If you’re someone who thinks it’s your job to make everything right for everyone else, there’s a chance that you’ve developed the habit of “people pleasing.”
Not to be confused with being of genuine service to others, people pleasing is destructive. It stems from scarcity thinking, a lack of worthiness and a sense of not being enough. At the core, the people pleaser seeks approval from others and has great difficulty setting boundaries.
I used to be a master people-pleaser when it came to the holidays. For some reason, I thought it was my job to make sure that everyone had the perfect Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas. I over committed my time and energy. The only problem was, I would get so caught up in planning, preparation, and attending to others, I would be too tired to fully enjoy the holiday with my own family.
Why People-Pleasing Doesn’t Work
Isn’t it obvious? It’s virtually impossible to be everything to everyone all the time.
People-Pleasing is destructive to self because it generates emotions of guilt and shame. No matter how hard you try, it is virtually impossible to please everyone. At some point, you’re going to find yourself feeling bad about that reality.
People-Pleasing is harmful to others because it generates disappointment, resentment, and lack of trust. If I’ve said “yes” when I really mean “no,” I’m bound to hurt or frustrate someone when I fail to honor my commitment.
How Do You Know if You’re a People-Pleaser?
Start by paying attention to the following:
1. Your Negative Emotions
What are the underlying negative emotions that rise up when you make a commitment to someone else? If you’re experiencing a lot of angst when you first make a commitment, there’s a good chance that you are saying yes when you’d rather be saying no. Somewhere at the core of who you are, you are already aware that you would rather not honor this commitment. The internal stress rising up within you is the first clue.
Notice the triggers for this type of emotion. Does it happen with certain individuals? Specific situations? Certain times of the year?
For instance, I’ve noted that the minute I make a commitment to attend a Sunday event, I’m already dreading it. Sundays are my only day for spiritual and physical rejuvenation. I go to church, rest, and enjoy the day with my husband. If I commit to something outside the scope of these important moments, I’ll begrudgingly honor that commitment or try to find good excuses to back out. Either way, I feel either frustrated or guilty.
Not worth all this, is it? Far better to decline in the first place.
2. Other People’s Reactions
What are the responses you are getting from others? Are they angry, frustrated, disappointed because you let them down? Maybe someone has stopped inviting you to join in. Or, maybe an important relationship has even been destroyed because you failed to honor your word.
Remember, the cycle of people-pleasing stems from the good intention of wanting to serve others. However, it escalates into taking on more than you can handle. Someone is being left out, ignored, or forgotten—the exact opposite of what the People- Pleaser is trying to achieve.
Runner faster will only help you fail more often.
Pay attention to the loudest voice, or maybe even that silent one. This person(s) that you’ve let down is the clue to where you may need to make some changes.
3. Your Physical and Emotional Wellbeing
The chronic people-pleaser is typically running from one event and person to another with little time for self-recreation. The result of this type of frenzied commitment is that he/she often feels overwhelmed, exhausted, frustrated, stressed out.
Notice how your mind and body is responding to your commitments. We are not better people when we do more for the wrong reasons. “No, thank you” is a sentence. Learn to say it out loud. We are best when we set boundaries and when we learn how to balance our own needs with our desire to serve others. Even Jesus knew he could not serve everyone.
Practice attending to some of the suggestions I’ve mentioned above. If you find that you are a people-pleaser, don’t beat yourself up. Take positive action and stay tuned for ways to break the cycle.