Have you ever wondered why you always end up in a certain situation? You always pick the wrong partners or end up with the worst boss? Do you feel like you are being taken advantage of, but struggle to say no and voice your opinions? Maybe you feel constant pressure to maintain your self-image, so you suppress negative emotions and smile even when you are dying inside? You are quick to agree, even when you disagree, in order to avoid confrontation?
People-pleasing is a problem which can be seriously detrimental to our lives. It can ultimately lead to burnout and chronic issues, such as anxiety and depression.
There are different causes for this pattern that often date back to childhood. It could be a past trauma, dysfunctional family dynamics, authoritarian parents, rejection as a child, bullying at school, etc. The fact is, it has deep roots and for many people it’s not just an unhealthy habit but a way of life that they carry into adulthood.
The fear of rejection and being disliked makes us sacrifice our own needs and put others first. What we fail to acknowledge, however, is that when we sacrifice ourselves, we will be sacrificed. We end up being resentful, overwhelmed, frustrated and depleted. People-pleasing robes us of our personal empowerment and makes us feel lonely and disconnected, it makes us lose enthusiasm for anything we do and we become passive and unhappy. Not only that, but it has the opposite effect in terms of how other people perceive us. It actually backfires – instead of being liked, people often find this behaviour irritating and confusing and it leads to lack of trust and respect.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be a life sentence. We are like computers and our behaviours and patterns are the programs that we run. When we realise that a certain program is weak and ineffective, we always have the choice to change it with a different one. The starting point is having the awareness and recognising how our own beliefs and behaviours are contributing to the undesirable patterns that we experience.
There is no quick fix to people-pleasing, it is a process of rediscovering ourselves, understanding our values and priorities, shifting our focal point from the outside world to the inside world. Learning how to trust ourselves and live our truth are like muscles, when we exercise them regularly they become stronger over time. We begin to realise that we are in control and have the power to create the life we want. And when that happens, there’s no more hiding. No more time for that. We start trusting ourselves and become our own best friend, the one who always shows up and never steers us wrong.
Living from a place of strength, authenticity and inner freedom is so powerful. It increases our confidence and allows us to set firm empowered boundaries, engage in fulfilling relationships, increase our personal satisfaction and happiness, regain respect from self and others.
As a recovering people-pleaser myself and someone who helps other people break free from it, my top tips are below.
- Take time to get to know YOU again
Think about what is truly important to you. Become clear of your core values. What does your ideal day look like? What motivates you to keep going? What are the top things that make you happy? What are your biggest challenges and fears? How would you describe yourself to a stranger in just three words? Start recognising your own needs. The more attuned you are to them, the happier and healthier you’ll be. Stop expecting others to make you happy and fulfil your needs, that’s your job. Ask yourself regularly if your life choices and behaviours are congruent with all of the above.
- Learn to be assertive
Practice saying ‘no’ without explanation or excuses, even if you start with something very small; the more you do it, the easier it gets. Start trusting your instincts. Consider if you are being manipulated through flattery and put yourself first – it’s not selfish, it’s healthy. Start setting boundaries that you honour and respect; they are for you, not other people.
- Detach from people’s opinion of you
It’s not other people’s job to like you, it’s yours. Some will, some won’t, so what? What others think of you is none of your business. It doesn’t define you. Treat yourself with dignity and respect. Pay attention to your self-talk and eliminate any disempowering words. You are the one in charge after all.
It feels so good, when you finally allow yourself to be you. I love Lecrae Moore’s quote “If you live for people’s acceptance, you’ll die from their rejection”. Today is a great day to take responsibility and start creating habits that will support you in getting out of your own way. Coaching and NLP are massively powerful and can be a catalyst for profound change. Feel free to get in touch if you want to know more about how I use them to help other women break free from people-pleasing.