Making others happy makes many of us feel awesome; it's great to know that you made a positive impact, however small, on someone's life. But there's a difference to being a kind human and being a people pleaser. The latter can be a curse and sometimes you're totally unaware that you even are one. So what makes a people pleaser? Do you find yourself putting other people's needs before your own? Maybe you're a high achiever who doesn't want to let anyone down? Or perhaps you just really want everyone to like you? If any (or all) of the above sound like you, you could possibly be a people pleaser.
Developing people pleasing characteristics can start as early as childhood. Psychology Today reported on the idea of parent-pleasing, which leads to a child becoming a people pleaser in adulthood, "Feeling obliged to forfeit a vital chunk of themselves to garner a more secure place in the family, they determined to subordinate — or squash — essential needs of the self. Renouncing the expression of many of their thoughts and feelings, needs and desires, they resolved to tow the family line. Experiencing this abdication of self as a necessary sacrifice, they made it willingly... and rarely looked back. After all, giving up part of who they were was still far better than feeling forsaken by--or bereft of--their own caretakers."
If you're aware that you are a people pleaser, here's how you can put an end to it today — or at least make a start.
1. When Someone Says, “Jump!” Don't Automatically Ask, “How High?”
Unfortunately, people pleasing can have the opposite effect that you intended. People pleasers crave appreciation and want to be liked; they see their self-worth through the perceived opinions of everyone else. Marcia Sirota, author, speaker, coach, and MD, explained in an article for the Huffington Post how people pleasing can go very wrong. "Unfortunately, people-pleasing doesn't work. In fact, it backfires. Instead of giving the pleaser the affirmation they desire, other people are at best, exploitative and at worst, hostile, rejecting and contemptuous toward them," Sirota said.
On the flipside, though, "...we're aware, even if only on a subconscious level, of those who are insecure and lacking in confidence. People who aim to please come across as weak and needy, and many of us are inclined to react negatively toward them," Sirota said. Turn the situation around and stop jumping through hoops in an effort to please others – it might have the complete opposite effect to what you intended.
2. Learn To Say No
Covering shifts, babysitting, or going on frequent girls’ nights out with your newly single friend all take up your time and energy. It’s not that you don’t enjoy these things, but sometimes you have to put your health, wellbeing, and sanity over performing constant favors. Sure, it feels great to do a good deed, but it may not feel so wonderful when you rested your heavy eyelids for a second and lost the chihuahua you should have been taking care of, or forgot an important work assignment. On another note, your time is your own and you don’t want to resent somebody for asking you a for a favor because of your inability to say no.
3. Say How You Feel, Not What You Think Someone Wants You To Say
When things just aren’t going right, instead of feeling like you’re going to explode with rage each time someone asks you how your day is going, don’t say, “It’s going awesome, thanks!” Be honest and say, “I’m having a really sh*tty day, but it’s nothing that a couple of glasses of vino won’t fix later.” Or even, “I really just need to lie down for a sec.” Pretending you’re OK when you’re not isn’t good, especially if you’re sick.
You also need to voice your opinion when asked for it. When your boss asks how your group project is going, instead of praising your teammates and being a happy, bubbly, Care Bear of a human, tell them the truth. This way, later down the line, if you didn’t deliver what was expected, your boss would have an idea that it was coming, or at least that James from HR spent the whole time texting and didn’t pull his weight. You get the idea: Be honest about your feelings.
4. Stop Saying Sorry
There are a lot of things to be sorry for, such as accidentally spilling coffee on someone, forgetting your friend’s birthday, or being in an inconsolably grumpy mood for no reason at all and taking it out on others. But there are also many things not to be sorry for, like asking someone to hold the elevator, not being able to locate your purse while your taxi driver waits for their fare, or almost bumping into someone on the subway. Become aware of how many times you say the “S” word during the day, to gauge how bad your “sorry” levels are and aim to drastically cut it down.
5. Stop Wanting To Be Loved By Everyone
Fun fact: Not everyone in the world is going to love you, let alone like you. It could be something as vain as your haircut, your accent, or the way you laugh — or maybe someone has strongly conflicting opinions to yours. Whatever the reason, some people can’t be won over with your charms and kindness, so stop trying.
6. Make Room In Your Schedule For You
Everybody needs some “me time" and chances are, people pleasers need it more than anyone. People pleasers spend their lives running errands, doing favors, or trying to win the hearts of everyone around them, which leaves little time for them to catch up on their down time. Everyone needs down time and IMO, rest and relaxation are human rights; without time to recharge, your mental health could really suffer, not least from being physically tired all the time. So make sure to schedule in a regular slot of “me time," so that you don’t end up burning the candle at both ends, because that’s what happens when you’re trying to live your own life and consistently help many others.
7. Be Yourself, Not A Robot Reflecting The Needs Of The Person In Front Of You
Trying to be super excited for your BFF who just received a promotion or a consoling shoulder to cry on when your sister has broken up with her partner when you have had the worst day ever is just exhausting. Not only are you already mentally drained from whatever work/friendship/romance drama you’ve had to deal with, but now you have to be on top form to assist the needs of the person you’re interacting with. News flash: You don’t need to do this anymore!
About a decade ago, I tried to be strong for my BFF and others at the funeral of my first boyfriend, after he had died in a car accident. I squashed my personal need to grieve and tried to be a pillar of strength, as I thought this was what was expected of me. Unresolved emotions always find a way to creep out and I ended up with anxiety and obsessive compulsive tendencies because I didn’t allow myself to process what I was going through. Burying grief, or any emotion, isn’t good for you, so start putting your needs first for a change.
8. Stop Doubting Yourself
Don’t use other people’s throwaway comments as a means of evaluating your entire life. So what if someone made a joke about you being late? It doesn’t mean your entire career is doomed. When you start putting less emphasis on what other people think of you and more energy into focussing on your dreams and ambitions, you’ll feel better. Haters are always gonna’ hate, and you don’t need validation from anyone.
9. Practice Tough Love
Sometimes people will subconsciously take advantage of the good nature of a people pleaser, playing on their need to want to help others. However, there are also some people who are aware that they are doing this and they prey on people pleasers on purpose. Whether someone is doing this consciously or not, you may start having to get tough with people. You can't fight everyone's battles for them, or be their live-in, unpaid maid, chef, or servant so quit letting people take advantage of your kindness and trust that they can (and will) look after themselves when you're not around. You are not a doormat, so quit acting like one.
10. Stop Being Afraid
According to LIVESTRONG, there are many things people pleasers are afraid of, ranging from “Fear of letting their friends and family down” to, “Fear of making a decision lest it be the wrong one.” As the classic self-help line tells us: Feel the fear and do it anyway. Don’t let fear get its sharp talons into you, as they are super hard to pry away once they’ve sunk in deep. Nip your fears in the bud and take advice from the new book from Elizabeth Gilbert (who also wrote Eat, Pray, Love), Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.
11. Don’t Dwell On Things
As Princess Elsa says, “I'm never going back, the past is in the past!” Stop lying awake at night, worrying if your co-worker took offense to the joke you told about her being messy, and mentally analyzing if her laugh was real or fake. It’s such a waste of your life.
Take these simple steps to free yourself from people pleasing and discover what makes you happy instead.
Images: Pexels (12)