I’m comin’ out swinging, you guys. It is ON.
First, we’ll do a little diagnostic quiz, because I grew up reading CosmoGirl and I will forever LOVE a quiz.
You have people-pleasing habits (that can 100% be flipped and reversed, nothing is permanent, stay tuned) if you can relate to several of the following situations:
You’d much rather rearrange your schedule or your priorities for the comfort of someone else.
You get uncomfortable asking for what you want or need.
You apologize for things that are not your fault, and when they are, you apologize wayyy more than necessary (or you try to assign blame outside of yourself because you can’t handle knowing that something less-than-ideal was your doing).
You don’t like asking for help.
You want to be fully independent and self-sufficient because you never want to be in the position from needing anything from anyone else ever ever EVER.
It’s more comfortable for you to sacrifice something that’s important to you in order to avoid conflict or in order to simply avoid stating a preference. A PREFERENCE, you guys.
You’re a perfectionist.
You’ve had an eating disorder, or you have a challenging relationship with your body image.
You stay in relationships that feel terrible because you think you’re helping the other person involved.
Your worst nightmare is being seen as selfish.
You don’t know how to make decisions.
You habitually need approval or permission from someone else before you do anything/before you make a big decision.
I’ll stop there, but I could go on for pages and pages.
The common thread that connects all of the above scenarios is the de-prioritization of your own importance in your own life. The downplaying of your wants and needs. The reassignment of other people’s opinions of you being more important than your own.
The fact that in all of these cases, you are LYING…lying to yourself, and lying to others. You’re lying about what you want. You’re lying about wanting at ALL. You’re lying about how you feel, you’re lying about what’s important to you, you’re lying about what you’d rather be doing.
And why are you lying? Because you’re afraid.
And what are you afraid of? Not being in control of how other people perceive you.
And why are you afraid of not being in control of how other people perceive you? Because you don’t know how to be okay when other people don’t think positively about you/don’t act positively towards you.
Look. I get it. For a long time I was (and still sometimes am) scared of not being able to control everyone else’s opinion of me. I used to make all of my decisions based upon my assumption of what other peoples’ reactions would be to those decisions. My life was not my own. I was being controlled by my desire to manipulate the opinions of other people. It was hell, you guys. I was, in all of my people pleasing, lying to other people in an attempt to manipulate their emotions because I always internalized their negative emotions and I couldn’t handle the pain of that. My solution was to try to regulate their emotions to be positive all the time instead of learning to regulate my OWN emotions no matter what was going on around me.
Thankfully I learned eventually that I really, truly cannot control other peoples’ emotions, but I can control my own. So that’s where I turned my focus, and that shift in focus changed my life. I began to be honest with myself about how I was feeling in every moment. I made it safe in my own mind to admit my true feelings, even if they were scary or negative or painful, and I examined the thoughts that were causing those feelings. I paused and questioned myself every time I had the urge to rush to accommodate someone in order to avoid my negative emotions about their dissatisfaction. When I did catch myself people pleasing, I would take some time after the fact to observe what had happened and how I could be more true to myself next time.
That’s really the key here—deciding to step back from people pleasing is deciding to be true to yourself first and foremost. It was a difficult decision for me to make, but once my life became almost unlivable I knew it was a decision I had to make.
My journey from there has been amazing, and beautiful, and confusing as hell, and painful, and terrifying, but SO WORTH IT. Worth every moment I thought “you know what, this is too hard, this is too scary, I’ll just go back to not really listening to myself because I cannot handle this” but kept going anyways. I trusted the Sophie who decided to stop people pleasing, and I had to re-commit to that decision countless times. That’s what this work is about: recommitting even and especially when it feels too painful or scary to continue. Nothing is more painful than a half-lived life. Nothing is more beautiful than deciding to live your life on your own terms.