In the first three parts of this series, we explored some of the more common signs of the “disease to please”. Now I’d like to discuss some of the top causes and how to deal with people pleasing.
Signs of being a people-pleaser
People-pleasers have at least one (and usually more) of the following characteristics:
- They want to be good people – which means putting others first.
- They feel guilty when they can’t make others happy.
- They’re afraid of conflict.
- They suffer from low self-esteem.
- Being needed makes them feel good.
- They look for the approval of others in order to get temporary relief from their difficult feelings.
If you’re a people-pleaser, you know how difficult it can be to put yourself first. You probably feel guilty or afraid – or both – at the mere thought. So how do you get past those awful feelings and put some balance into your life?
How to stop being a people-pleaser?
I think you know when it’s time to put yourself first; you just don’t know how to get past your programming to do it. Here are four actions you can take to help you overcome your fears and take back your power:
Separate needs from desires.
If you have children, you already know how to do this. Your daughter wants to watch too much television, eat too much junk food and buy more new clothes than you can afford. Some of these things are bad for her, while others are simply impractical. Knowing that she doesn’t need any of them makes it easier to set healthy boundaries with her. This distinction can also help you with friends, family and colleagues. When someone asks for your help, determine whether they need it or simply want it. What will happen if you’re not available? Are you the only one who can help? Does the person really need help at all?
Consider who’s responsible.
Sometimes people ask us for help because they’ve failed to plan properly and are now facing a crisis of their own making. Sometimes others have let them down. And sometimes they want us to get involved with people and situations for which we’re not even remotely responsible. In all of these circumstances, the bottom line is the same: we’re being asked to take on someone else’s responsibilities.
If you like to feel needed, it may be very difficult for you to say no to these requests. But consider this: If you make a habit of picking up the slack for others, they’ll quickly learn to rely on you. The responsibility will then become yours. Their gratitude will eventually be replaced by expectation; your assistance will be taken for granted. That warm, fuzzy feeling that came with helping them will soon be replaced by resentment. And on top of all that, you’ll be enabling people to continue being irresponsible. Never having to face the consequences of their actions (or inaction) means they won’t grow. If you thought you were being a good person, think again.
Face your fear of conflict.
None of us enjoy conflict, but some of us are truly afraid of it. This fear usually stems from a childhood in which conflict wasn’t safe, either physically or emotionally.
Remember that the approval you receive is short-lived.
The price you pay for it isn’t. Who doesn’t want approval? It certainly feels better than the alternative! But it comes at a price. The kind of approval I’m talking about – the “What have you done for me lately?” kind – is like a drug. It makes you feel better … for a while. But when the effects wear off, you feel worse than ever – and before you know it, you’re looking for approval again. Do you see why I’ve compared it to a drug?
What we really want is to be loved and accepted exactly as we are. Approval is just a cheap substitute. It allows us to escape from our emotional pain. But the pain always returns.
Is People Pleasing Worth the Price?
If you find yourself agreeing to things simply because the other’s response feels good, then you’re suffering from the “disease to please.” You’re putting others’ approval ahead of your own needs. Ask yourself how long that good feeling will last, and whether it’s really worth the price. Surround yourself with people who appreciate you as you are, whether you’re doing something for them or not. Spend your time doing things that support your highest values. Do either of these things consistently and others’ approval will lose its hold on you. You’ll discover that acceptance is far more rewarding.