Wanting to please people, to be kind or helpful, isn’t in itself a bad thing. But when your desire to please others, make them happy and life you interferes with how you live your life, it’s no longer kind or helpful to yourself.
In this episode we look at:
Pressing Pause Podcast episode 46 Are you a people-pleaser?
Welcome to Pressing Pause, the podcast for overthinkers.
I’m Gabrielle Treanor and I’m here to share with you ideas, inspiration and actions to empower you to spend less time overthinking and worrying and more time enjoying your life.
Hello and welcome to episode 46. I am so very excited to tell you that my new, most in-depth, comprehensive and, frankly, life-impacting, course is now available for you to join. Worry Less for Life – how to calm your mind, build resilience and enjoy life more – has my heart and soul poured into it, as well as my years of learning, experience, training, everything I’m researched from positive psychology and tried out myself that’s enabled me to calm my overthinking, free myself from getting stuck going over and over what’s happened in the past or worrying about the future and to be able to enjoy life more as it is right now.
In this course I’m giving you the tools, the techniques, the strategies, information and inspiration to empower you to get back in the driving seat of your own life rather than feeling like you’re at the mercy of your runaway brain and its thought whirlwind.
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Now onto today’s episode and our topic for today is people-pleasing. Overthinkers are often people-pleasers and it shows up in lots of different ways, some of which I’ve talked about it other episodes like worrying what others think of you, apologising for everything, looking for permission – but I wanted to address the issue as a whole here.
Wanting to please people in itself isn’t a bad thing. Wanting to be kind or helpful is great, I’m all for it and I try to be both myself but when your desire to please people, to make them happy and like you is interfering with how you live your life, that’s when it isn’t kind or helpful to you.
The thing with pleasing people is that it feels good. Knowing that you’ve done something for someone else that makes them feel happy or makes their life a little easier or better makes us feel good too. Why wouldn’t you want to make other people happy? Some folk are naturally selfless, altruistic, compassionate and love to help. But if you aren’t extending that compassion to yourself, if you only give it to others you’re doing yourself a disservice.
It feels good to be needed, to be depended upon but if your self-worth is based on external factors such as how much others need you that makes your sense of self fragile because if you’re not needed that feels really crappy and your self-worth takes a nosedive.
And while we think that doing whatever we can to help people and please them is the right thing to do, even if it doesn’t feel right or good for us, we may actually be doing them a disservice. Because we’re not being honest, we’re pretending to agree with them or to be happy to do something when it isn’t true. Our support or help may be enabling them to continue down a path that’s not good for them. Or there may be someone who’d be really happy to take on whatever task we’re doing out of this misplaced service and so they’re missing out on the opportunity. Or perhaps by voicing your differing opinion you open their eyes and give them a new perspective they hadn’t seen before.
Here’s what a people-pleaser can look like:
• Doing things you don’t want to or agreeing with opinions you actually disagree with because you want those people to accept and approve of you
• Believing that making one mistake, disagreeing on one point or doing something for yourself will make the other person not like you any more
• Feeling responsible for other people’s lives and feelings, if they aren’t happy you feel it’s your responsibility to make them happy
• Apologising for things that aren’t your fault or are out of your control, apologising for having your own thoughts and feelings, for just being you
• Doing everything you possibly can to keep the status quo and avoid any kind of conflict
• Feeling under pressure and overwhelmed by doing what other people want when it’s not what you want
• Feeling unable or unwilling to ask for help yourself even though you will do anything to help everyone else any time
• Feeling like you can’t say no and have to say yes to other people
If this is ringing bells with you that’s okay, please don’t start beating yourself up for being a people-pleaser! There are lots of us out there, I can think of plenty of examples when I have gone so far out of my way to be helpful and make other people happy, to care for their needs when it was hurting me in the process. It’s still something I have to watch out for and catch myself before I slip back into old people-pleasing ways.
There are lots of things we can do to break ourselves free of this disease to please. We’re not talking about one extreme or the other, it’s not a case of you please everyone or you please no-one. You’re kind and generous and helpful, or you’re selfish, uncaring and mean.
