No More People PleasingJul 26, 2022
People pleasers are liars.
The first time I heard that phrase, I was a bit shocked. As a native New Yorker, I have a rather direct manner of speaking, and it feels more natural to just “say it like it is.” My words are often a little too blunt. Despite my direct nature, the word liar is very charged and does not easily roll off my tongue. The word liar sounds harsh, accusatory, and rife with judgment.
When I took a moment to process those words, my first inclination was to come to the defense of these poor people pleasers. Aren’t they just trying to make other people happy? What’s wrong with a little white lie to protect someone’s feelings?
My next thought was: Thank goodness you aren’t a people pleaser. You are way too quick to give your opinion to identify as a people pleaser. Right?
Then, it hit me. The years of saying ‘yes.’ What is medical training and doctoring, if not a perpetual exercise in saying ‘yes’ when you want to say ‘no?’
- Can you squeeze in my patient?
- Do you have 5 minutes to chat?
- Can you call this patient back?
- Do you have time for this prior authorization?
- Can you sit on this committee?
- Do you have a minute for a curbside?
- Can you cover my call?
People pleasing is not just a work-related issue. It frequently shows up in our personal lives when we attempt to avoid conflict or fall prey to the false notion that we can control how someone feels by acting in a particular way.
“My neighbor might get mad if I say I cannot watch her dog this weekend, so I should just say ‘yes.’”
When we say ‘yes’ to someone, we say ‘no’ to something or someone else. When we are people pleasing, the person we say ‘no’ to is ourselves. We say ‘no’ to our most genuine desires, our authenticity, and to honoring our own wishes. We tell ourselves that someone else’s needs supersede our own desires. We value the other person’s opinion more than our own.
When you agree to do something you never really wanted, you are not in integrity with yourself. You may meet the other person’s expectations, but you do not meet your own. In saying ‘yes’ when you meant ‘no,’ you don’t allow yourself to show up as your most authentic self. In that little white lie, you prevent the other person from knowing the real you.
But wait, there’s more. When we meet expectations out of obligation rather than sincerity, we frequently feel angry or resentful about the request. We might complain or take on the victim role. I might grumble, “Can you believe she asked me to watch her dog again? Can’t she board him for the weekend?” However, the problem was never my neighbor’s request. The problem lies in my authenticity and ability to communicate what I truly do (and do not) want to do.
When we are people pleasing, we put the thoughts of others ahead of our own. At first glance, this appears to be a selfless act performed out of kindness. But in this act of so-called selflessness, we end up avoiding our own expectations and feelings. In my example, I set aside my desire to protect my valuable time and personal space with the thought: “She will be so angry if I don’t say ‘yes.’” As I show up out of obligation, the resentment and anger takeover: “I can’t believe she asked me to watch her dog again!” In this seemingly innocent act, I have handed over control of my emotional well-being to the other person by simply assuming what my neighbor might think about me if I said ‘no.’ But her “thoughts” are just my best guess. Her “thoughts” and my thoughts mirror one another. Maybe my neighbor will care if I say ‘no,’ but perhaps she won’t. Maybe she thinks I love watching her dog. Maybe she was equally surprised that I agreed to watch her dog. I’ll never know because I never took the time to show up as the most authentic version of myself.
The solution to people pleasing is creating boundaries. Boundaries are created for self-protection and to promote self-responsibility. A boundary is intended to empower you, honor yourself and promote authenticity. Most importantly, boundaries are created from love. The goal of a boundary is not to be punitive or controlling. Instead, it promotes love for yourself and the other person. Would you want someone doing something for you purely out of a sense of obligation, or would you prefer they love and respect you enough to show up as the most authentic version of themselves?
The most essential part of a boundary is committing to it. You must honor that boundary no matter what. Yes, the conversation might be uncomfortable, and the other person might have some thoughts about your decision. But remaining authentic and in integrity with yourself will allow you to lean into the discomfort of having these difficult conversations.
I am coming to terms with the fact that I am a people pleaser. There, I said it. In many ways, we all are. I am learning to create boundaries and making a greater effort to say ‘no’ when I mean ‘no.” And when I do, I say it from love. Sometimes, love sounds like: No. Do I get it right 100% of the time? Of course, not. But each decision I make is a vote for the person I am becoming. It is a vote for the person I want to be. And I am committed to saying ‘yes’ to a life of integrity and authenticity. And that is no lie.
Are you a people pleaser? Do you say ‘yes’ when you really mean ‘no?’ Do you find yourself meeting expectations with feelings of resentment or anger? Do you complain when following through on something you never wanted to do in the first place? Are you ready to make difficult decisions so you can show up in life with integrity and authenticity?
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PS. I get a lot of inspiration from music lyrics. Many people use inspiring quotes (and I do too), but music really speaks to me. I hope you find inspiration in the songs too.
Everclear - Everything To Everyone
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