I’ve been a people-pleaser for about as long as I can remember. In fact, I used to think this was just a “fun fact” about myself. Like, “yeah, I’m just one of those people-pleasers”.
It wasn’t until a few years ago I started to see what havoc this was wreaking on my personal health and relationships.
So after paying attention to the greatest ways people-pleasing was holding me back, I decided to make four commitments to myself to overcome this problem.
Needless to say, it’s not totally solved, but these four commitments are helping me make progress.
Here they are.
1. Don’t ask too many people for their opinions.
I used to do this thing where, when I was making a big decision—like, you know, what to do for lunch or whether it’s appropriate to wear white shoes before labor day—I would “poll the audience”.
By poll the audience I just mean, Who Wants to Be A Millionaire style, I would ask everyone I knew what their advice was about that particular topic and then I would take the most-often given advice and assume that was probably the best answer.
The problem was I did this at the expense of my own intellect and intuition.
These days I don’t allow myself to poll the audience for decisions. For small decisions (like lunch) I just make up my own mind.
For bigger decisions, I usually find one or two people I trust and say:
“Hey, here’s my problem or situation. Here’s what I’m planning to do about it. Can you help me see my blind spots? Do you have any additions or concerns?”
2. Be honest first and humble second.
Here’s what I mean by this.
As a people-pleaser, my tendency is to not speak up when I have an opinion. I’ve told myself this is the humble approach, letting other people share their thoughts and avoiding saying anything that might hurt someone’s feelings.
But one thing I’m learning is that keeping my mouth shut is not humble and offending people is just part of life. There’s actually no way around it.
So my approach is to just be honest and not worry about being too humble. Just speak, clearly and directly.
Then, if what I said hurts someone’s feelings, I listen intently and apologize quickly.
Honest first. Humble second.
If you’re the type of person who tends to speak out of turn or speak without thinking anyway, this might not be for you.
But if you’re like me and you lean toward biting your tongue—you might have to push yourself a little bit to start being more honest.
3. Be loyal to yourself first and others second.
This was something suggested to me by my husband who had seen me be loyal to friendships for years (decades) at the expense of my own needs, thoughts, desires.
At first, the thought sounded completely…umm… rude to me.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how completely draining it was to constantly be thinking about how everyone else was thinking and feeling, etc—at the expense of myself.
No wonder I was tired all the time. Anxious. Depressed. Disconnected. Etc.
These days, I try really hard to be loyal to my own needs first—and when my basic needs are met, I serve others. When I approach life this way, I have so much more to give.
4. No obsessing allowed.
I used to waste hours of my life (you would be shocked) obsessing over an email or a text message. I would sometimes sit at my computer for 45 minutes, trying to decide if I should send a tweet.
Or, after hanging out with a friend, I would drive home obsessing over something I did or said (“I can’t believe I said that! She probably hates me now…”)
My new rule for myself is: this is not allowed.
Either I send it. Or I don’t send it. No obsessing.
Yes, I have more typos in my emails these days and I’m sure I’ve sent a tweet or two that was either dull or self-indulgent.
But I’m also more likely to pick up the phone and call (rather than text or email) if the subject is sensitive.
And I’m not willing to waste my life away worrying about making a mistake when mistakes are how we learn and grow.
So that’s it. that’s my list. Are you a people-pleaser? How are you recovering?