My name is Stephanie, and I’m a recovering people pleaser. Self-awareness is a really weird process. You begin to recognize the “why” behind about everything you do, which creates some mixed feelings. We tout that self-awareness is the key to change, which it is, but we sometimes forget to mention that it can be a lonely place if others in our lives remain unaware. It’s an amazing process that can help us grow or, if we misdirect that awareness, turn us into codependents trying to fix everyone else while forever being disappointed because for some reason you just can’t make someone else change. 🤔 But that’s a whole other post on codependency that needs to be written!
Under the big umbrella of self-awareness, one can recognize so many things about themselves. Today, I’ll share a few ways in which people pleasing may present and then discuss some methods to become a little more balanced while remaining nice, setting appropriate boundaries, and understanding deeper meanings behind our behaviors.
People pleasers will often say they want other people to be happy. They take pride in putting themselves last, like a badge to be worn. It’s good to be selfless because then you aren’t selfish, right? People pleasers have trouble setting boundaries because, yanno, stating your needs may make someone mad. People pleasers hate to cause someone else to feel negative emotions. People pleasers make excellent employees and business owners! They say yes to any request. They stay late to finish projects. They are nice to customers. They will take on 5 people’s work and although they may complain a little, they’ll find a reason to keep doing it. The customer is always right. In general, people pleasers have trouble telling people “no”. They often live in a state of resentment toward others wondering, “why don’t people recognize my limits?” Why should the people pleaser have to say something out loud? Others should just know how stressed out the pleaser is. They hold their own emotions in not wanting to offend someone. They avoid arguments like the plague.
Do any of these sound like you? If so, you may struggle with people pleasing. The above characteristics are the visible parts, but let’s dig deeper. What is at the core of your people pleasing? It can be a few things! Is it fear of abandonment? That people may leave you if you say no or set boundaries? Is it a belief that you can’t handle negative emotions? Does the thought of upsetting others make your head spin? Is it a coping mechanism to protect a deeper, often child-like, part of yourself that experienced rejection or pain? Because “logically”, if you don’t cause someone to feel negatively, then they won’t reject you. Get to the core of people pleasing!
I will discuss some strategies, but I do want to mention this. There are some great therapy tools I use to get to the core of issues. If there are those hurt parts that have developed from your previous experiences, we can work to shift your beliefs about those events rather quickly actually. If you have the belief that it’s not okay to have emotions, of course, we must shift that belief first. But anyway, on to strategies!
Like I said earlier, the key is self-awareness. Self-awareness combined with mindfulness techniques can be a magical approach to handling when people pleasing opportunities present themselves in the future. Have you ever been in a heated conversation and the next day you think, “dang it! I should’ve said…” Mindfulness can help you take those breaks in the moment and help you respond better rather than having that “I wish I’d said” moment. Also, EMDR therapy can help you unfreeze, but this blog isn’t about that. Maybe I should explain these concepts so you don’t have to google my therapist lingo.
Self-awareness is being able to observe your thoughts and feelings in the moment. Rather than being so wrapped up in anger over the driver who cut you off, you can do this: “My hands are getting hot. I feel tension in my legs. I’m gripping the steering wheel tighter. I have a desire to flip someone off. Im thinking about how this is an unenforceable rule, and I’m getting angry that I can’t enforce it.” And so on. It’s basically taking a step back, having the emotions you need to go through, and working your way through them. Over time, the emotions do pass.
Mindfulness is focusing on the present moment. It is finding joy in the every day, seemingly mundane things. It’s immersing yourself, being fully present, in whatever you are doing. Not multi-tasking. It can be a beautiful experience watching your kids playing, looking at the stars, or even choosing your favorite colors and smells at the fruit/veggie section of the grocery store!
Once you have those skills mastered you can begin to change your actions (by first changing your thoughts) because you are taking note of your thoughts and feelings. The next part is shifting your thoughts. Here are some examples:
Myth: I’m selfish if I tell someone no without a good reason.
Fact: I’m practicing healthy boundaries and preventing burn out by saying no, even without a good reason. To people who are not people pleasers, it is not considered selfish to set boundaries (it just feels selfish to us because people pleasers are too far on the nice spectrum).
Exercise: The next time someone asks you to do something (that you don’t want to do), simply say, “no.”
Myth: I’m responsible for other’s feelings.
Fact: I can deliver messages respectfully, but I’m not responsible for how others feel about what I say.
Exercise: Tell someone how you feel. Remind yourself that healthy people communicate their feelings respectfully, and sometimes those are upsetting feelings. Honestly, if someone upsets me, and I tell them, I hope they would feel bad and do the adult thing of accepting their part/apologizing if needed. That’s healthy communication and resolution (reduces resentment too)!
Myth: I must be nice to everyone always!
Fact: I can be nice AND set boundaries to avoid being walked all over. I can stand up for things I want.
Exercise: When someone asks you where you want to eat, tell them ONE place. Ultimately, you nay not go there, but you did speak up for what you want. 👏🏼
Myth: I can’t inconvenience someone.
Fact: It’s okay to ask for help. Many people like to help others. If you don’t ask for help, you are denying them the blessing of being helpful.
Exercise: Ask for help in an area you would typically take on yourself. See what happens! If it goes poorly, try it again on someone more helpful! 😅
Myth: If I don’t do what they want, they’ll end our relationship. (Called catastrophizing) Also them leaving might be a good thing if it’s an abusive relationship.
Fact: I don’t always have to do what others want if I don’t want to.
Exercise: When you catch yourself assuming the worst, ask yourself, “what is the best case scenario?”
This last one really hits on the point I made earlier about those hurt parts of ourselves. Which leads me to my next point. After shifting thoughts, see if your actions begin to change. If they don’t, you may have a deeper hurt part of yourself to work through; this level may require the assistance of a counselor. As always, Anchoring Hope provides counseling services to those in Virginia via telehealth or in-person to anyone wishing to travel to Wise (yes, you could live in another state and travel to our office for on site therapy). For easy reference, our # is 276-298-5034. You will reach me, Stephanie (aka another recovering people pleaser, so you know I’m nice ), when you call. 🤣
Now that I’m finished, I’ve thought of a million other excellent points to this conversation. Just call me and schedule a session. That seems easier at this point. Lol!
Disclaimer: this blog was written over a series of 3am feedings of my baby. If any part appears a little crazy, I blame the sleepiness. If you think it’s fabulous, thank my son. 🤪😁