Why Your People Pleasing Helps Nobody
Many people with social anxiety tend to be people pleasers. A people pleaser is someone who is overly concerned with making sure the people around them are happy, often to the detriment of their own happiness.
I’ve taken enough self-help inventories to know that yes, I’m a people pleaser. But at the same time, I hold fervently onto this character trait, afraid to let it go. Maybe that’s you too?
I tell myself that it’s easier to keep peole happy than to feel bad that they are unhappy. But I know that it comes at a cost. Here are some tips to get your people pleasing in check.
Realize it Comes at a Cost
No matter how hard you try, even the best people pleaser will not be able to please everyone. Eventually, you will be caught between the demands of two people who want different things.
What do you do in that case? Often, we tend to defer to the person we know less well, because we know that our spouse, significant other, or best friend will forgive us more easily.
But eventually, that person will grow tired of you putting them last on the list.
The next time you find yourself caught between the demands of two people, try taking your emotions out of the situation and look at it through a rational lens—what would an outside observer do?
Realize You’re Wasting Valuable Time
Did you know that if you say “yes” or “maybe” when you really want to say “no” you’re wasting someone’s time? Time that they could have spent looking for someone else to do the thing that they asked you to do.
People pleasing often has this odd side to it; you think you’re doing things to make others happy but often you end up creating hassles in the long run. The next time you find yourself resentfully saying “yes” or “maybe” try simply saying “no.”
Realize You’re Not Showing Up as Yourself
Anytime you defer choices to someone else out of people pleasing, you are not showing up as yourself in the relationship or friendship.
As an example, I have a tendency to say “whatever is easiest.” Someone asks me if I’d like scrambled or fried eggs (not in a restaurant mind you, but at someone’s house) and I say “whatever is easiest for you.” I think I’m being helpful, but actually I’ve left them thinking, what does she actually want?
In most cases, it’s better to let people know what you like and don’t like. That has the added benefit of helping you grow closer to people who like the same things as you, while pushing away the people who will probably never be your friends anyway (because you are just too different).
Understand That It’s Going to Be Uncomfortable
I think sometimes we think that if something feels uncomfortable, that means it has to be wrong. When you live with anxiety, it can become hard to distinguish between your gut instinct and your anxiety triggers.
But one thing about not being a people pleaser is that it’s going to feel uncomfortable at first. That’s just the way it is with a lot of things in life… there’s a period at the beginning where it just kind of *sucks*. But you keep doing it, or keep going with whatever it is, and eventually you sticking through the yucky part gets you to the better part.
If you quit too early, you get stuck in the suck. Don’t let that be you.
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Actually Make a Plan to Do It
It’s one thing to read an article about how not to be a people pleaser. It’s an entirely different thing to actually get out there and do it. Often the best way to learn how to do something is to start doing it, make mistakes, and learn from them.
So, I’d like to challenge you to make a plan to avoid people pleasing for 30 days. You’ll need to sit down and think about what that looks like for you. Do you even know when you are being a people pleaser? Perhaps not, if you’ve been doing it for so long. I suggest starting by keeping a journal or jotting notes in an app each time you notice that feeling of people pleasing (you’ll know it when it feels like you narrowly avoided making someone unhappy).
Then, once you’ve got a week or so of notes saved up, look through them and look for patterns.
Are there particular people you are always trying to please?
Are there situations where you always bend to others?
Certain times of day?
When you are in a certain mood?
Once you’ve sorted all that out, be mindful of those situations going forward for 30 days, and intentionally try hard to do the opposite of people pleasing. No matter how uncomfortable it feels, commit to doing it for 30 days. I bet you will be surprised how it gets easier over the course of a month.
That’s it! I know it’s easier said than done to stop being a people pleaser, but if you just take baby steps you will get there eventually. Let me know in the comments whether you will take up the challenge.