Like millions of people before me and the many who will follow, somewhere along the way I picked up the idea that pleasing people was the key to my happiness. Yes, like the typical people pleaser, I believed that meeting other people’s needs, expectations, and wishes, was somehow going to meet my own needs. What I failed to realise is that people pleasing runs counter to having good self-esteem and being able to be happy.
My needs are my needs for me to meet. Other people’s needs are their needs for them to meet. That and “NO” isn’t a dirty word, the sky won’t fall down, and we have two hands for a reason – why overfeed others and coddle them while starving and neglecting ourselves?
Let’s be clear about what people pleasing involves so as not to mix it up with doing stuff for others just because and yes, occasionally inconveniencing ourselves to help somebody out.
People pleasing while there’s no doubt that it ‘helps’ others at times, it’s not really about ‘help’ or ‘giving’ in the genuine sense. People pleasing is about suppressing your needs, wants, expectations and basically your values, in order to please others, which in turn you hope will lead to attention, approval, validation, love, plus there’s the underlying motive of hoping that if you do all of this stuff, that you will get to avoid conflict, criticism, disappointment and basically anything that you deem as unpleasant and disapproving.
The more that you people please, is the dimmer your inner voice gets and after a while, you lose your sense of self. This is why I hear from people of all ages who have no clue who they are because they’ve spent their lives being the servants of other people’s avoidance and ego stroking.
You also end up inadvertently running into integrity issues because when you prioritise pleasing others, you also adjust your thinking and behaviour to be and do what you think will lead to pleasing. You’re not showing up as you and even when you attempt to do so, if you so much as think that there’s a possibility of conflict, criticism or disappointment, you’ll off you in two shakes of a lambs tail.
People pleasing is a mix of passive and passive aggressive behaviour, something that most of us don’t like to admit to, especially with the latter. Assertiveness, which is representing your needs, wants, expectations and basically who you are with respect is very different to aggression, which is representing these and obtaining them by force. The average people pleaser mixes up assertiveness and aggression due to negative associations likely garnered in childhood plus aggressive people also please themselves to the exclusion of and detriment of others, so you can see why we can mistakenly end up believing that anything other than being a doormat is ‘selfish’.
The passive aggression kicks in because people pleasing always has a hidden agenda and even if you don’t recognise it at the time, you sure as hell will recognise your agenda when you acknowledge how bloomin’ pissed off you feel with people whom you’ve pretty much bent over backwards to accommodate.
When you suppress your identity and basically subsist on a crumb diet to accommodate others, it’s with this idea that, Hey, I’m not voicing my true opinion and I’m letting you cross boundaries. The least you could frickin’ do is give me what I want and appreciate everything I sacrifice for you.
Whenever I talk with angry people pleasers, one of the greatest sources of upset is that they’ve pretended that things were OK and ran around doing all of these things, all with this belief that it would mean that they couldn’t or wouldn’t be criticised, that these people had no reason to act badly or leave, and that when they called in a favour, that their efforts would be reciprocated.
When you people please, you end up with a gradual build up of anger. You become a pressure cooker that’s been left on the hob and eventually you explode. It’s either that or the anger gets turned inward because you don’t allow your feelings and thoughts to come to thesurface; you don’t allow you to express anger, which incidentally is a healthy emotion, because you don’t want to run the risk of disapproval. You may even feel guilty and ashamed for feeling angry, as if ‘good people’ or ‘worthy people’ just take it all lying down. Conversely, you may also feel ashamed about how you’ve represented yourself and blame you for the actions of others, forgetting that yes you could represent you better but their actions are their own.
What I can tell you is that you can’t be a people pleaser and have healthy self-esteem. It’s gotta be one or the other. Choose wisely.
Genuine giving and help doesn’t have a hidden agenda. If you wouldn’t give or help or do any of your people pleasing stuff if you didn’t think that you were going to get some form of approval, validation, change in the other person’s behaviour or whatever your agenda is, halt.
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