I’ll admit it. I used to be a notorious people-pleaser. I hate conflict, and if you’d asked an old version of me what would make me happy, I guarantee I would have said: “if everyone else is happy.”
People-pleasing has been a part of me for as long as I can remember. I’d just embraced it as who I was, and avoided getting to the core of why I behaved like that. But a few years back while reading a book (The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown – one of my Favorite Self-Help Books ever!) it was like I was hit over the head with a jolt of awareness.
Why do I act like this? Because at the core of my being I have the belief that my worthiness is dependent on other people telling me I am worthy. Ouch. That hurt.
It was a hard pill to swallow – not going to lie. But taking a moment to sit back and be brutally honest with myself, I know it is my truth.
“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” – Gloria Steinman
It goes back to some of my earliest experiences (like when I first started school and the kids were mean to me. That’s going to generate a desire to “be liked” for sure). Yet regardless of why, the truth is I’ve spent a good portion of my life waiting for other people to tell me I am ok, rather than believing it myself. This deep-seated desire to be told by the world “you are worthy” has led to my people-pleasing behavior.
People-pleasing for has generally always shown up as avoiding conflict and making sure everything is “good and well” with those around me.
I’ll put myself at the bottom of the heap and have a natural tendency to putting everyone else’s needs before my own – “as long as they’re happy” is the type of thing that runs through my head [cue: Self-Care was a part of my recovery strategy and I believe it’s an absolute essential for People Pleasers]. But let’s be honest here, whether someone else is happy or unhappy really has very little to do with me or my behavior. When did I start believing I had the power to control other people?! Eek.
Other people’s happiness is their responsibility. My happiness is my responsibility.
Simple as that. Trying to “make” other people happy is futile, as true happiness can only ever come from inside of them (or inside of us, so don’t wait for anyone to make you happy either). You may get temporary approval from someone else, but that is not happiness. Ultimately you end up sacrificing your own happiness in the usually futile desire to please others. It’s not worth it. To be honest, it’s a crap plan.
Brene Brown points out that at the heart of it, you must believe that you are worthy. Take a moment to ponder that – you must believe you are truly worthy.
If just reading this makes your squirm, you need to put some effort in. I’d encourage you to spend some time focusing on self-love and generating your worthiness from inside of you. For me, the change focused more on the need to connect the dots and put a break in the process of long-standing patterns of automatic behavior.
Specifically, my “dot-linking” went like this – Why do I people-please? Because I want people to like me. Why do I want to be liked? Because it helps me to believe I am worthy. To which the fix becomes acknowledging that I don’t need other people to tell me I am worthy. I’ve read it so many times, but this time I got it. This idea really resonated at a deeper level. Take note people-pleasers. This needs to become your mantra:
Don’t go after the approval of others. Only chase your own approval. If others like you as a result, great! If not, at least you’ll still like yourself.
The great irony of the people-pleasing trait is that once you stop trying to win the approval of others, you’re actually much more likely to receive it. Those who believe they are worthy at their core have a magnetic energy which seems to make people love and want to be around them all the more. Those who generate their self-worth from inside have a confidence that radiates from them and a light we all want to share in. Brilliant!
So to put it simply: Focus on your own happiness and you’ll see the effect as more happiness surrounds you. It all starts from within you.
Stop looking outside of yourself for approval! Start inside. Start by following your instincts and fostering self-love and belief. You are worthy. You are enough. You don’t need anyone else to confirm that. Ask yourself, what will make me happy today? Forget what will make other people happy for once. Try putting yourself and your needs first. I dare you ;).
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Hi. I’m Kate Snowise. I’m a Life Coach who helps people get clear on what they want, need and crave, and then helps them take the steps to move towards that.
I believe life is about more than surviving and being good enough. Each of us truly has the ability to thrive and live a beautiful, aligned life where we remember and connect with our authentic selves. I have an MSc in Psychology (the positive kind that concentrates on what is right with you). To read more about my signature coaching program The Thriving Life Project click here.