“A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.” ~Mark Twain
Pleasing Yourself Before Pleasing Others
Being a people pleaser has been a chronic issue for me for years, but I think I’ve finally nailed how to stop this self-effacing behavior. When I look back I could attribute it to many things. Maybe my tendency to please others stems from being the 3rd child and having a brother who was ready to pounce on me at any moment. Or maybe it’s connected to the approval and love I endlessly sought from my neglecting parents. My selflessness may also be rooted in my deep fear of rejection and strong desire to be accepted.
This kind of “skill”, putting others needs before your own, can develop in a variety of contexts and life circumstances, and without your awareness. However, there is usually one common denominator that will help you get to the bottom of this issue without too much digging in your past.
Your need to please others is essentially a defense against the fear of abandonment.
If you are just nice enough, accommodating enough, easy enough, quiet enough, supportive enough, agreeable enough, and available enough, then the people in your life won’t leave.
Your ability to please others guarantees you a spot. Staying in their good graces, being on their good side, and acting obediently is an assurance that they won’t find a reason to discard you.
I know this sounds sad and pathetic, but it’s all in the name of love. You want and deserve to be loved, but not at the expense of yourself. This kind of love embodies an unconscious contract, and involves an exchange that never ends up being fair or even.
Being a people pleaser puts you at risk for becoming resentful, losing your sense of self, and for not being able to share your thoughts and feelings openly. You also can become a doormat by letting people walk all over you leading to a loss of self-respect and self-value. In your love relationships you will become exhausted and depleted, and you will wonder why it feels so empty.
I know it’s not pretty; I’ve been there. The good news is that there are some clear steps you can take to change.
Here are 5 ways to start pleasing yourself before pleasing others:
Before anything else you need to figure out what you are afraid of. Is it disappointing others? Losing love? Not being liked? Once you know what you are defending against you will be able to work through these issues, which most likely stem from your past.
The word no has a negative connotation most of the time, but it’s actually a way to set a boundary. Even a toddler uses the word no to differentiate his sense of self. It’s hard to say no, and sometimes we can’t, but drawing the line in the sand when we need to is a healthy practice, and it lets other people know our limits.
People pleasers tend to have a hard time expressing themselves openly and honestly. It’s scary to share your feelings when you think they will cause conflict or drive the other person away. Rocking the boat, and upsetting the status quo is a natural and healthy part of growing in your relationships. You will need to work on speaking up for yourself and taking a stand if necessary. It will feel harsh at first, but you’ll get used to it soon enough.
4. Come from a place of desire (not obligation)
When you are trying to learn how to set boundaries and say no you will be forced to really ask yourself what you want and need. This may be something you have never considered before, so it will seem selfish and weird at first. Make choices as opposed to fulfilling obligations. There are always things you have to do, but you are always choosing.
If you’ve been a pleaser for a while then the people in your life will be used to it. Some will automatically respect your new way of relating, but others will resist it. If there are people who simply cannot accept your limits and boundaries, then you might want to rethink these relationships. Some relationships work for a reason, but the reason isn’t always healthy.