It took me many decades to navigate my subconscious need to please others. This inner voice reinforcing the false importance of people pleasing comes up all the time with my coaching clients and myself included. We want to make other's happy, bask in the glow of being likable and respected. But many of us, women especially, spend our lifetime bending over backward, going out of our way beyond belief and saying yes to way too much. People pleasers do things they don't want to do or need to do just so people will think fondly of them. What a relief when the delusion subsides and you realize this doesn't have to be reality. You can live by your ideals and wants, utilize the word NO and still keep your friends and family. Wow! All the others can just fall by the wayside.
“In trying to please all, he had pleased none.” - Aesop, Aesop Fables
On occasion I still suffer from the “feeling bad” syndrome, but now I have strengthened my power a bit to ask for what I want. As a young Catholic school girl with an early childhood of strict discipline, often times I didn't feel like I had that power. Despite being raised with the women's liberation mindset instilled in our home, I received multiple messages from school, the world and media telling me the exact opposite of those feminist ideals. Problem is that so many girls are raised feeling shy, guilty or shamed for utilizing their innate power, it's the subliminal and overt patriarchal world we live in. Moms don't mean to instill this need to please in our daughters, but we are doing it every day!!! One of the interesting truths is that studies have shown girl athletes exude more confidence than non-athletes. Too bad I could never catch a ball. There is another way. Studies have shown that on so many levels we raise boys differently. The way society teaches, talks to and reacts to boys is quite different than that of girls. Somehow I think the percentage of “I don't give a sh*t what people think” is higher among men. I have to get my brilliant friends of higher academia to begin research to see if my hypothesis is correct.
What I do know is this.... Five consequences of people pleasing..
Consistently disappointing yourself and others...AKA Lose- Lose situation
Inner resentful feelings overflow
You become a known a a flake...AKA..Don't follow through properly.
Stress!!! Too much self-perpetuated pressure = unhappiness
Over promise religiously. Always saying YES does you NO good. What you deliver is never top quality when your heart isn't in it.
I discovered five words that have worked well for me when presented with something I am unsure I want to commit to....”I'll get back to you” or “Let me think about it.” I used to often say YES when I really meant NO. Then would do that thing I committed to out of obligation because I “felt bad.” I wasn't honest with myself and others because I didn't want them to “feel bad.” The idea of taking a breath, giving yourself a moment to gather your thoughts before answering, was rare for me. I remember going to an eye-opening Dharma talk by the Zen Master Thich Nhat Hahn. Just bearing witness to him taking his sweet time with every single thing was an equivalent to culture shock. He thought quietly before he answered a question, each step he walked flowed deliberately and he sipped tea as if it was the last delicious bite of a chocolate black out cake. A new mindset developed. Everyone is just going to have to wait. Let me think about it for a second.
People pleasing can come in many forms. An unfortunate by product of living in the city that never sleeps is that it's considered cool to be busy and unavailable. Too busy for friends? You cancel or intend to make plans, but never do. Everyone does it. I'm guilty. Not enough going on in your world? Pretend. I will never forget such wisdom given to me right after college when I was bright eyed and trying to find my way in NYC. I was assisting this stylist, who was flamboyant and fabulous, but was still hustling to make it big in fashion, though he had some emerging success. The fashion industry can be brutal and I'll never forget him telling me in so many words, “Even if you are not busy, you have to act busy and pretend you have things going on. You will never make it in this world if people know the truth during your slow down time.” In other words, letting people see you struggle will get you no where fast. At the time, his truth was not having the funds to attend certain parties. Fast forward 20 years later and he's at the top of his game. Those words stayed with me. It's not right. It really isn't, but I still see some truth in it. Like they say, “Never let them see you sweat.” This in itself is another form of people pleasing. Appeasing others for approval of your worth. It's common to save face when you are struggling rather than receive a pity party or appear less than. What do we need to feel free to bump up our authenticity? Not an easy feat. Didn't Brene Brown become famous dissecting vulnerability? Maybe dabbling in vulnerability is the way to overcome? Of course there is a time and place and the right person for all this vulnerability. But how can we shift? Slow down and take time to reflect upon the following questions...
Top Five Questions to redirect the disease the please...
1) What are the consequences of doing this action or saying something to please others when it's not in my best interest?
2) What are the repercussions if I state my truth kindly, with compassion?
3) Is there a happy medium?
4) How can I compromise with a satisfactory result?
5) What do I need to take care of myself when I receive anger, objections or disappointment?
We constantly have obligations we have to do whether we like it or not, but there are situations when it's not about right or wrong, it's just plain ol' people pleasing. This is where we need to get clarity in order to move forward. Awareness is everything. You can't please everyone, yet the most important person is yourself.