If you’re too much of a people-pleaser, here’s how to fix it
Thursday, July 11, 2019
Are you a people-pleaser? Do you have a difficult time saying no?
Do you put others' needs first and yours second? Do you have a difficult time being honest about what you want or need?
You’re not alone. We all do it to some degree. Because we are part of a family, a community and a culture, there is a lot of pressure to fit in, conform and not rock the boat. Problems surface when people pleasing leads to chronic self-neglect. This can lead to resentment, high levels of stress, and depression due to feeling disconnected with oneself.
This level of self-neglect points to a deep lack of self-worth. Essentially, when you continually organize your life around others’ needs, you and your needs become invisible. It’s not that you don’t have needs, but you deny and suppress them all in the name of getting others’ approval and keeping the peace.
When you don’t speak up for yourself and others see you as easily saying yes, they believe that you a large capacity to take on tasks and give to others. They may even assume that this it is your preference to over-give.
This can put you in a position to be taken advantage of, manipulated, or worse, abused. While you may imagine yourself being perceived as being good or nice, others may see you as a pushover or a doormat.
This can become a pattern, and it can feel daunting to change it because it feels normal, even if it’s also harmful. These simple steps can help you move in a new direction:
This may sound simple, but if you’re used to putting yourself last, it will take some practice. Ask yourself, "What do I want? What do I need right now?" This way, you can factor your own wants into a decision rather than ignoring them.
Before making any decision, especially when it involves doing something for someone else. Take some time to reflect on the decision.
In fact, don’t answer requests for your time or energy right away. Instead, respond by telling people you need to think about it and you’ll get back to them.
Be willing to disappoint others.
I know, this is a tough one. Just thinking about it can make you feel uncomfortable.
However, it may be the only way for you to be true to yourself in a given situation. If the people around you are used to you frequently saying yes, it may take them a while to adjust to hearing you say no.
Take the initiative and start filling up your life with relationships, activities and situations that are nourishing and life-affirming for you. Eventually, your life will be so full of joy that when you do decide to say yes to a request, it will come from an authentic place of feeling fulfilled. Giving to others flows naturally from this place.
Set healthy boundaries.
You lock your home and your car to protect them from being vandalized. You can do the same with your time, attention and energy by setting healthy boundaries. Learning to draw lines in your life that bring you a feeling of peace and safety begins with the simple act of saying yes when you mean yes and no when you mean no.
From there, it means clearly communicating about your needs. Speaking of boundaries, there’s an excellent book called "Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life" by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.
This quote from Eve Ensler articulates the issues with people-pleasing quite well: "I finally know the difference between pleasing and loving, obeying and respecting. It has taken me so many years to be okay with being different, and with being this alive, this intense."
Or this quote from Jim Carrey: "Your need for acceptance can make you invisible in this world. Don't let anything stand in the way of the light that shines through this form. Risk being seen in all of your glory." Or, finally, this one from Aesop: "In trying to please all, he had pleased none."
In the end, the decision to stop putting others first is yours. You can move from fear and insecurity to peace and confidence by really listening to, and honoring yourself, and your needs.
It may feel awkward and scary at first, but ultimately, it will feel a lot better than the isolation and aloneness that come from not feeling authentically connected with yourself and others. Beyond that lies an entire world of experiences based on healthy choices.
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