I am a recovering people pleaser. My people pleasing has manifested in several different ways over the years. Readily saying yes to all requests, favors, and invitations because I feared my no would lead to disappointment. Feigning indifference so as to appear agreeable or saying things like “it's fine” or “I don’t care where we eat” when in fact, I do have a strong opinion, but fear that my opinion may upset someone in the group. Agonizing over what to say in text messages, feeling the need to overly justify, explain, or rationalize my decisions out of fear they will not be accepted. Stifling and suppressing any feelings or emotions that weren't happy or jovial so as to not burden anyone with my struggles. At my core, I would struggle to dismantle a daily belief system that I am not good enough, and because I am not good enough, I am unworthy of love.
I recognize that this is not true; fear is often an irrational narrative playing out the possibilities of future pain. I recognize that these are survival mechanisms I adopted from an early age, believing that my worth was intrinsically tied to what I produced, and how what I offered made other people feel. When I behaved, followed rules, and made life easier for others, I was applauded, repeatedly told I was a good boy, and often rewarded. In this way, I learned to be self-sacrificing, amenable, and prioritize others’ needs and wants because I truly believed that was the only way that others could possibly love me. I never learned to draw healthy boundaries, advocate for my wants, and stand firm in the knowing of my worth. I recognize that these were, and are, my choices and that I make these choices when I am empty or am acting out of fear, and take full responsibility for them.
My people pleasing nature changed about four years ago, when I dove deep into my coaching studies, understanding my trauma response cycle, and discovered strategies I could implement to disrupt my ingrained patterns. Learning how to heal my core wounds, navigate my stress, and feel confident in advocating my wants and needs has been life saving. It is daily personal practice of self-soothing and self-expression, personal assessment, and boundary drawing as I continue to understand and heal these wounds.
Today, I wanted to share one of my favorite strategies; one that irrevocably shifted how I relate to myself, and others, in a personal and professional capacity. I use this everyday, and have shared this with my clients who also found it super helpful. As a people pleaser, I would readily agree to every request, invitation, or favor asked of me without thoughtfully thinking about the request itself, and its consequences to myself or others. So now, before I answer, I have learned to take a sacred pause and ask myself these three questions: What am I willing to do, What am I capable of doing, and What do I need in order to do it?
These three questions allow me to check-in and see where am I at, how am I feeling, and what I need in order to be successful. They give me space to understand my personal limitations and amend requests. Every time that I ask myself these questions, I am communicating to my mind, body, and spirit that my needs have worth and I am worthy of my needs. The more I do this, the guilt and shame surrounding the act of prioritizing my happiness dissipates and I feel more empowered.
For all my people pleasers out there, recovered, recovering, or in the thick of it, what strategies and tools have you found to be successful and where have you struggled drawing boundaries or advocating your wants/needs?