People-pleasing to the point where it’s detrimental to ourselves is about wanting to be liked. It’s about seeking validation from other people so that we feel good about ourselves. So we need to work on what makes us feel good so we can provide that for ourselves, so it comes from within rather than externally. Think about what makes you feel confident and look to do more of it. Think about who are the people in your life who make you feel good when you’re just being you and find ways to spend more time with them. Make a note any time that you feel proud of yourself, when you’re pleased with how you deal with a challenge or handled a situation or when you looked after yourself, and keep a record so you can refer back to it.
Saying no can be a really big challenge when you’re a people-pleaser so start off small with little no’s or even not full blow yes’s. For example rather than saying you’ll be at an event from the moment it starts to the very end, or saying a flat no if that sounds too hard, try saying you’ll be there later or for some of it.
You can give yourself some time when faced with a yes or no question by saying you’ll get back to the person who’s asking. It’s not an automatic yes that you’ll regret and you’re not saying a scary no yet. This also lets the other person prepare for the answer to go either way, they aren’t assuming it’s a yes. Then, when you’re ready to give an answer you can then say no, if you want to.
There’s a strong temptation or pressure to give explanations and excuses as to why you’re saying no but resist it. When you give reasons the other person can use them to help you find a way to say yes. For example, they could say oh it’s okay if you need to do some errands, you can come along afterwards. Or if they’re so inclined, they may turn your explanation back on you – oh, so your errands are more important than me, are they?
You don’t want to get into a conversation about why you’re saying no, you have every right to say yes or say no, it’s your choice and your decision and the other person doesn’t have a right to debate it with you. So stick with a short and simple I won’t be able to come, have a great time or I’m sorry I can’t help you this time. I snuck in the ‘this time’ at the end there to soften the no because you’re not saying you’ll never help them but you’re also not saying you’ll definitely help them next time either.
You can also turn your no into a policy so you’re saying no to the practice rather than the individual. For example, you could say it’s my policy to never bake cakes for outside of the family or I make it a rule to not lend money to friends.
By the way, beware of the sneaky folk who try to manipulate you into saying yes to what they want you to do with flattery like ‘you make the best cakes, and you decorate them so beautifully I’d love it if you’d make a few for the fundraiser’. Or by making assumptions, you did something once so they assume you always will. Just because you did something once, or fifty times doesn’t mean that you have to do it every time you’re asked if you don’t want to.
Watch your words, if ‘sorry’ comes out of your mouth all the time for any reason whatsoever including when you have nothing to apologise for and especially if you’re apologising for being you, it’s time to pay attention to how you’re using sorry and reduce it. You have as much right as the next person to be in the space, in this room, in this world and you are just as worthy as anyone else too. Listen to episode 19 for how you can apologise less when you’ve nothing to be sorry for.
Think about how doing something to please someone else impacts on you. If it really doesn’t bother you, if it won’t negatively affect you to do something you’re not particularly interested in for someone else you can go ahead and do it. But if you really don’t want to do the thing, if you’re going to worry about it, find it stressful, if it’s going to take your time away from something more valuable to you, if you’re only doing it because you feel you have to, that’s not right. You need to be intentional about how you help others or what you agree to so that you do so knowing why you’re doing it and you’re aware of the impact it will have on yourself.
And, when in doubt, ask yourself one of my favourite questions: what would I say to a friend in this situation? If it was a friend of yours who was being asked to do something they don’t want to do or go along with an opinion or course of action they don’t agree with, what would you say to them? Then say it to yourself.
You are an autonomous being, you have choices and you have a voice. Your rights, your opinion, your worth is as valid as anyone else’s and if you feel that doing or saying something to please someone else goes against how you want to act or what you believe you are allowed to not do or say it. You can be kind and helpful and caring and compassionate to other people while also being all of those things to yourself.
If you enjoy this podcast, if you find what I have to share helpful then check out my new course I mentioned at the start of this episode, Worry Less for Life – how to calm your mind, build resilience and enjoy life more, is available now for you to join at worrylessforlife.com or you can follow the link in the show notes for this episode 46 at gabrielletreanor.com/podcast.
I’d love to hear what strikes a chord with you from this episode so please do get in touch with me at email@example.com
Thanks for listening, until next time, lovely people.
Throughout this website and my work when I refer to women I include people identifying as women.
If you have, or think you may have, a mental health problem that requires professional diagnosis or treatment, please consult a mental health care professional and your GP.
You can also talk to the people at Mind on 0300 123 3393 or SANE on 0300 304 7000 or Samaritans on 116 123.
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