I learned how to please at very early age, in fact, I don’t remember I can only remember a few occasions when I deliberately didn’t please people.
After the thrill of exhilaration – I was left with a deep sense of guilt, then as years went by anger at the world, why did other people get to choose and I didn’t?
Why could other people be so “selfish” and I couldn’t.
What Is People Pleasing?
Because let’s be honest it sounds kind lovely, right?
My people pleasing began as a way to be gain recognition and “love” from my mother. I don’t remember but I know that she was sick after I was born, she suffered from her nerves and migraine so my first memories are of being quiet. That was being a good girl and presumably being a good girl earned me love – so I was up for that – I wanted that love desperately so I learned to be quiet.
I was also born with the guilt of knowing I had ruined my mother’s life, (whether this is true or not is of no importance, it was my truth and it dictated my behaviour). Of course, my mother never said such a thing, she would deny emphatically but I felt it and I took it on and made it my life’s purpose to make amends for my existence. As the years went by and I saw the sorry state of my parent’s marriage I wore that guilt like a horsehair shirt ensuring that I made up for it to my mum at every turn.
Here is the funny thing about “people pleaser” and this level of co-dependency – the other person doesn’t even know. Of course, they don’t – that would defeat the purpose, they accept at face value what you present and build a relationship with that version of you, then becomes a vicious circle of cause and effect.
So I set myself up very early on to take on the mantle of putting others first and not because I am or was a wholesome, spiritual being who understood the power of being of service, absolutely not! I did it because I deeply, truly believed that it was its only way to earn some of that commodity I so desperately desired. Love.
I believed this was my access point to love and as time went on – it became confusing as love.
So as I progressed and life went on I looked for every opportunity to please, first of all my mother “Ah I’ve got enough to worry about with your dad and your sister” she would say and I would know that I could make her happy by keeping my problems to myself – so I did.
You have to take sides because it is only right and wrong – I’m right he’s wrong and the guilt of knowing her unhappiness stemmed from me gave me no choice – I was a YES girl.
What did that mean? Well, it meant I didn’t develop the NO skills.
Saying no became so uncomfortable and such a mountain to climb, the stories in my head around saying no, the personality traits I mentally assigned to people who did say no, the beliefs I built to make not saying NO okay all conspired to ensure that I continued to please people, saying yes when I really didn’t want to and turning up half-heartedly or cancelling at the last moment because I really couldn’t do that thing.
Maybe society has become more enlightened or I have had the good fortune to find those who understand and respect the individuals right to be as they are, but part of my problem and a problem I see occurring frequently in my clients is that denial by people around us of our emotions and feelings.
“Oh that isn’t right they say”, “you shouldn’t feel like that,” they tell us, mostly it is meant in love, sometimes in discomfort and rarely in an abusive attempt to quash our connection with ourselves.
However what that does is it flags up a problem for us, “Oh I feel like this, there must be something wrong with me.” we say. “Feeling is bad, what will people think, best I keep those thoughts and emotions under wraps – don’t let anyone know, then they will see me for who I am, the monster with abnormal emotions – yes I’m highly sensitive and as such tend to exaggerate – but I know now I’m not alone, I spend a lot of time with clients who are in tricky relationships unpicking their co-dependency.
So what are the symptoms of a People Pleaser?
- We say yes when we mean no.
- We say yes then seethe silently.
- We say yes and get angry at them for asking us in the first place
- We say yes and go about the task with bad grace.
- We say yes then complain that no one ever takes us into account.
- We complain that these people take us for granted.
- That we are showing them a love that isn’t reciprocal.
- That we are gifting our time and it isn’t appreciated.
- We feel hurt, angry, misunderstood, taken for a fool, unloved, unappreciated, disrespected.
- We worry about upsetting them, we feel exhausted or drained around those we struggle to say no to.
- Guilt for stepping out and doing what suits you is on the other side. Oh, and confusing your fear, your feelings with their feelings. Second guessing yourself, acting upset and hoping “They” will understand without having to explain yourself, then getting mad when they don’t…. back down the rabbit hole once more.
What’s the Solution
It is so confusing, but what is the opposite of being in this state of perpetual of stuckness, where we are beholden to other people.
Identifying what not implementing strong boundaries is costing us, not just in terms of exhaustion, physical and mental, but in the quality of our relationships, the way we view ourselves, the opinions and stories we hold onto in order to perpetuate this system of interaction.
Understanding the root? Yes, it can help but break the cycle is more important, learning where you give into the easier temptation. Are their specific people, particular triggers or situations?
Understanding the cost is imperative to changing behaviour, identifying where your own unique boundaries need to be placed, learning to communicate them whilst not alienating those around you. Remember that your thoughts are just that and not believing them blindly
What happens when finding ourselves trapped in people pleaser mode – I still think it sounds lovely – I mean who wouldn’t want to please the people?
Me I desperately want to impact the lives of people, I want to improve the quality of their emotional living, but no longer at the expense of my own happiness, peace of mind and needs. That is the difference – I’ve learned I can’t pour from an empty cup, however, when I fill my cup to the brim I can meet my desire to please the people in the right way.
I can also teach them to please me, to love me and respect me as I am, no need to quash my personality, emotions or feelings on account of other people.
The freedom this brings and the depth of connection it allows is beyond anything we can obtain by marginalising ourselves for the benefit of other people. Remember whilst in people-pleasing mode these “people” we are pleasing have no idea that we are grudgingly saying yes, expending our time and energy – why would they? We are adults apparently of our own free will, if we say yes to others then surely I mean YES? Um nope what I meant to say was “No, but I don’t know how to say that, but I hope I can find a suitable excuse before x date and anyway how dare you always put me in this position, you are so selfish, you take take take and never give anything in return. Next time I’ll tell you what I think of you….. but this time I’ll seethe quietly knowing that next time I will do exactly the same.
The biggest fear now is us adults is the fear of being rejected, or making other people angry or upset – how ridiculous right? But how true, we would prefer to live our lives in misery, disappointment, anxiety and resentment that face other people’s unhappiness – real or imagined – because let’s not forget most of the times we don’t stand with ourselves are when we are believing the stories we tell ourselves.
Do you relate, is people pleasing and lack of boundaries in your relationships, whether romantic, interpersonal or work causing your distress, are you disconnecting from people or finding that they are triggering negative emotions in you? Then you will be interested in my brand New Group Program – 6 Weeks To Overcome People Pleasing & Implement Strong & Loving Boundaries.
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