Last week I asked one of my new friends if she’d like to be on my podcast. She’s an entrepreneur with a bubbly personality so I thought she’d make a great guest. She said she’d love to, but she’d have to figure out when. Then I remembered she had told me she has a hard time saying, “No.” Now I was confused. Was she just saying, “Yes,” to me because she didn’t know how to decline? Despite her good intentions, it made our budding friendship feel suddenly inauthentic. How would I ever know if she was being straight with me or just telling me what she thinks I want to hear?
“People-pleasing” sounds harmless but becomes a problem when you allow the wants of others to be more important than your own wants and needs. It can become even more tricky when you assume you know what other people want. In the podcast example, I only want guests who are excited and want to be on my show. We record live, so a shy, uncertain or reluctant guest is never what I want.
Emotionally healthy people who care about you don’t want you to overlook your own desires. We also don’t want to be your sympathy project. Unhealthy people and emotional users and abusers will trample on your boundaries and take advantage of people-pleasers.
So, how do you know if you’re a people-pleaser and what can you do to regain control of your time and nurture your own self-love?
Here are 10 clues you might be a people-pleaser:
- Do you find it hard to say, “No?”
- Do you often feel guilty?
- Do you apologize to make peace when you’ve done nothing wrong?
- Do you agree with people just to be polite?
- Do you spend time thinking about what other people think of you?
- Do you need validation from others to feel good about yourself?
- Do you change your personality depending on who’s around you?
- Do you find yourself resentful or passive-aggressive?
- Do you struggle to make time for self-care?
- Do you have a hard time relaxing or enjoying yourself because of stress and anxiety?
If you find yourself answering, “Yes,” to many questions, it’s time to dig deeper. This behavior tends to stem from feelings of low self-esteem, insecurity and often over-achieving perfectionism. If this sounds like you, have no fear. Like any other troublesome habit, people-pleasing can be addressed with a little time and effort. Start with small steps and before you know it, you will be boldly speaking your truth and creating the space you need to live your most joyful and authentic life. Stepping into your authenticity will improve your best relationships and allow unhealthy alliances to come to a natural end.
Here are my 7 tips to reclaim your life from the people-pleasing trap:
- Make it fun! – Create a challenge for yourself or your friends. Try these tips for 7, 14 or 30 days. Make a self-love playlist. Watch self-love movies. (One of my favorites is Eat. Pray. Love.) Get creative in your quest to turn your people-pleasing into sweet self-prioritizing self-love.
- Establish priorities – Pull out your journal and write down your goals. What do you want to accomplish in 2022? Consider the 8 Main Life Areas: Fun, Relationships, Occupation, Mental Health, Money, Spirituality, Physical Health, Environment. What areas need improvement? What goals do you have for yourself? (Without prioritizing your personal goals, anyone can walk in your life and make their goals your priority.)
- Create healthy boundaries. – Be clear about what interests you and what doesn’t. Choose people and projects that bring you joy. Let people know when you are and are not available. When you say “yes” to something you don’t want, you say “no” to what you do want.
- Be unapologetically honest. – An occasional little white lie is probably harmless, but lying to protect other people’s feelings is a complicated path. Iyanla Vanzant says, “Love people enough to tell them the truth and respect them enough to know they can handle it.” Nobody grows when you don’t share your true feelings, and your friends and family can’t respond and connect with the authentic you when you only share a paper doll cut-out of who you really are.
- Use affirmations to counter negative self-talk. – You might find that the little voice in your head says you’re selfish or mean when you try to set boundaries. Use an affirmation to counter the voice. You might say, “I deserve time for myself to reach my own goals and potential.” If that doesn’t feel right, craft your own affirming statement. Find one you like and repeat it over and over until it replaces the negative voice.
- Give yourself time before you answer a request. – When someone asks you for something, you don’t have to respond immediately. If you want time to think about it, say so, then make sure to complete the circle. Don’t just leave them hanging. If you can’t say, “No” directly, send a polite text or email to decline. There’s no need to give an explanation. No is a complete sentence. You might say something like, “I can’t _________. I don’t have time on my schedule right now.” Easy peasy!
- Set aside time for self-care – Deeply embedded habits like people-pleasing often have strong roots. Set aside time to love on yourself and work through your feelings. Journaling, meditation, yoga, reading, self-massage, soaking in the tub and other self-care activities will help you manage emotions as they arise and reflect on your responses. There are plenty of books available about people-pleasing. If you still find yourself having difficulty, working with a qualified therapist can also help.
Growing up in Brooklyn we often said, “Don’t mistake my kindness for a weakness.” It was a phrase that established our boundaries. We could be sweet and strong. Kind and authentic. Generous and badass. I encourage you to love deeply and give generously to yourself and others. Notice I said “yourself” before I said “others.” You cannot pour from an empty cup.
I wish you passion, purpose and the realization of your fullest potential!
P.S. The image is a from Jessica Felicio at Unsplash. If you’d like to learn more about people-pleasing, check out these articles: https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/what-is-a-people-pleaser https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-stop-being-a-people-pleaser-5184412. If you haven’t already purchased your copy of 12 Steps to Mind-Blowing Happiness, get yours at the link below. If you’ve already gotten your copy, use the link to post your Amazon review. You just might win a $50 Amazon card.