Confessions of a Recovering People Pleaser
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Growing up, I was in a bit of a tumultuous household. My mom was very unpredictable and highly combative. If you dared to disagree with her, a vicious fight was sure to ensue. My entire adolescence and teenage life was fight after fight until I left and got married at 18. The more I think about why I got married so young, the more I realize it’s because I was so drawn to John. He was everything I needed and didn’t have. Calm, open minded and loving. I’m so lucky I met him when I did and thank God every day I was smart enough to take the leap.
Every year I have improved a little bit more and recently have realized I had a serious people pleasing issue. No matter the subject, I would default to whatever the other person wanted and then secretly stew about how I wasn’t happy.
Luckily I have come across ideas on how to come out of this people pleasing addiction and have learned some ways to combat it. Here are 10 ways I am working on my demeanor to be a bit more assertive and less of a doormat.
It’s OK to say no - Over the years I had been programmed to say yes to everyone else and think of myself last. Now I am starting to pause and think about whether I actually want to do what is being asked. As an introvert I need time to myself, but my two best friends are very extroverted. Sometimes I need to say no to a get together to regroup and that’s OK.
Thinking of what you want isn’t selfish - I can’t tell you how many times I was told I was selfish growing up. The fact that I wanted hairspray was selfish apparently. Anyone who has naturally curly hair in Florida will understand the need. According to the narrative of my parents, my $2 bottle of hairspray need was an issue. It can be really difficult to change those narratives. I never wanted to be seen as selfish, but because I was constantly told I was, it’s difficult for me to determine what is and isn’t selfish. Honestly I am still struggling with this and usually have to get a sense check from my husband :).
Everyone doesn’t have to like it - I find myself agreeing with people verbally when I truly don’t agree just to keep the peace. I get afraid that if I disagree or have an opposing opinion, people won’t like me anymore. I am starting to change my mindset to acknowledge that everyone doesn’t agree all the time. It’s healthy to have your own opinions and your friends should respect that.
People want to hear what I have to say - Over the years I have stayed quiet, even when I have something to add. I tend to get this voice in my head telling me no one cares. It’s time to change that narrative! Maybe everything I add won’t be profound, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth saying.
I can’t please everyone - This is so hard for me. I desperately want everyone to get along and to ultimately like me. What I have finally figured out is when I try to do that, I am not being myself. It’s also totally impossible! Some people aren’t going to like me and that is OK.
Soul searching - Because of my tendency to worry about everyone else, I have had to spend a ton of time figuring out what I want and like. Things like Myers Brings telling me I am an INFJ and journaling questions about what I am passionate about are helping me to rediscover what I am all about.
Setting Boundaries - I am used to agreeing to whatever anyone else wants, particularly my family and friends. It’s so hard to say I am not happy about something. I have done a lot of work with this over the last six months and can honestly say I am feeling a lot better. If I don’t want to do something, I am getting up the courage to decline. I still feel a little guilty, but ultimately I am growing.
Quit Apologizing - Sometimes an apology is called for, but as a people pleaser knows, we apologize for everything. I am actively not apologizing for things that are beyond my control. If I am late to a meeting because I was held up in something else, I don’t apologize. If I say something snarky to my husband that was uncalled for, I still grovel. There is a line and I invite you to consciously pay attention to all the times you are apologizing throughout the day. Chances are it’s probably too much. If you did something wrong, apologize, if you didn’t don’t!
My feelings matter - I have always tended to think I am in the wrong. If my mom is screaming at me, I must have done something wrong. Even if there is no logical explanation. My friend is stressed and takes it out on me, I deserve it. I lost the award at work even though I worked the hardest, then I guess it wasn’t meant to be. These are the thoughts that have plagued me. I am just beginning to realize that what I think and feel matters just as much as anyone elses. It’s a radical shift for me, but one I am finally starting to see.
Sometimes conflict is necessary - I hate arguments, fights, disagreements, all of it. I have avoided it as much as humanly possible. My childhood was wrought with fighting. My mom was totally unpredictable and by the time I was in middle school we were fighting daily. Like screaming, crying, craziness. Since moving out at 18, I rarely have an argument. I tend to keep it all bottled up until I can’t take it anymore. Obviously this isn’t healthy and if I actually confront it, I can avoid blowing up.
As I go into 2019 I am still going to be focused pretty heavily on countering my people pleasing tenancies. It’s who I have been for over 30 years and I know I won’t change overnight. Even with the small steps I have taken so far, I am seeing a big difference in how I feel about myself.