Confessions of a Serial People-Pleaser

Confessions 2

Do you ever say or do something to get someone’s approval? I don’t. Wait, no, I do. All the time. (sigh). Whether it’s agreeing to watch a movie I don’t want to see, sacrificing time that I could be studying/working to accommodate someone else’s schedule, eating something I don’t really want to so the other person doesn’t feel badly about eating it…the list goes on. I am a first-rate people-pleaser.

I like people to like me, (I know, crazy), and I like the people I’m close to to be happy with me. Because of this, I often find myself putting others’ needs and wants above my own. What it comes down to is the fear of rejection. I worry that if I don’t do or say what I feel someone wants me to, they will no longer love/like/want to be friends with me.

Just typing this I see how ridiculous it is, yet it doesn’t feel that way in the moment. When someone is asking me to do something, I feel so much pressure to go with it, even if the person isn’t trying to pressure me. I talk myself into doing whatever it is they want me to do thinking “what’s the big deal? If I study a little less now I can always do more tomorrow,” or some other excuse along those lines. The thing is, it usually isn’t a big deal. No one asks me for a kidney or to commit murder for them, it’s usually small things here and there. But small things add up and I’ve noticed that if I do little things for someone that I don’t want to repeatedly, I start to resent them and wonder if they would do the same for me.

This is no bueno. Resentment and the feeling of ill-usage are dangerous when it comes to relationships, those feelings build over time and cause fights that seem completely out of the blue to occur; or even worse, passive aggression. As I’ve gotten older I’ve become more and more aware of all the times I say “yes” to those who are close to me (and even to those who aren’t) because I am afraid of letting them down. The more I do this, the more resentment I grow toward them along with frustration at myself for being unable to say “no.” Not only is it frustrating, it is also emotionally and physically draining. Now that I am aware of this I have no excuse and am determined to make a change.

Putting your needs first isn’t selfish, it is self-love. If you don’t have compassion for yourself first then you will be unable to have it for others.

Learning to say “no” is going to be a challenge, to help myself (and hopefully you), I’ve come up with a few guidelines:

1) Compromise. “yes, I would like to get dinner but tonight I have too much work, how about Saturday instead?” This is a specific example but generally speaking, change or set the circumstances of the situation so that you can say “yes” without feeling like you’re making a sacrifice.

2) Stop explaining. A long-winded excuse as to why you are saying “no” is unnecessary and can often sound insincere (even if it’s not). “I wish I could but (today/tomorrow etc) doesn’t work for me” is enough.

3) Make a plan, Stan. If you make time in advance to go to the gym, do school work, clean, etc then you can work other people around that. You will be so much more relaxed spending time with others knowing there isn’t something else you should be doing instead.

4) Be strict with yourself. Once you have your schedule set up, stick to it. I know it can be hard if, for example, that cute guy from Biology class wants to get coffee during the time you have yoga class, but be strong. Suggest a different time instead and if he really wants to go out with you, he will meet you halfway.

When you value your time, you value yourself and teach others to value you as well. 

I’m going to challenge myself this week to practice self-love and put myself first a little more often.

Do you have any tips for  how to stop being a people-pleaser?

Happy Monday and have a great week!



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