I admire how kind and generous you are. Everyone can count on you to be nice, supportive, flexible, and very accommodating… often at the expense of your own happiness. I see you turn into a doormat for them to walk on, wipe their feet, and move on. Should I tell you to stop people pleasing?
I like you for who you are, I don’t need you to bend over and backwards to please me. But I know you want their approval and you fear their rejection, their judgment, and their abandonment, because it has been a theme in your life. That’s why you are afraid to say NO. When I watch you say YES and you want to say NO, or when I watch you say NO and feel guilty, second guessing yourself, should I tell you to stick to your boundaries and stop people pleasing?
I feel uncomfortable when you are so eager to please others that you drown your desires in a sea of “okays.” You eat where, when, and what they want to eat, you drink what they drink, buy what they buy, and do what they want to do. You look sad and disappointed because you didn’t stick to your diet or your budget, because you broke the promise you had made yourself not to drink, because you sabotaged your own goals. Will you be mad if I tell you to stick to your plan and stop people pleasing?
If only you could see yourself the way I see you. You have had a hard life, filled with people who weren’t there for you, and didn’t make clear that it wasn’t personal. You think your value, your self-worth, comes from your ability to please others, from satisfying their needs, and you avoid telling people what you really want – like the plague.
Is that why you like me? And why you secretly hate me? Sometimes I’m confused because you seem to admire how assertive I am, yet seem to resent me because you aren’t. When you hear them call me “difficult,” and “different,” you pull away, maybe because you don’t want to risk them thinking there is something wrong with you. I try to motivate you to be authentic, to stand your ground, and to stick to your goal, but are you ready to hear me say the words “stop people pleasing”?
Am I failing you when I see you take on everyone’s work, everyone’s problems, and everyone’s responsibilities and I encourage you to stop? Should I just let you neglect your own projects and your own self-care to put other people’s fires? I know your work ethic is impeccable and you like to compete, but could you still be dedicated and stop people pleasing?
Amiga mia, your nurturing and tender nature makes you a remarkable mom; but you can be too caring for your own good when it comes to others. You take care of everyone else’s needs and take care of your own last minute – if at all. You’re always falling behind on your to-do list, canceling on events you really wanted to be a part of, and even neglecting those relationships that are more precious to you because you agreed to take on too much to make others happy, fearing you could let them down. You pride yourself in being helpful, so should I tell you that they’ll never be happy and that you don’t have to prove anything to them? Will that help you stop people pleasing?
How would this conversation go? Will you be really sweet and mellow about it or will you just appear to be because you want to please me and be nice to me, while you think to yourself “mind your own business”? I know integrity is one of your strongest core values and I think that’s why I’m so drawn to you, yet I have seen your integrity slip to be nice to others or to avoid conflict and I don’t know where you draw the line. You’re a child of God, not a chameleon, so stop people pleasing!
I feel it is my business, because I hurt when I see you depressed, exhausted, or overwhelmed. You’re always stressed, overbooked and overcommitted, rushing from one thing to the other and never getting the results you want, because you’re always doing something for someone else. When you realize you’re too busy to do what you actually need to do for you, you feel like a failure and condemn yourself for betraying your needs, wants, and dreams. I know you’ve been in very toxic relationships, but it seems to me that no one has been harder on you than you, because you shame and degrade yourself constantly and consistently, and don’t forgive yourself for people pleasing.
I don’t want to annoy you, friend, but sometimes I see that sadness in your eyes – almost as if you’re not present- and I can’t help myself. I feel I have to say something, because I want you to know you’re not alone, you are heard, and you are important and valuable, even when you don’t deliver, even when you say NO, even when let yourself be angry. But you don’t take time to address your feelings! You’re overly tired because you’re eating unhealthy, staying up too late, and putting off those activities that you know will help ease the anxiety. “Ain’t no body got time for dat” when your need to be liked kicks in. Do you know life will get better if you stop people pleasing?
