From early childhood I picked up a wacky belief that we are somehow responsible for each other’s feelings. I’m sensitive naturally to the moods of others so this created the perfect space for me to build a hearty life of people-pleasing. I had no idea that was the relationship skill I was practicing but it was an easy way for me to relieve my own insecurities and anxieties. The question in my head that drove me was, “how can I make you happy so I can be happy?” I carried this way of thinking into adulthood and into all of my important relationships. I had a low hum of anxiety if I thought anyone was mad at me or if I might have somehow disappointed someone. I believed I could set it all straight if I tried hard enough. I made my decisions based on what I thought would please others. I believed that other people’s well-being was more important than my own. I believed that a good Christian woman doesn’t say no. I believed that a good wife puts the needs of her husband before her own. I believed that a great mom raises perfect kids and runs a perfect house. I believed that I needed permission to make a decision or to speak up or to do what I wanted. I believed that my value was dependent on other people’s opinions of me. I lived my life for the approval of my family and for validation from my friends and the belief that it was selfish to meet my own needs before I met everyone else’s. I thought I was being kind. I thought I was being good. I thought I was being nice. Turns out, I wasn’t being any of those things.
People-pleasing isn’t nice or kind or good. People-pleasing is lying. We lie to ourselves and we lie to our family & friends. We go along with the group to stay in the group. We pretend to like things we don’t like. We say yes when we want to say no. We acquiesce and stay quiet and twist ourselves into something we’re not because we’re worried about what others might be thinking. We do things against our will. We’re tortured by the thought that someone might not like us or might be judging us. We have a deep fear of rejection and we avoid conflict at all costs. We let people take advantage of us. We drop everything for everyone to do anything. We don’t go after our own goals because we’re too busy doing what everyone else wants us to do. We apologize often and will go to the ends of the earth to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. We get our own feelings hurt easily but we’re never honest about it. We flatter and manipulate & lack confidence. We’re liars and we’re filled with resentment. People-pleasers cannot be trusted. We aren’t authentic and we lack genuine relationships. We miss out on so much. It’s a horrible, terrible, no-good habit & I don’t have one nice thing to say about it. If you’re doing it, it’s time to stop it for the sake of you and all the people you love.
Start with small no’s and honesty. It’s OK to cancel a commitment or change your mind or let your phone ring. Don’t apologize or make excuses. Tell the truth. Say yes if you want to and no if you don’t. Take care of yourself first and foremost. Be willing to be uncomfortable because for us people-pleasers this is all super uncomfortable. Let everyone think whatever they want. It’s fine. Truly, it is. Learn what you really like to do. Know your wants. Listen to them and enjoy them. Do the things that make you happy. Pay attention to your ideas and imaginations and be brave for your own sake. Hang out with the people you really want to be with. Invite who you want there. Be willing to disappoint anyone. Put your health above everyone else’s. If you’re a mama, trust me on this. The best gift you can give your kids is your own well being. If you’re a wife married to a grown-ass man, he can take care of himself for a bit while you figure things out. Tell him you’re a recovering people-pleaser. He’ll end up liking you better anyways. Be committed to you and your transformation. Be committed to honesty. You’ll start trusting yourself. You’ll see yourself in a new light from a clearer perspective. You’ll fall in love with who you’re becoming. You’ll show up for yourself and speak true words and make genuine connections. The ones who love you will be around & the ones who didn’t will have moved on. It’s fine. Truly, it is. Stop people-pleasing. It’ll be the best, truest work you’ll ever do.
To live your best life you don’t have to be good. You just have to be you.