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Why being a People Pleaser isn’t good for your self-worth

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Is it the most wonderful time of the year..?

“The one good thing about this whole #ruleof6 thing is that Christmas will be less of a nightmare for me.” So said one woman in a rather loud voice when I was in a café the other day. I was sat waiting for my Mum to arrive, so thought I’d sit and listen – there wasn’t much choice not to! “Well, I think you make a rod for your own back. You don’t need to have them all over – there are so many with all their kids too, but every year you cave and round they come. You should let them do it one year,” answered this woman’s friend. The Christmas host then proceeded to say that her house is neutral ground and if one of her kids hosts the day, there’s usually a falling out and she doesn’t like that at Christmas. “How can I say no? They expect me to do it. Besides, I like making everyone happy, it’s my job as their Mum.” she said. Thank goodness my Mum arrived at that point because I was halfway off my seat and ready to go over with some Winning Edge wisdom.

This lady sounded like a classic People Pleaser. People Pleasers find it incredibly challenging to say no to requests because they fear rejection or at the very least, appearing to look selfish or rude. I know I have been a People Pleaser in the past and needed to work hard on my thoughts around this. I have written before about when I moved to the crunchyside and my husband commuted to the Big Smoke whilst I was at home with a 4 and 2-year-old and a newborn. So desperate to meet people because I missed my sister and friends whom I’d left behind, that I joined the Pre-school committee, the school PTA, became a school governor and I helped to run a Christmas event in the village. If asked during copious meetings if I would read through and check a multitude of policies, sell raffle tickets, email companies for prizes etc etc, I would always say yes. Back then, when I absolutely detested baking, I even offered to make a cake for a cake stall. That was the one and only time I did! I so wanted to meet people, make friends, fit in and feel like I belonged. But I think all I achieved was being a doormat and being known as the person to ask if you ever want anything done. I thought if I said yes, I was being kind and helping people. If I said I couldn’t do something, I feared being overlooked. Man did I need to do a lot of work on my self-esteem back then…

Give me love

Doing good deeds for others, keeping the peace in disagreements, not voicing your view and apologising to resolve a situation even when it’s not your fault are all traits of a People Pleaser, yet none of this is going to make anyone feel happy, or like you any better. If a People Pleaser is liked because they do anything that's asked of them, it’s based on a falsehood because they’ve not been true to themselves – on one level they have because as humans we always do what sits most comfortably with our values but, are those values and thus our thoughts about ourselves and the resulting emotions, serving us well? It’s a common mistaken belief that doing things to please others will have the end result that we’ll be liked them. It doesn’t always pan out like that.

Let me explain… We can do and say things which can have some kind of influence on someone’s thoughts and feelings and it’s important we’re aware of that, but we cannot make anyone think or feel anything. Just like no one else can make us think or feel anything.  Our thoughts are our own responsibility; ergo, we cannot make anyone feel happy. That’s of their own and our own volition, based on how they or we, choose to interpret the incoming data. Someone might find our intentions wonderfully kind and generous, whilst another finds it over the top and nauseous. Our words and actions cannot make anyone inherently happy, that has to come from them.

As a People Pleaser, the need to keep everyone happy, to avoid conflict by agreeing to everything, doing anything to avoid upsetting others and not setting healthy boundaries of what they will and will not do, is to their own detriment.

Some unscrupulous types will take advantage of a People Pleaser's need to make everyone happy. A People Pleaser will be treated by others the same way as they treat themselves, in other words what the People Pleaser reveals to be ‘acceptable’ behaviour, others will act in accordance.

Are you happy to be stuck with you?

What is at the root of People Pleasing? Why do some people constantly think it’s their job to do what they can to make people happy? Why do they load their plate up by saying yes and agreeing to everything that is asked of them?

No one is born with this need. Of course, we all have certain propensities but this type of behaviour is very often learned, reinforced by events in our lives or comments by those who have a great influence as we’re growing up, maybe a partner, work colleagues or peers – these can all have quite an effect if we’re at a low ebb and are not challenging our thinking process.

Our thoughts overtime, unless challenged, form an auto-response to how we think, feel, act and behave and these responses become a way of life - a subconscious ‘habit’. For example, the knee-jerk response of saying yes to something, then later wishing you’d hadn’t or apologising when you knew it wasn’t your fault.

Very often, being a People Pleaser is due to a lack of self-worth. It’s wanting to be accepted, to be liked, to be loved, yet not actually feeling worthy of it. If that acceptance and love is achieved, it’s very often on a superficial level because you feel the need to keep on keeping on otherwise that person will reject you. 

A People Pleaser may frequently have thoughts along the lines of:

  • ‘I don’t want to burden them with my problems.’
  • ‘If I’m not there for them, I’ll disappoint them or they’ll leave me.’
  • ‘If I make a mistake, they’ll think I’m stupid.’
  • ‘If I disagree with them, it’ll just create conflict.’
  • ‘If I have just one more… it’ll stop them thinking I’m boring.’
  • ‘As long as it makes them happy, it’s ok, I’ll get my chance another day… Hopefully’
  • ‘If only I knew how to get out of this event without upsetting them.’
  • ‘If I say no this time, they might not ask me again.’

Do you relate?

If so, are these current thought patterns serving you well? Your thoughts and emotions are in a habitual loop influencing the results you currently have, and so it’s about intercepting this loop and making a conscious decision to have intentional thoughts which will create new neural pathways. By consciously thinking these thoughts, you’ll build yourself a new motorway as it were, of thoughts in your brain – new routes of thinking that will improve your outcomes. You’ll begin moving the needle towards attracting more of what you consciously want – perhaps a life with less stress and anxiety, less fear and conflict, more confidence and fun, a higher self-esteem and self-worth, healthier boundaries with friends and family to name a few. You may even create a new weekly habit of treating yourself to some guilt-free ‘me’ time!

Try these actions to improve your self-worth:

  • When you recognise thoughts, which veer towards People Pleasing, take a deep breath and ask yourself: 'What can I do right now to be kind to myself?'
  • Say no to someone. If it feels difficult, you could say: ‘It isn’t against you, it’s for me’.
  • Take a stand for something you believe in. Allow your opinion to be heard.
  • Create an affirmation to repeat daily such as: 'I attract love and kindness into my life', or 'I have the courage to walk away from things which are not serving me well.'

You truly deserve great things so it’s important to start seeing yourself as the kind of person that deserves great things. Each step you take will help you to build your confidence and you’ll allow yourself to be you and to feel comfortable being you, rather than a version you think everyone else wants. It’s vital you feel worthy of your own happiness, rather than trying to create it in anyone else.

Take this quiz to discover which personality trait you’re currently leaning more towards, and learn a simple 3-step strategy you can begin implementing today to start bridging the gap between where you are now, to where you want to be! Share it with your friends and family too!

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