The People Pleaser's Problem
Are you the friend, partner, family member or colleague who’s constantly available? The one who never says no and is there for every heartache or phone call? You tell yourself you’re not a real friend if you can’t be there all the time or that you’re a terrible partner if you just need some time alone.
Congratulations! You’ve made it to the (Overly) Nice People Club.
We’re not saying you shouldn’t give a shit about others but if it means having to sacrifice your own needs, it’s time to pause and reflect. Being there for others shouldn’t feel like a chore or an obligation… and it certainly shouldn’t feel like a requirement for what makes you a good person.
But why are we still so caught up in the trap of people-pleasing? For a lot of us, growing up, we were seen, praised or acknowledged for what we did and not for who we are. We were so caught up in being the good kid - daddy’s star on the field or mommy’s girl who always got the best grades - we started tying our self-worth to the things we did.
We began believing that we would only be loved if we ticked certain boxes or behaved in a certain way. So we try to be on our best behaviour, we try to please others and we carry those hardwired beliefs of how we’re ‘supposed’ to be, into our relationships as adults. And it gets fucking exhausting.
How do we unravel these thought patterns, release unhelpful beliefs and experiment with new ways of responding that sit better with who we are and what we want as an individual? The next time something comes up for you where you feel the need to say “yes”, be there or simply agree - even if it doesn’t feel right for you - take a few minutes to consider these:
1. Why am I saying “yes”?
Is this a fear-based response or one that comes from a genuine place of wanting to listen or help? Write this down and be honest with yourself:
“I am saying ‘yes’ because _____________________________________________.”
2. If this is a fear-based response, what is the fear?
What would happen if you were true to yourself? If you let someone know you can’t take on anymore right now, what do you think they would say and what part of that response scares you most?
“If I said no, I am afraid (my friends will think less of me /______________________)” and that makes me feel (not accepted / not good enough / ____________________)"
3. Acknowledge the fear and anxiety
Our anxious thoughts can lead us spiralling down a deep, dark space of unlikely events but instead of pushing those thoughts away, we need to acknowledge them.
“My fear of (not being accepted as part of the team / not having security / ___________________) is valid. I acknowledge that it comes from a belief I have developed but it does not define who I am now or my future actions.”
4. Rewrite your story with a new response
When you are ready to explore a new way of responding, try this:
“My new response is (to say no to my boss / draw the line with a friend / _________________) even though I fear being perceived as (mean / unhelpful / ______________). If I am being true to myself, (I can only do so much / I need some space / ___________________) and while I can’t control their response, I need to honour what I need right now.
It’s important to let others know where they end and where you begin.
If you are going to spend the rest of your life saying yes to others and no to yourself, this search for external validation will only lead you to swing between hopeful-highs and exhausted-lows. You are not defined by what you do for others and anyone who treats you like you are, should really be kicked out of your Nice People Club.
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