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For most of my life, my desire to please others drove my behavior and my choice of words or the lack of them.
I carefully avoided confrontation due to my agreeableness…and my silence, choosing to play small rather than upset anyone.
What I eventually learned, way later than I should have, was that people pleasing kept me from being who I was meant to be. Sure, I didn’t “rock the boat”…but I didn’t rock my life either. In fact, for many years, I lost important aspects of myself, all because of a fear of disappointing someone else.
Can you relate?
People pleasing is very common, especially among girls and women. If you routinely seek to please others, rather than yourself, check out these six tips for going beyond people pleasing.
What is People Pleasing?
People pleasing is the behavior you adopt to avoid disappointing others, upsetting others or attempting to meet the expectations of others. Kindness and courtesy are desirable traits, however people pleasing is a lessening of who you are to fit within the acceptable parameters of someone else.
It’s a great way to avoid confrontation and conflicts. And also a great way to lose yourself. You can’t live as your authentic self when you constantly change how you act and what you say or refuse to say, based on what you think someone else wants.
People pleasing is energy draining. Focusing on what others expect or want means you aren’t focusing on your own desires and needs.
Try the following ways to shift away from people pleasing.
“I lost myself when I learned how to please.” Glennon Doyle
Get to Know Yourself
You are told to love yourself. It’s not that simple. I found self love impossible to do before accepting myself. And I couldn’t accept myself until I really got to know myself, in a deep way.
Small children know who they are. Just watch a toddler at play. She isn’t trying to figure out what others expect of her or trying to please. She’s simply being herself as she explores her world.
By the time that same child starts school though, she’s learning to adapt herself to others in order to make friends, to keep friends, to receive praise from the teacher or parents, to avoid conflicts. That’s when people pleasing starts.
Know yourself. Use journaling or voice recordings to get beneath all the layers you’ve built up over the years and REALLY get to know yourself again.
What makes your heart sing and your face light up with anticipation? What brings you great joy, no matter what anyone else says or does? And what did you love doing as a child that you stopped doing as you grew older? List your strengths and gifts, your quirks and superpowers. And list your flaws too. You are all of these things. They make up your unique personality.
Once you’ve spent time getting to know yourself again, THEN you can accept yourself, just as you are. Self love follows. And then, you know. “This is me…with my gifts and quirks and abilities and desires.” You become unwilling to forsake yourself to please another.
“We forgot how to know when we learned how to please.” Glennon Doyle
Find Your Voice
To stand on your own truths and beliefs, rather than on another’s, you must find your own voice.
So…what do you believe? It doesn’t have to be what everyone else you know believes, nor the same as your best friend or your family. What are your key beliefs and values, the rules you live your life by?
It’s helpful to write your own manifesto, to uncover what those beliefs are. Find tips for writing yours HERE.
Once you know what you believe…then you learn to speak up for yourself and those beliefs. Trust me, I know how difficult that can be.
The greatest harm I’ve done to myself and to others, is to remain silent when my voice is needed. Silence is perceived as agreement. My silence through much of my adult life eventually led to living out of alignment with who I am. Carrying the burden of silence seems justified when people don’t like what you have to say. However, it is so crucial to find your voice, to express your thoughts, and stand up for yourself.
Speak your truth. Don’t let others belittle you and your beliefs. Walk away from conversations you don’t want to have. And, make new friends. It’s okay to let people go, those who discover that the real you isn’t to their liking. Remember, you are no longer trying to please them.
“We can stop asking what the world wants from us and instead ask ourselves what we want for our world.” Glennon Doyle
Once you know who you are, know what you enjoy and use your voice to express your beliefs and values, you’ll find it necessary to set boundaries.
People who are used to you going out of your way to please them and do what they want, may continue to manipulate or place expectations on you, to meet their needs.
It’s not selfish to know what you will and won’t allow in your own life, and what you will and won’t do for others. Of course you can offer help to someone in need, if you choose to and it aligns with who you are. And, you can decline to help, go out with friends for an evening, have people over or have coffee with others. If it doesn’t feel like the person or activity is in alignment with what is important to you, don’t do it.
