According to notes on my notes app, it was the 19th of September 2019 when I confronted the reality that I had the strong scent of a people-pleaser and really needed to do something about it, I went online and read a couple of self-development blogs… I cannot say that helped because I just felt ashamed and started beating myself up about it. I read about how people question the credibility of people with people-pleasing traits and I become increasingly worried about what people thought about me. “That girl is a real crowd pleaser” does not sound very nice. I then proceeded to attack myself for my behavior in the past.
Long story short, I achieved nothing but an increased sense of self-hatred.
So if you’re reading this and you have the inclination to be a people-pleaser please don’t beat yourself up the way I did… Treat your present self and past self with grace and understanding, treat yourself the same way you would treat a convalescent… You recognise that they are ill and you do your best to make life easier for them. This inclination to place other people’s interests before your own can be likened to having an illness and instead of beating yourself up about getting sick in the first place, focus on healing.
The road to recovery involves looking back into your history to see what made you develop that negative trait, I like to think of people-pleasing as a very skewed coping mechanism, so you have to turn back the clock and identify the source of trauma.
I went back in time and this is what I discovered.
Each time I formed an opinion that was different to what was expected or I didn’t want to comply with something I was met with threats, insults or I’d get the silent treatment – from certain people who played a huge role in my life. I then associated having boundaries and a voice of my own with “dire consequences” so I then just outwardly agreed with everything because I didn’t want no smoke.
This approach to life wasn’t only limited to the people who caused it, it then permeated into all my other interactions. I had a hard time disagreeing with people and saying no and if I did take a stand and disagree – I’d be very apologetic about it.
This is bad news, why?
1. You end up with too much on your plate because you feel obliged to say yes to every request and you get suffocated.
2. You end up getting very bitter because you aren’t doing things with a happy heart.
3. People could walk all over you if they discover you don’t use your voice and have clear boundaries.
4. You could come across as insincere.
5. You end up lying, essentially. Someone will ask for your honest opinion about the song they’ve written or the dress they’ve bought – you’ll say it looks great – to spare their feelings so that you remain in their good books – even when it actually isn’t all that great.
6. You feel the need to impress everyone. This is problematic. Remember Aesop’s fable of the man, his son and the donkey?
There was a man traveling with his son and donkey over a long distance, the man put his son on the donkey and walked beside it.
People said “What a disrespectful boy this is, letting his elderly father walk”
They traded places, people said “What kind of a parent is this, making his son walk!”
They both climbed onto the donkey, “Such wicked people – poor donkey carrying all that weight!”
They both got off and walked beside the donkey “Such foolish people, they have a donkey why are they walking !”
Then they lifted the donkey and carried it – they lost their balance and it fell off the cliff and drowned
You’re always going to look like a Mojo jojo (villain) to someone, no matter what you do, so there is no point in trying to please everyone.
It’s great to help people but you cannot pour from an empty cup, it’s okay to say “No I won’t be available.”
“No you cannot take my only pencil”
Don’t feel bad even though people will try to emotionally blackmail or guilt-trip you or probe you. Just continue using your voice and defining your boundaries and it will become second nature. It won’t happen overnight but practice saying “No” and don’t be so apologetic.
People have an aversion to the word “No” and we tend to substitute it with excuses.
“Would you like to go for the cancer walk with me”
Me on the inside: No
Me on the outside: I’d love to but oof A level is intense and my mom would probably say I can’t
Them: I spoke to her now and don’t worry the walk finishes at 2 so you can catch up
At this point one of 3 things could happen, you come up with more excuses, you yield or you just TELL THE TRUTH and say NO.
No is not a bad word, use it more and I hope you grow from strength to strength and you love yourself more. Don’t be afraid of potentially losing people because your opinions and choices are different. Someone wise told me “If they can’t take your no, they never deserved a yes.”
This is a great thread from Yvette Ratshikhopha, 6 things to help you speak up for yourself.