5 tips from a recovering people pleaser

This recovering people pleaser has realised lately that I’ve spent too many years of my life trying to please everyone else and putting myself second.

 Perhaps you can relate?

  • You automatically say yes, even if you want to say no
  • You believe that if you do the right thing you will be ‘accepted’
  • You say “sorry” when no apology is necessary
  • You constantly do more than your fair share
  • You stay awake at night worrying if you offended or upset someone
  • You replay conversations in your mind and wonder “If I just did this differently” or “If I hadn’t said it in that way”
  • You worry that one day you will be “found out” and people will discover you are unworthy, unskilled and untalented

Any head-nodding whilst reading would indicate you’re a people pleaser. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be a kind and helpful person, but when it gets to the point where your own happiness comes second to someone else, it’s time to make a change.

I’ve discovered first hand that getting off the ‘people pleasing wagon’ is a lot harder than I expected. I’m still figuring it out. Just a little while I almost changed our whole wedding plan to please one person. That one person wasn’t my fiance – the only other person aside from myself I should be thinking about pleasing.

I caught myself quick, but my habits and patterns of trying to keep everyone happy are still working their way out of my system. Here are five tips I can share right now as a recovering people pleaser.

Get clear on what you want

It’s time to be 100 per cent selfish and figure out exactly what you want in your life – at work, at home and in your relationships and friendships. When I took the time to map out exactly what I wanted for myself and how I wanted my life to look, it was easier to stay on track and not get sidetracked by someone else’s stronger vision. Clarity in the vision for your future will give you the strength to say no to things and people who stop that vision coming to life.

Play with saying no

People pleasers tend to say yes a lot, usually without thinking first. It’s our default, and it takes some work to break. I started out by saying no to really small things I didn’t want to do. I played with it and even if I didn’t say it to a person directly I’d say “no” out loud to myself just to get the feel for it. Over time, I found I was more comfortable saying no, and was able to do so for bigger and bigger things.

Consider the consequences

This tip helped me hugely, and came from one of my mentors who said, “no one truly benefits from you trying to please people. Firstly, you don’t benefit. Secondly, the other person or people don’t really benefit because although they might feel like they’re getting what they want, it’s not a genuine exchange. Third, and finally, who in your life are you teaching people pleasing to? Your nieces, nephews and goddaughter? They pick up on your actions.”

This was a big wake up call for me and helped me consider the consequences of trying to please everyone.

Do they deserve you?

My particular type of people pleasing usually centred around wanting people to like me. I made a list of the people who I wanted to like me but thought didn’t and I asked myself, “why do they deserve me?”. What I found was that a lot of the people I was worrying about liking me, or trying to please, actually weren’t very nice people or didn’t deserve my attention or friendship. It’s a bit like chasing the bad boys when you’re growing up –  you know they’re no good for you and aren’t likely to fall for you but that’s the appeal. The chase is thrilling and gives you a weird kind of high. When I gave that up and focused on the people who do deserve my love and attention, things got much better.

Take it one step at a time

I call myself a ‘recovering people pleaser’ because I still haven’t got it all figured out. The instance around my wedding proved that to me. But what I’m finding is, I’m getting there slowly. Habits can be hard to break and it’s ok if I don’t do it all at once. Start somewhere, and take your time. I’m pretty sure I’ll eventually feel like I’ve left my people-pleasing ways behind for good, and not have to think about it anymore but for now, I’m reassured that I’m going in the right direction.

If you’ve managed to completely recover from being a people pleaser, and have more tips and advice for those of us still on the journey, please comment below.

Jen Smith coaches entrepreneurs in social media.

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