You don’t have to volunteer for every project, repeatedly stay late for work, babysit for the neighbor or be the mom who always organizes the class parties. If it feels like others are taking advantage of you, it’s time to create or re-establish boundaries and protect your time and energy.
“Anger delivers important information about where one of our boundaries has been crossed. When we answer the door and accept that delivery, we begin to know ourselves better. When we restore the boundary that was violated, we honor ourselves.” Glennon Doyle
Learn to Say No
Connected to establishing boundaries is learning to say no. And I get it…this feels very difficult, saying no to people who are used to hearing yes. Feeling like you disappoint people for not agreeing with them or their requests is uncomfortable.
If you are asked to do something you don’t want to do, say no. If someone makes fun of another person or a whole group of people, say no and walk away. When someone is unreasonable in his or her requests, say no. If a task or project feels unfulfilling, say no. Saying no and meaning it is part of knowing who you are and caring deeply for yourself. You only have so much time and energy to give to others and to tasks. Saying yes to too many requests uses up that precious energy.
And, you don’t need to offer excuses for saying no. A simple, firmly spoken “no” is enough. You don’t have to justify why you answer the way that you do.
“Sometimes being brave means letting everyone down but yourself.” Glennon Doyle
Stay True to Who You Are
After doing the sometimes challenging inner work of freeing yourself from the need to please others, stay absolutely true to who you know you are. You are a powerful, amazing, creative, compassionate bearer of light and truth. No one can take that from you.
Learn to go within and listen to that still small voice that continually reminds you who you are and why you are here on Earth. Journal what you hear. Write down thoughts, feelings, dreams and plans.
Trust what you know is true about yourself and let that guide you in your dealings with others and in your actions. You stop pleasing others not by changing who you are but by knowing who you are and staying true to what you know.
Sometimes fear arises, attempting to drive you back into people pleasing mode. “What if no one likes the real you?” fear whispers. “You won’t fit in anywhere,” fear threatens. Go beyond fear with these tips. And stay true to you.
“The people who build their truest, most beautiful lives usually put pen to paper.” Glennon Doyle
Spend Time Alone
Another reason that you might feel tempted to please people is so that you are not alone. Loneliness, in my opinion, occurs when you aren’t present with yourself, rather than when you aren’t with others. People pleasing to insure you are surrounded by others ultimately doesn’t help to ease that feeling of aloneness.
When you focus on who you are and what you enjoy, you are present with yourself. When you focus on your present moment instead of a past that cannot change or a future that has not happened, you are present with yourself.
Learn to enjoy your own company and thoughts. Spend time doing what you love, what brings you joy, what encourages growth and expansion. The more you learn to please yourself, the less you desire to please others in an unhealthy way.
Schedule times of solitude and use them for self care, having fun, meditating, pursuing an interest, enjoying a new experience or doing absolutely nothing.
“Then I built a life of my own. I did it by resurrecting the very parts of me I was trained to mistrust, hide and abandon in order to keep others comfortable: my emotions, my intuition, my imagination, my courage.” Glennon Doyle
Are you a People Pleaser?
Unlearning my people pleasing tendency took years, and I still feel the pull toward it occasionally.
Was it easy to stop trying to please everyone except myself? No. Did people cheer me on? No, most did not. I let many people go and limit contact with others.
Do I believe it was worth the effort? Oh yes. I’m happier, healthier, more confident, less anxious, at peace with who I am and what I enjoy doing. With my energy more focused on what I desire to do, I find exciting opportunities come to me frequently. I never feel lonely or unworthy or unwanted. I’m exactly who I am and doing what I love. Gratitude is my foundation…Joy my companion…Adventure my traveling partner. I feel centered and settled in my soul. Life, truly, is good.
Are you a people pleaser? Do these tips inspire you to take the steps toward breaking free? Have you found other practices helpful for saying no to the expectations of others? If you feel so inclined, share your journey in the comments below.
The quotes in this post come from Get Untamed: The Journal. With a subtitle of How to quit pleasing and start living, I highly recommend the journal and the companion book, Untamed, to all those ready to stop people pleasing.
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