I used to be a brilliant people pleaser. In fact, I could have written a book on how to do it perfectly!
I was so attuned to other people and hyper-vigilant about anticipating their needs, I completely lost sight of what I wanted for myself.
This pattern of behaviour started as a child. Culturally, I was brought up with the idea that the essence of a ‘good’ person is to put other people’s wants ahead of my own. If I did not, then I was being selfish. And my mum was and, to a large extent, still is the same.
Today, I am no longer a people pleaser. I understand that the gains from attempting to please everyone will never outweigh the costs.
Being a ‘recovering’ people pleaser does not suddenly make me narcissistic. It simply means that I practice self-care and have healthy boundaries to make my life infinitely happier. My relationships are more equitable, and I have a peace and confidence I could not have predicted. I say ‘simply’. I realise that, of course, it does take practice, commitment, and a willingness to change unhelpful beliefs.
Before we look at ways to begin to push back and to put yourself first, let’s take a look at the three main traits of a ‘people pleaser’:
1. DO YOU PUT OTHER PEOPLE’S NEEDS BEFORE YOUR OWN?
Do you try to make others happy as a means of avoiding confrontation? Do you feel guilt when you put yourself first? Constantly trying to make others happy at your own expense is a poor way to spend your time and energy.
2. ARE YOU HYPERVIGILANT AROUND OTHER PEOPLE? DO YOU TRY TO SECOND GUESS WHAT PEOPLE ARE THINKING OR NEED?
There is nothing wrong with being kind and giving. The problems start when the focus on others is so great that our own lives get pushed down the priority list or when our self-esteem and value is dependent on other people’s validation.
3. DO YOU PRESENT THE VERSION OF ‘YOU’ THAT YOU THINK OTHER PEOPLE EXPECT?
People pleasers can lose sight of who they are, their opinions and their desires because they are so wrapped up in trying to work out who other people expect them to be. When you don’t respect your time or your needs, it’s hard for other people to.
The good news is that these are patterns of behaviour rather than personality traits, and this means we can change. Here are my tips to help you begin to prioritise yourself:
1. REALISE THAT IT’S NOT IMPORTANT THAT EVERYONE LIKES YOU
In fact, it’s not even possible and you are more than enough. There are people that you will never like, and everyone has their own set of preferences. Understand that some people will not like you no matter what you do, and that it does not matter. Understanding this simple fact can be incredibly liberating.
2. GET YOUR VALIDATION FROM YOURSELF
People who try to please everyone are receiving their validation externally. Understand that you don’t need others to make you feel good and learn to get validation from yourself. Give your own needs your attention, you deserve as much as anyone else. Build up what makes you feel good to increase your resilience and develop independent self-esteem not dependent self-esteem.
3. SAY “NO” TO OTHERS AND “YES” TO YOU!
With practice, it becomes easier to say “no” to others. When you’re asked to do something that you don’t have time to do, say “no.” And when you say “no,” you’re saying “yes” to you! By declining to commit to an arrangement you don’t want, you’re saying “yes” to spending time with your family, or catching up on your sleep, or having some ‘you time’. Know what you’re doing for yourself.
4. DEAL WITH THE AFTERMATH
Expect some negative consequences when you begin to refuse inconvenient or unreasonable requests, particularly from people who are used to controlling you. You may even experience a negative reaction from yourself, mainly guilt. Stay strong and realise that guilt is not a reason to stop looking after yourself. Once you stop being so accommodating, some ‘friends’ may move on. The people who do stay will have a new level of respect for you, and you’ll attract a new group of friends that bring more to your life. You can prioritise yourself and still be a great family member, friend, and colleague
5.DROP THE APOLOGIES
You’re more likely to feel anxiety and guilt when you’re a people pleaser, and you probably say “Sorry” far too many times a day. But you should not apologise because your priorities don’t match up with someone else’s. You have the right to prioritise your time as you see fit. Avoid apologising if you don’t have anything to apologise for.
I passionately believe we all deserve to ‘Live Powerfully’; to have a brilliant, healthy, happy life full of meaning and love, feeling powerful and flourishing. And I support women to achieve this every day.
© Kate Gare, everylife 2020