People pleasing can feel like the normal path of living. However, if continued down a life built on people pleasing, there can be unfavorable consequences.
Many of us are taught from an early age that we should take other people's considerations before our own. This is a noble concept, but if we let this concept get away form ourselves it can easily snowball into a life of people pleasing in which we put people's in an unhealthy way before our own needs. There are many cultural implications of people pleasing. In Asian culture, being selfless is engrained in us at an early age.
Here are a list of some characteristics of people pleasers:
- Giving too much of yourself to make other people happy
- Over apologizing
- Saying "yes" when you mean "no"
- Seeking constant validation from others
- Difficulty allowing others own their feelings especially negative feelings like anger and sadness
- Taking everybody else's burdens on your own shoulders without asking for help for your own problems
- Changing your personality to match the needs of others instead of being yourself
Hold up. Isn't taking care of others' needs being selfless and being a sacrificial friend, son/daughter, partner, wife/husband, boyfriend/girlfriend? This sounds normal to me.
There are key differences between being selfless and giving too much of yourself. When we become people pleasers and focus too much on making other people happy that can lead to feelings of resentment, anger, and depression.
The fine balance is not swinging to the opposite end of the spectrum where one can become too much of an a-hole and just doing everything you want to without regard for those around you.
Find that happy medium of taking care of yourself while not giving too much of yourself.
How does one accomplish this happy medium?
Here are a few solutions to combat people pleaser tendencies while not becoming an a-hole
- Do not immediately say "yes". If you struggle with saying yes when you mean no, when somebody asks something of you the magical answer of "let me think about it" will do wonders. While you think about it assess if this is something you want to do, or is this something you want to do because you don't want the other person to be mad at you or want to say "yes" out of a guilty obligation.
- Stop caring what others think about you. Much easier said than done. However, do you want to live your life constantly pushing down your dreams and wishes to satisfy others' needs or are you ready to take the leap into understanding that what other people think about you is none of your business. This is not the same as not giving a crap about anybody and disrespecting others. It means understanding you cannot control the thoughts and judgments of others.
- Be authentic and be yourself. It's like the book titled Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken. That book title alone should say it all. Why not be who you are and embrace all your quirks and personality traits? Once you embrace it, you can then practice to show your true self to the world while being respectful.
- Praise and blame they are all the same. This one is weird but effective. People pleasing is largely due to not wanting to be criticized, but praise can have something to do with people pleasing as well. Who doesn't like being praised? However, relying too much on wanting praise from others can get out of hand if you only do things for validation from people. Accept the praise, but do not make this your sole purpose of your actions.
As a people pleaser in recovery as I call it, the road to living authentically, setting boundaries, and saying no when I mean yes, at times feels foreign. I also feel guilty, but realize that in order to have a healthy life in which I can follow my career path, I must move away from people pleasing.
It was difficult for me to start this new career path. I felt like I was letting down my sales team and family, but part of my quitting the 9-5 job to follow the entrepreneurial path was getting away from a lifelong struggle with doing what I thought was the right thing in other people's eyes. For the first time in my life I feel like I am doing what I was put on this earth to do which is to coach others that are feeling unfulfilled in their work to find work they love and find work that is their personal mission.
Working through people pleasing can at times feel like a long road. Through intentional awareness of people pleasing and taking little bits of action in your everyday interactions to break the habit, there is hope. Once you make the decision to move away from people pleasing you will begin to move towards a more authentic way of living.