as possible and I bent over backwards to please, even if it meant I often ended up miserable.

I’ve learned though, that despite all of this effort, if people want to judge, they will find something to judge about. If people want to be rude and ignorant, they will be no matter how nice and accommodating I am.

I also learned that the more I tried to please, the more I fuelled these horrible traits in others. The bitch at work became a dragon, the in law I secretly despised, found ways to put me down and those close to me simply took advantage knowing I’d always be ok, and I’d put their feelings above my own.

Now, at 35, I’ve made a change. This hasn’t happened overnight with the birth of a New Year. It’s taken quite a long time, yet it’s only now I’m starting to reap the benefits.

Cut Ties with the Bad

It was almost six years ago when a councillor told me to remove certain people from my life. He was a friend, and not my councillor, that was sick of hearing me tell tales on friends that had taken advantage again and again.

Cutting the ties seemed a drastic thing to do, shouldn’t I just put up and shut up? As he explained though, the longer I held onto toxic relationships, the harder it would be to see these as anything but the norm.

He also reassured me that once I drew a line and only accepted people in my life who would care, support and respect me as much as I did them, my world would be full. It sounds like mumbo jumbo but it’s true.

It’s rare these days that I go to sleep thinking of words I should have said in an argument, scolding myself for being too weak or annoyed at something someone has said. No friend or family member has affected me so much I cry, as I removed the ones that wanted to from my life. It’s not been easy cutting ties but for my health and for the future of my children it has been worth it. They have values and ideals of friendship I never had at their age and they have an incredible network of friends as a result.

Stop Trying

We’ve all been there, whether it’s a boss, a respected figure, a sister in law or a mother in law, we’ve all started some relationship trying to be on our best behaviour.

Meeting the boyfriends family for the first time can be daunting and of course, if we care about our other half we want to make a good impression but when does this need to please stop. When can we simply be ourselves and should we expect to be accepted as ourselves or not?

There’s one particular relationship that stands out for me here. And no, it’s not my mother in law or my husband’s siblings! It was, at one time, important that I get along with this person, so I reverted to my old pleasing personality to try and do just that.

On the first meeting she looked over my head, wouldn’t make eye contact or engage in any conversation whatsoever. It was as if I wasn’t there.

On the second the same happened. On the third, she dominated every conversation and clearly cut me off when I tried to speak. This went on for years. Rude, miserable and ignorant. She never once made an effort to get to know me, I don’t think she ever asked me a question. And so, after years of trying I washed my hands and decided enough is enough. I should have made the decision sooner.

It’s nice to be nice but if the person won’t even meet you half way, what’s the point? It gives them all the power and is demoralising and sad. I’m happier since I stopped trying.

I also don’t see why it’s me that has to make the effort? If we’re to be a part of each other’s lives don’t I need winning round to? As it stands I’ve firmly decided that being part of anything that involves us getting together is moot. She hardly showed me the benefits of it. At the risk of sounding like a spoilt teen, what’s in it for me?

Don’t Make Other People’s Happiness Your Responsibility

You would never hold someone else responsible for your own happiness would you? Yet we take other people’s unhappiness personally, if it’s our job to always ensure our friends, spouse or parents are happy. Believe me, they’re capable of doing it themselves. Concentrate on making yourself happy, as they should, and then when you come together, you can share that happiness!

Don’t Do It

Do you have a particular event coming up that you’d rather not attend? Are you expected on a night out with people you can’t stand? Unless it’s essential to your work or life, cut yourself some slack and decline. No one will benefit from you being miserable, least of all you. There are ways to step out of your comfort zone. Choosing to attend an event that will make you feel belittled, uncomfortable and morose is not one of them. Choose skydiving instead.

Say No

The first time I said no to my mum she responded with, “oh!” There was stunned silence for a little while and then she said, “We don’t say no to each other in this family it’s not something I’m used to hearing.”

I was in my late twenties. I had 2 children of my own, a marriage, a house and a blossoming career. I can’t remember what she’d asked, something that was probably inconvenient such as waiting in for her washing machine repair man despite me needing to work all day too. Whatever it was it went down like a lead balloon and it’s not got any easier, saying it to anyone, but it’s always worth it. I won’t say no on a whim, I’d still rather agree, but when I do it usually saves me a lot of inconvenience!

Stop Comparing

After speaking to many men, I realised one thing. Confidence is sexier than any D cup, any thigh gap (although that was never sexy) and any flat stomach. If you love your body, everyone else will too. There comes a time when we really must stop the constant comparisons. The guilt over eating a slice of cheesecake and the inner turmoil we feel when we jump on the scales. As long as you’re relatively healthy and not morbidly obese, or drastically underweight, celebrate. Love your best bits, forget the rest as if you don’t see them, it’s guaranteed your partner won’t either!