I have definitely come a long way when it comes to this people pleaser lifestyle. I am a lot more confident in myself now, even though I still have my struggles and slip ups from time to time, just like any other human being. I feel that at this point in my life, I am more than ready and already well on the way to ditch the bullshit, throw out the masks I put on, and the feelings associated with having to be someone that seeks validation and needs to be liked. It's been a long process and I am pretty pumped with how far I've come. It's a great feeling and it's only getting better from here. Side note: I love helping other people and coaching clients that are going through similar issues. I know this topic and these feelings all too well and I am grateful to be able to guide others along their journey. So if this is something you have gone through or going through, I hope this helps you. This isn't much of a "5 things to help" kind of blog today. I just wanted to write some shit down and let it out. It may jump from point to point, but that's just how it's flowing. So here it goes.
I have two definitions of a people pleaser. The one I used to identify as something positive and the other is the one I use now. The former was one that I used to believe was a good thing. To be a people pleaser meant that I was being kind, being there for others, being helpful and being a good friend, family member or coworker. The latter, is one that I see as being somewhat selfish, not being kind, avoiding conflict to feel better about everything (which can be controlling) and also having a low sense of self-worth. It's harsh and it draws a really big line in the sand, I know. You may even completely disagree with me and that's totally fine. It's just something that genuinely helps me when I'm slipping into that side of the sand that makes me doubt who I am and my capabilities and making this differentiation brings me back to where I want to be. Where I want to be is in a place where I am someone who is confident in saying no to something when I sense that it will drain my energy. Where I want to be is in a place where I am so damn comfortable in myself that I don't feel that FOMO or that need to say YES to whatever or whoever it is so I don't miss out. Where I want to be is in a place that when I do "miss out," it's because I'm taking care of myself and not letting the overwhelming feelings take over. Those overwhelming feelings tend to be things like: limiting beliefs that I'm falling behind, no one will like me anymore if I don't go, people will be mad if I don't do something, they will all talk negatively at the gathering if I'm not there, I'm not worthy. Gah. I'm honestly cringing as I write that down. There's something so entirely self-serving in that when I read it back. You can't control those kind of variables and you shouldn't be allowed to control how someone else perceives you. Let people think how they want of you. Avoiding conflicts within relationships only causes conflict within yourself. So long as you're being your true authentic self, the negative opinions or beliefs that others have of you won't even matter. When you live your truth, the rest falls into place. It really does.
I never truly knew how draining and painful being a people pleaser could be until I felt it all weigh on me. Pouring out your cup all the time without filling it up isn't a great feeling. The exhaustion, the overwhelm and constantly searching for the mask to put on that shows you're not tired, you're not drained, and your cup is full. Why bother doing something if it's just going to further drain you? What help are you truly being in that state? Another point here to add in this people pleasing post, is that when you constantly try to fix things for people, say yes to things to try to make them like you, and try to smooth things over inauthentically, you're not only hindering your own growth, you are hindering theirs. It's not fair of you to essentially manipulate the situation to make things all smooth just so that someone likes you and so that they aren't uncomfortable with whatever they might be dealing with or need you for. Smoothing things over with people pleasing ways to try and avoid a potential conflict isn't going to be helpful either. Let them feel what they want to when you say no. You can always be there for someone with empathy and sitting with them in their mess. You don't need to fix things, but you can be a comforting shoulder. Fixing the situation for them holds them back from their progress, sets uncomfortable and blurred boundaries, isn't too kind on your part at the end of the day and also sets you back in your progress.
As I read this back, I want to make sure I'm being clear with my message and that I'm not saying you should never be there for people. I love people, it's my career and it's also just who I am. I love being there for my friends and family, strangers and clients. Help whoever you want to and say yes or no to whatever you want to. All I'm saying, is that you don't need to say yes to everything and you can't possibly please everyone. For me, personally, I need to go through an assessment process sometimes. Not all the time, just sometimes. Those are the times when I feel myself cracking a bit. Like my personal container has a dent in it and needs to be repaired. Repairing that is something I can only really do by resting, taking care of my own needs, putting myself first and treating myself like my best friend. When I'm feeling that way in my little decision-making process of whether I should say yes or no to something or someone, I need to figure out what this is for. Who is this for? Is this for me or is this for someone else? I then break that down - is this to make myself feel better or for someone else to feel better? I break it down further - is this to navigate my own discomfort and uncertainty in hoping I can please someone else and have them like me, or is this to genuinely help someone in their time of need? I want to ensure I am being my best possible self for myself and for others. It's not a perfect process, but whatever helps, right?
Drawing some firm boundaries is the best way to go. The people in your life that truly matter and love you will respect the hell out of your boundaries. I know I do. I love when my friends and family have boundaries and I respect them so much. I can sense and feel that love, worth and respect they have for themselves and I think it's awesome. If someone does happen to get mad or whatever if you say no to something, then that may be a relationship you need to reevaluate or at least have an open conversation about with that person. Writing down the things I do and do not want, the things I will and will not put up with, and the list of things I am not willing to negotiate really helps me identify what is important to me, my core values and also shows me how far I have come. It's a helpful task that I like to check in on from time to time to see if the list has changed at all. Seeing your growth in this setting is a beautiful thing.
If you are reading this and resonate, please know you're not alone and please don't beat yourself up about it. It's a process and progression isn't linear. Ups and downs are inevitable, and that's what makes the journey worth it in the end. You have a kind heart, your intentions are not bad and you come from a good place. It's now time to find that kindness and compassion for yourself and to find your own sense of worth on your own, without the validation of others. Ask for what you need. Tell people how you feel. Let them in, be vulnerable and let others be there for you, too. You can say no, you can say yes, you can say whatever the hell you want. Be open and be so authentically you. People love you for YOU, not for what you do for them all the time. Feel the discomfort of saying no. And don't worry, it doesn't last forever. It's temporary because feelings are not facts and this will fade, but your new defined sense of self with boundaries will shine on. You're not responsible for how others feel, you are allowed to be honest, conflict is temporary and no one will dislike you for saying no. Know that you are awesome and worth it.
Take care and be well,