Are you a people pleaser? Or are you a recovering people pleaser?
One of the most important realisations we can come to is that we are not responsible for pleasing others. As we’re all different, it is okay to accept that no matter what we do or hard we try, we will not please everyone.
When referring to the habit of pleasing others, I do not mean not being supportive or not being there for someone who wants our help. This is about being aware of our needs and ensuring that we give as much attention to what’s important to us as well as fulfilling any obligations we have.
Being in the habit of pleasing others can become unhealthy in situations like:
- Saying “yes” to someone even though we really don’t want to, just so we can keep them happy.
- Not being willing to renegotiate a commitment we’ve made that is no longer serving us.
- Constantly attending to the needs of others at the expense of our health and well-being.
- Having said “no” initially to a request only to be made to feel guilty about it and we end up saying “yes” reluctantly.
There is a fine balance between staying true to our commitments and also staying true to ourselves.
Getting out of the habit of giving attention only to other people’s needs will require a clear intention and strong discipline initially. As we continue giving as much focus to our needs as well as others, it will become a lot easier to know what the right decisions are for us.
Here are five actions and mindset shifts we can make so that we can give as much attention to our needs without jeopardising the relationships we have developed, while ensuring that any outcomes or agreements are mutually beneficial.
- Assess your needs when you try to please others. Anything we do in life is because we want to feel a certain way. Sometimes we say yes to other people just so we can feel significant and also feel good about ourselves. However, if we’re pleasing others to our own detriment, then we have to be willing to look at what stories we have made up about ourselves, others and the world. Self-awareness is always the first step in making any significant changes.
- Be clear on your priorities. We must know what our values, visions and intentions are in life. Knowing what is really important to us will make it a lot easier to turn down requests not aligned with our priorities. One of the best responses I have learned to politely say no is, “In order to stay true to my commitments, I am going to have to say no to your request at this time.”
- Know that you always have a choice. If someone sends an email or message requesting something from us, we have the choice to respond or not. When I learned to accept that people are not obligated in any way to respond to something I have asked for, that helped me release any judgements, anger or disappointment I felt. They have a choice, just like we all do.
- Pay more attention to people’s patterns. If someone is consistently asking to be helped or bailed out, then we have to take some responsibility because we have not set clear boundaries. Once we start becoming aware of people’s tendencies, we can start making them aware of what they are doing. It can be by saying something like, “Are you aware you have asked me something similar every week for the past couple of months?”
- Create a personal policy for dealing with new requests. At one stage, I went through a whole year with a “No first, then reconsider!” policy. That meant whenever something new was asked of me (not including any professional obligations), in my mind, it was automatically a no. What that did was buy me some time to consider whether saying yes would be beneficial to all involved. That policy worked so well that I still use it today with some slight modifications.
It is important to accept that our old patterns will cause us to slip up from time to time, and that is okay. The main thing is to learn from those experiences and continue setting the intention of doing the right thing by ourselves first, then others. If we do, our need to please others will not have as much power as it may have currently. And that will be extremely freeing.
Question: What is something else we can do to break out of the habit of pleasing others?
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