It might be the double latte talking, but I'm totally fired up right now; I want to shake my people-pleaser self, look her in the eyes and tell her to STOP. STOP TRYING TO MAKE EVERYONE HAPPY ALL THE TIME!!
You can either go (emotionally) broke running around trying to please everyone, or you can spend your time creating, living and being AUTHENTIC to your own needs and desires. This is not new information -- I'm sure countless blog posts exist on this topic (including my own Stop Auditioning for Other People's Lives), but it's time for a reminder.
This post is a letter to myself. Believe me -- I am not up on a high horse...I am laying underneath one about to get trampled if I don't turn this issue around! This post is also dedicated to any other "givers" out there (or Type 2/3 Enneagrams) who naturally get satisfaction from giving and making others happy.
A people-pleaser gets her wings
It started in Elementary School. I was a quiet, shy, fringe girl. I wore spandex shorts, baggy t-shirts, and Doc Martens. I wasn't the pretty one or the popular one, but thankfully by third grade I had landed on a solid group of friends. Or so I thought.
We ate lunches together for months until one day they stopped talking to me and started pointing and laughing instead. Turns out the ring-leader of the group had bribed them all to STOP being my friend, but only after ALSO bribing them to entrap me into gossiping about her behind her back so she could later use it against me. "We never liked you, anyway" they all cackled during the lunch break in which they revealed the whole scheme.
From that day forward, I think I subconsciously decided to make it my life's mission to never give someone a reason to turn on me. To impress, charm, please and befriend everyone I could so that I would never hear those dreaded words again; so I'd never have to watch my friends turn their backs on me (or stab me in mine).
Combine that with an ENFJ personality type that thrives on helping, teaching and serving others, and well -- we are ripe for a major approval-seeking vulnerability!
It shows up in the pettiest, stupidest ways . . . all the way to much bigger fears and insecurities:
- Worrying sometimes that if I don't reply to every tweet, blog comment or email that people will never write again...or worse, decide they dislike me because they interpret my non-responsiveness as bitchy
- Worrying that if I don't say yes to all plans/requests or have a "good reason" for saying no, that I will massively offend the person asking (even if I have no energy to do said thing and would probably be a drag anyway)
- When I haven't heard back from someone, wondering if I've done something to anger or offend, then over-analyzing until I do get some sort of sign that they don't hate me
- Accepting less-than-ideal behavior from people I date because I don't want to rock-the-boat by speaking up (even though when I do, I ALWAYS feel better)
- Wondering, after some social interactions, if I've "met expectations" or not -- and have been cheerful/happy/engaged enough, or if I've disappointed the other person
- Generally being way more lenient and understanding with others than I am with myself
The wake-up call
Although I've been making a great deal of progress over the years, I continue to learn the following lessons:
- People-pleasing is exhausting. It is inauthentic. It means placing everyone else's needs above your own.
- You cannot make everyone happy all of the time, and it is futile to try.
- You have two choices: you can spend your time worrying about other people, or you can bravely follow your own wants and needs.
- The universe rewards backbone.
- IT PAYS OFF to stick up for yourself, to say the hard truth, and to make the hard choices about where to spend your time and attention.
- It pays off in sanity. Ease. Lightness. Sense of self. Confidence. Clarity. And cajones.
- You are no good to anyone if you run yourself ragged trying to please everyone.
- Start with yourself so that you can give back (with gusto!) to those in your life who are worthy of your precious time, love and attention.
How to turn your attention inward:
- Author Brene Brown suggests making a list of five Most Important People: "the short list" -- of those who really matter in your life, or as she puts it, "would help you move a body." Keep that list in your wallet, and when you ruffle feathers or do something that invites "haters" out to play, ask yourself what the people on your short list would say. If they're on board, not much else matters.
- In her book, Steering by Starlight, Martha Beck suggests using a "shackles on" versus "shackles off" approach. Does this request/person/action weigh you down and feel tiresome or draining? Or does it feel exciting, energizing and uplifting? Whenever possible, make decisions based on the latter. Homework: over the course of the next week, ask yourself whether things feel shackles on or shackles off BEFORE making decisions.
- Another book that I've found extremely helpful on this topic is Byron Katie's I Need Your Love...is That True? How to Stop Seeking Love, Approval and Appreciation and Start Finding Them Instead. As Katie puts it (paraphrasing from memory): "If you are worried about someone else's business, and they are worried about their own business, then who is looking out for yours?"
- Free E-course by Martha Beck Certified Coach Amy Pearson called "I Don't Need Your Approval." Pearson lists six steps for overcoming approval addiction: mindfulness, compassion, analysis, courage, vigilance and "enjoy!"
How do you scale back when you realize you're people-pleasing or worrying too much about what others think? How do you reframe fear of rejection or the fear of letting people down?