You're a nice person, aren't you? You would give the shirt off your back to anyone who asks. And we mean anyone. In fact, the word "no" isn't in your vocabulary. You laugh at everyone's jokes, you take calls and texts at any time of the day or night, you move your schedule around to accommodate everyone else and you just love when people ask you to do things for them.
Or do you?
People pleasing may seem like a noble and hell, selfless thing, but in fact it's toxic and selfish. It's an arduous affair. It erodes the spirit and mind. And ironically enough, it doesn't please anyone at all. Including you.
Are you a people pleaser? Here are some signs that you may be people pleasing:
- You have a fear of letting people down
- You attract people who need rescuing or "fixing"
- You constantly seek the approval of others
- You have a very, very hard time saying "no"
- You have a weak sense of self and low self-worth
- You take criticism harshly and berate yourself when you get it
- You rarely if never take help from others
- You apologize often
- You are hyper-aware of the perception of being rejected
- You disdain confrontation
- You will always lend money or time, even when you are short of them
People pleasing is all about control - controlling what other people think of you. It's about trying to set yourself up on a pedestal to gain the acceptance and love of people who may not even matter to you in the end. You are attempting to stack the deck in your favour. It's control, baby. And it's a losing proposition, which costs you you.
The drawbacks of people pleasing are hugely impactful and harmful to you:
- You lose your identity - you are so concerned about mirroring others and their interests and opinions, that you never form your own, or they get lose underneath everything. You suppress your own identity to the point that you are unaware of it after a while.
- Resentments grow - in burying your own feelings and taking on the ones of others, you start to bury the feelings of anger, annoyance, guilt, grief, etc. On the outside you are all smiles and underneath you are a rolling boil of catabolic energy.
- People use you - as good as it may feel to be of use and service, you attract toxic people, people who take advantage of your "good" nature and they begin to abuse your time, your energy and your emotional stores.
- Stress - the toll of trying to be everything to everyone eventually hits hard. Your resources, time and energy get tapped out and without any self-care (you don't believe in that, right?), depression and stress creeps in. The need to keep up appearances wears you down to the point where you are no good to anyone, especially yourself.
- Lack of respect - when you act like a welcome mat, and take on everyone else's opinions and thought and rarely if ever vocalize your own thoughts, people lose respect for you. They see you only as a sounding board and nothing else. You don't contribute any sense of your own self, so they don't bother to ask you for your thoughts or ideas.
- No true friendships / relationships - when you're the go-to person for everything including shoveling other people's walkways, house sitting or helping someone move, you aren't seen so much as a person to be with as to just use. In relationships, you will be counted on to do everything - plan events, be the shoulder to cry on, etc. It will be all give and no return. That is a recipe for a short-lived relationship.
Remember that there is a difference between doing good and people pleasing. It's terrific to be of service to others and be helpful and generally be a good citizen of the world. But we also need to claim our own space, to deal with conflict, to understand and sit with negativity at times, to enforce personal boundaries, to practice self-care and to assert ourselves when the times comes. The ironic thing is that in doing all these things, we actually gain the respect of others, and more importantly, ourselves. We find our own worth and value, and that gives us confidence.
And because I love lists on this post, apparently, here are a few ways to help reclaim yourself from the cycle of people pleasing:
- Practice self-care - this is so important in your own growth and recharging. Do something that pleases you. Explore your interests. Find what flames your passions. Get in touch with what your needs are - is it exercising? Reading? More family time? Whatever it is - do more of it.
- Sift through your network - who are the people you really care about, and who are those who are just hanging about? Who are those who add to your life, and who sucks your energy like a vampire? Focus the time and energy on those who matter to you most, not who you are hoping to please for basic validation.
- Create and enforce boundaries - this is the tough one, but it's so worth it. Treat yourself with respect and create lines in the sand. Perhaps there are certain times of the day you are unavailable, or your promise yourself not to get involved in other people's drama. Start small and build up. Saying "no" is okay!
- Learn to deal with conflict - life will bear conflicts, and that's okay. Learning to understand and deal with them builds character and allows for growth. Asserting yourself in healthy ways while maintaining your integrity creates greater self-worth. Negative emotions are inevitable. It's better to accept and move through them than try and cover them up with platitudes and buckling to make things "better". Stand your ground.
- Stop explaining yourself - if you tell someone "no", don't fall into the habit of trying to justify yourself and your reasons. "I'm sorry I can't make it tonight, I have plans" is more than sufficient. The more you explain, the greater the wiggle room you create in changing your mind. Stick to your guns.
Pleasing others all the time comes at a cost, and that cost is you. Create a healthy sense of self and remember that you need pleasing too. You are worth it.