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Are You A People Pleaser?

It's nice to be nice, but not to the detriment of your own self.
PHOTO: istockphoto

It's past 7:00 p.m. on a Thursday night and you're about to miss your yoga class. You're now regretting agreeing to finish off your officemate's work while she jets off to Palawan.

You desperately need a weekend off, but somehow the whole family is coming to your place for lunch, again, and you're cooking, again, for 12 people.

You want to mention to your new partner that you're not exactly in love with that thing they do in the bedroom, but you decide you don't want to make a fuss, and so you smiile through the discomfort. 

You were interested in asking for a promotion at work, but since you've learned that your friend is also going for the position, you've convinced yourself you don't want it after all.

If any of these sound familiar, you might be suffering from The Disease To Please. While there can be benefits to keeping people happy, for many of us, people pleasing can sap our energy, our time and even our finances.

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When we stop to reflect on how much time, energy, and cold hard cash we're missing out on by saying yes to things we don't really want to do, it's quite shocking.

You might be thinking, "What's the problem here? Surely, it's nice to be nice?" But when we stop to reflect on how much time, energy, and cold hard cash we're missing out on by saying yes to things we don't really want to do, it's quite shocking.

How many meetings have you sat in that you really didn't need to be in? How many weddings have you attended that you couldn't really afford? Not to mention coffees you had with people that you didn't really want to have coffee with.

If you're a people pleaser, you're in good company; Beyonce, Lena Dunham, and Jessica Alba have all spoken of how they've struggled to say no and felt the pressure to put others first. While ensuring we have good relationships with others is undoubtedly important, people pleasing can lead to us feeling burned out and resentful, which can have the opposite effect.

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In a piece for Linkedin, Lena Dunham wrote that saying yes "fulfilled my desire to be seen as unsinkable, reliable. And in the deepest place, lovable." She pushed herself hard to say yes to everything, hoping to get love and approval from others, but this lead to her feeling exhausted - and her personal relationships suffered as a result. When she finally learned to say no and give herself more time and space; her relationships improved.

How To Stop Being A People Pleaser

Many of us are terrified of the conflict that saying no might cause. But what if conflict could be a positive thing, helping us to find solutions that help everyone to be happy, as opposed to the avoidance that leads to resentments bubbling away below the surface? In Beyonce's short film, Yours and Mine, she said: "I always felt like it was my job to fix [problems. I'm a] people-pleaser. But I'm no longer afraid of conflict, and I don't think conflict is a bad thing".

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If you've been a people pleaser from an early ageperhaps you were "mommy's little helper," or you were praised for being a "good girl" who never caused any troubleyou might be disconnected from what your own needs are. So start to tune into this again. Try asking yourself: "What does 'yes' feel like in my body? Does it feel expansive? A feeling of excitement? And what does 'no' feel like? Do you tighten up? Have a feeling of dread?"

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The more you feed into what your own needs are, the clearer they'll become for you.

If turning someone down to their face seems like a step too far right now, buy yourself some time. Tell the other person: "Let me check my schedule and get back to you." This gives you the space to tune in to what you want and say no when you've had a chance to formulate your replyand gather your courage.

If you're worried about letting someone down, try seeing it from the other person's perspective. How would you feel if your friend was only saying yes to a night out because she'd feel too guilty to say no? And, in fact, her mental health was suffering and she needed an early night rather than a night on the booze. You'd probably be understanding and empathetic. We often imagine that other people's reactions will be far worse than they are in reality.

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After all, saying "no" isn't really about saying "no." It's about what you get to say yes to instead. Yes to better mental health, yes to more sleep, more time for that passion project and energy for the people who truly matter to you. Ending your people-pleasing could be the best thing you do; for yourself, and for others as well.


This article originally appeared on Minor edits have been made by the editors.