I know it’s hard for you. It’s hard enough that you feel so intensely about people’s feelings and opinions, then you also feel trapped, because it seems that you’re a “lost soul” magnet. You’re surrounded by people that want you to help them, save them, and fix them. They’re not necessarily users and takers, they just know they can count on you for a favor even when you don’t have the time, the energy, or the resources. You agree and commit because you don’t want to offend them or to think you are uncaring and insensitive. When you feel like everyone around you is a leech, and you’re serving out of obligation, do you realize it’s time to stop people pleasing?
I see many people trying to make it up to you. They ask you how they can help or return the favor, and you say “I don’t know.” I’ve tried to help you figure out what you want, what your soul needs, and what your passions, priorities, and core values are. You’re making efforts to find clarity and purpose, but if you really want to go in the direction of your dreams, you’re going to have to stop people pleasing. Should I tell you? Or should I just continue to offer my guidance, just to be stood up and taken for granted because someone else had an emergency or because you’re so drained from doing someone else’s job?
And I don’t want you to think I believe you are rude or inconsiderate. I’m not taking this personally or think it’s about me. You are quick to apologize and you mean it. I say “I accept your apology” because I do, but it’s not me you’re failing, it’s you. You apologize to everyone – for everything, but have you thought about apologizing to yourself and commit to stop people pleasing? Is it my place to ask you to?
You are so guarded. You still hide your truth, convinced that they’d judge you and think you aren’t good enough if they knew your secrets, if they knew you couldn’t perform, if they knew you don’t have it all together and you can’t handle the everyday pressures of motherhood. And you’re good. They rarely find out you are hurting, so they are incapable of being there for you. You say “it’s okay” with a believable smile on your face, but you secretly wish they were and you really resent them. Your world feels so lonely and you can’t see me through your tears… I am here, I am your friend, I love you, whether you stop people pleasing or not.
I must confess… I do get angry when you go out of your way to help someone I know you dislike. I know you’re overcompensating, because you feel like a bad person for disliking them, but I know very well they know it and still take advantage of you. I calm down and focus on protecting you, but I can’t make you stop people pleasing.
You call yourself a procrastinator, but the truth is that you overanalyze everything, assuming what others think, feel, and do. You feel you need others’ validation before you make a decision, and allow others to change your mind – or so you say, because you’re just trying to earn their love or keep the peace… You’ve become an expert at people pleasing.
I’m not trying to seem like a saint when I tell you I don’t judge you. I know your people pleasing actions are mostly subconscious. I think about you as a little girl – having to suppress and conceal your own feelings, to be safe, to “be good” according to other people’s standards, and satisfy every one of their unreasonable demands just to get noticed, to get a little praise or affection, or to simply avoid confrontation that would lead to pain. You became addicted and most of the time you don’t know you’re people pleasing.
You don’t believe me when I tell you you’re brilliant, beautiful, worthy, lovable, and enough. You act like you don’t want to hear it, but I know you crave compliments and you fall for flattery, even when you use self-deprecating humor or downplay your success. You’re often manipulated into a yes because you want them to think highly of you when deep inside you feel unimportant, unappreciated, and insignificant. You want them to like you, to love you, to involve you and just the thought of someone disliking you or being lonely makes you never want to stop people pleasing.
I can’t sleep thinking how to tell you, if I ever tell you, to stop people pleasing. It bothers me because it’s consuming you, making you miserable, and burning you out. I devise a plan to have a heart to heart where I show you the evidence: you’re sick, pulling your hair, and running on empty. I then quote some cliche wisdom about how it’s impossible to please everyone. I say something motivational like “it’s time to reclaim your power” and encourage you to articulate how you feel and what you want. I offer up some advice like “consider your own emotional health, your own needs, your own desires. Don’t lose sight of your values, don’t compromise, and stop people pleasing.”
But I never go through with the plan. You always say: I’m FINE. And I need to believe that you are. I can only be your friend and honor where you are. You will look in the mirror one day, just like I did, and you will tell yourself: “I will no longer be a pushover. I will stop people pleasing!”
I will celebrate with you that day, marveling at your progress and at mine, telling you about my people pleasing recovery and about the times I wondered whether I should have this conversation with you. You’ll tell me you would have listened, and then admit that you wouldn’t… you couldn’t… and it is better this way. I’ll be proud of myself for loving you where you are instead of pressuring you to stop people pleasing.