I’m a recovering people-pleaser. There, I said it.
I found out that I was the text book definition of a people-pleaser when I realized that I was very uncomfortable to share with anyone how I was really feeling, especially if my boundaries had been crossed. By working through these emotions, I realized that it was uncomfortable to me because there were a lot of unknowns floating around in my head, such as:
– Will this make them uncomfortable?
– Will this have a negative impact on our relationship?
– Will I feel guilt?
– Will I be judged?
Historically, I’ve always held in my real feelings. I’ve been called a “stuffer,” as I’ve been known to bury my emotions until they all come out all at once (typically in the form of tears, go figure). I’ve cried alone in the shower, on long solo car rides and anywhere else that no one would know. Don’t feel sorry for me—this is just to provide you with an idea of the extent that I was “stuffing.” I’ve now realized that, in doing this, I was sending myself a message of lies that said: “Your feelings aren’t valid and don’t matter. They don’t deserve to be shared—keep them to yourself, don’t feel sorry for yourself and move on.”
Let’s just say doing that doesn’t feel good and typically leads to resentment. It also prevents true connection by holding back vulnerability.
I’m certainly not an expert or a professional in this field of study, but through my journey to conquering the people pleasing habit these are the 10 lessons I’ve learned along the way (in no particular order):
1. Other people’s happiness is their responsibility. My happiness is my responsibility.
There is nothing wrong with you if you can’t make someone happy. *Read and repeat*
2. Know your worth.
Knowing your worth is very personal and has nothing to do with anyone else.
3. Confrontation is healthy, and at times necessary.
One of my favorite sayings is “If you avoid conflict to keep the peace, you start a war inside yourself.” —Cheryl Richardson
Confrontation isn’t anything anyone loves to do. It takes courage and, when done constructively, I’ve learned that it can be encouraging and healing.
If you want close and meaningful relationships, it’s absolutely necessary to make your authentic voice heard.
4. Stop looking outside of yourself for approval—start looking within!
I think this is the toughest habit to overcome—we all want to be liked and validated.
Instead of seeking validation from others, ask yourself first.
5. Let go of the weight of worry and acceptance.
Have you ever heard of the saying that the body doesn’t forget? Worrying can cause emotional and, even more importantly, physical distress. I’ve learned to live by the saying that “other people’s bricks don’t belong in your backpack.”
Those that are sensitive and caregiving typically tend to carry the greatest amount of other people’s bricks. I have to consistently remind myself to refrain from picking up other people’s backpacks full of bricks. There is no benefit, and we have the power of choice.
6. You are not responsible for the reaction of others.
And they are not responsible for yours. Period.
7. Don’t apologize—It’s not your fault.
Most of the time, as a people-pleaser, saying “I’m sorry” is a habit. However, it’s a habit that reinforces that you should feel bad about saying no or not doing something or some perceived reaction. I’ve learned the importance of not being in a constant state of apology and I’ve seen my self-confidence in my decisions grow leaps and bounds.
8. Set clear boundaries—and follow through.
Setting boundaries is one of the toughest actions for a people-pleaser like myself. My lack of having clear and concise boundaries has caused quite a bit of hurt to myself over the years. I’ve learned that, even when some people try to push against my boundaries, it is important to keep them firm. Keeping my decisions clear by saying “I don’t,” instead of “I can’t” has closed down potential boundary pushers much more quickly and made the interactions more concise, with less confusion. I continuously remind myself that we give people permission on how to treat us by what we allow.
9. Realize you can’t be everything to everyone.
You cannot be everyone’s friend, problem-fixer, mentor, companion, confidante, middle-of-the-night-talker, soundboard, soulmate, ego booster, opinion-giver, wine pourer, yoga buddy, movie date, coffee date, understander.
Not everyone will like you. You won’t like everyone.
10. Label your feelings.
Identifying how you feel diffuses their charge and lessens the burden they create. The pits in our stomachs, pressures in our chests and tightness in our throats are useful signals for us to know when something isn’t right for us or that a boundary may need to be set.
I say that I am a “recovering people-pleaser” because I still haven’t got it all figured out but I’m getting there, slowly. I give myself a lot of grace, knowing that habits/patterns are hard to break. The advice I’ve been given that I want to make sure to pass along is to start somewhere, and take your time.
If you have also struggled with people pleasing and have any more tips/advice for those of us still on this journey, I would love to hear them!
As many of you know, it’s a long path to get here but worth the effort of every step.