If people-pleasing were an Olympic sport, I would be a world class champion.
After all, wanting everyone around me to be happy is noble and thoughtful, right? If I had a dollar for every time that I did something that I didn’t want to (or have time to) do, I would be a rich woman. Who wants to disappoint or upset the people in their lives?
Not me. And I am guessing, not you.
People-pleasing is the opposite of selfish. The opposite of not caring. The opposite of “ego-first” thinking. And if we are being really honest, often times, part of being a woman ( a daughter, a mother, a sister, a wife.) Somewhere along the way of becoming an enlightened society, the definition of being female became intertwined with all of the above. At least that is the story we tell ourselves.
But then, sister, we add a lot of other things to our plate.
And pretty soon, we find ourselves emotionally and physically depleted.
With everyone else around us happy.
That “new math”, does not add up when you realize we just get one life to live. So, what do we do about it, sister?
It’s time to plan a break-up.
This is how to break up with your People-Pleasing self.
- Notice your gut reaction when asked to do something. Unless your reaction is “Heck, Yes!!” in body, mind and soul, you probably don’t want/can’t/shouldn’t say “yes”. Pay attention to the clench that may happen in your jaw, gut, or shoulders. It doesn’t mean that you can’t (if you really need to) say yes. It just means you should pause and examine the ramifications. Clamp your hand over your mouth before you say “yes” and tell the asker that you will check your calendar and get back to them. Sometimes no is easier over email.
- Assess the Asker. Is this someone who always comes to you to fill in the gaps in their lives? Do they frequently text or call with emergent needs that only you can handle? Remember, someone else’s emergency does not dictate your immediate response. In fact, you may be robbing them of learning a life-skill in handling their own situations. If you can’t bear the idea of saying no to them, defer your response. Oftentimes, this type of asker solves their own problem (or asks another) before you get back to them.
- Ask yourself, what you are getting out of it? Sorry for the uncomfortable question, people-pleaser, but you must be getting some reward for persisting in this behavior. Is it the thrill of being someone’s solution to a problem? Does the relief of your own self-imposed guilt weigh more than your freedom to make the best choices for your life? Did you assign yourself “responsible person” in their lives? Did someone else assign you this role without your input? Regardless of how you have found yourself in this position, only you can make the decision to change it.
- Ask yourself, are you “doing good” or “people-pleasing”? Ouch. That might be a tough question to answer truthfully. Start by asking yourself what is your level of responsibility in the situation. Is it your problem to solve? Do you have knowledge or experience that could help move the asker forward (and do they take the advice?) When you feel the need to people-please with people you barely know, you may have gone too far.
- Ask yourself if your own needs are being met? Yes. Here comes the old “put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others” speech. It is a good speech for good reason. If your own (theoretical) oxygen levels are dipping, you cannot make good decisions for others. It just makes sense that if you are depleted yourself, how (or why) should you be helping others in their time of need. Yes. It is noble. But nobility will only get you so far. In the end, they may be sitting on the sunny side of your assistance while, meanwhile, your own life is in shambles.
I have really begun to institute the above, and believe me, it’s not easy.
But it isn’t really that hard either, once you get used to it.
I know I will always be a recovering people-pleaser and will need to monitor my adherence to the 5-Step break up plan above. But what I have noticed is that by keeping myself in check, I am helping to steer others who are trying to people-please me into more awareness. I am paying it forward without losing myself in the process.
And that, sister, feels really good.
All my best,
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