Hello, my name is Jessica and I'm a recovering people pleaser. I didn't even realize I had a problem with this, and in fact thought I was just a great people reader, until I realized I was living with chronic social anxiety.
I've done a lot of pondering, observing, and reflecting around this issue. In this article, I'm going to share the thoughts and answers I've received around healing the habit of being a people pleaser.
The thing is, as soon as you begin practicing these tips, you feel an instant weight taken off of shoulders that you may not have even known you were carrying. We don't have to complicate this. Let's get started.
What is a people pleaser?
A people pleaser is someone who essentially, and most times unknowingly, puts the needs, thoughts, and opinions of others before their own.
People pleasing looks like:
- saying yes when you truly want to say no
- agreeing with others for the sake of being nice
- wearing a "mask" around others
- acting like the person you're around
- taking responsibility for others' thoughts and feelings
- feeling like no one would love you if they knew the real you
- feeling like no one truly knows you
- taking the blame when it isn't yours
- keeping whole parts of who you are hidden from others for fear of disapproval
- over-apologizing for everything
- worrying over what you said or how someone took it
- trying to never cause upset or unpleasant feelings in others
- unable to accept praise or credit
- avoiding any conflict
- unable to take criticism in a healthy way
Now as a recovering people pleaser myself, I can defend a lot of these. I might say that I agree with others just because I don't care to cause conflict, but right there is where my thinking gets screwy.
I'm assuming that if I were to speak my own thoughts, there would be automatic conflict. In reality, I'm cheating not only myself but the other person as well out of a deeper connection that we could be having if I were instead fully engaged and vulnerable.
What's wrong with being a people pleaser?
What's "wrong" with being a people pleaser is that you cheat yourself and everyone else out of the gift that is you. Every single person is a gift in their own way, but no one will ever get to experience yours for as long as you morph into who you think they want you to be.
That's just one negative side effect of being a people pleaser. Here are a few more:
- shallow connections with others
- resentment that builds until you explode
- social anxiety up the wazoo
- chronic worry about what others are thinking or feeling about you
- over-attachment to or detachment from others (there's the obvious people pleaser running around doing things for others, and then the loner who doesn't let others get close)
- anger towards others
- feeling like no one really knows you, and therefore can't really love you
- over-analyzing everything you said or did around others
It's just one big hamster wheel of never-ending worry, stress, and angst. Of feeling disconnected, unseen, and irritated.
Where people pleasing starts
In my opinion it usually begins when a child perceives, incorrectly or not, that they need to be a certain way in order to maintain a loving connection with their main caretaker/s.
Two children with the same exact parents could perceive things differently, so one child could come out being a people pleaser while the other may not. Like everything, it's all in the perception.
If you're a parent, you know how hard it is. While the reality is that most parents love their children no matter what, they are exhausted much of the time and therefore say and do things they don't mean. I do remember trying to please my parents in whatever way I thought would be best in that moment.
I also believe that we choose our parents and even some of our traumas before we get here, so that we can expand and grow in awareness on a soul level. So if you're a people pleaser, I don't think it's an accident.
You're here to expand in this area of self-awareness, authenticity, love, and trust.
How to stop being a people pleaser
This is where we turn something that pains us into a fun and exciting new venture in our life. We're pivoting in a different direction, letting it be easy, and flowing towards the truth of who we are, who others are, and how reality actually is.
(Hint: it's all love).
It's safe to be you, to be loved, and to be vulnerable. It's safe to not be perfect, to say the wrong thing, and to upset others. And it's safe to open yourself to life, to others, and to all the intimate moments that are waiting for you.
Here are four mindset shifts that will pivot you away from the habit of people pleasing and back to the center of who you really are.
1. Shift into loving awareness
To heal people pleasing, we move from a place of needing others approval and love into becoming love itself. There is a huge difference.
People pleasing is not done from a place of love, but from fear. It's a fear of rejection, of losing approval, or of causing upset and hurt.
When we become loving awareness, we tap into who we truly are. Think of a time when you felt so connected, at ease, and happy. In this state, you could overlook yours and other's mistakes, seeing it all as meaningful and everyone as trying their best.
In this state, you just love yourself and others as they are. You know that others love you. There's no need for approval because on a soul level, we all love each other. We can relax.
Loving awareness looks like:
- seeing the human innocence in yourself and others
- understanding that nothing others say or do is because of you
- knowing that you are love and every single person's higher self loves you
We practice loving awareness by:
- not seeking love or approval, but being it
- seeing things through the eyes of our higher selves
- meditating, journaling, taking deep breaths, recentering ourselves throughout the day
2. Follow the inner pull
You're always being guided and pulled in directions that most interest you. Most adults ignore these impulses throughout the day, while a child is much more likely to follow them.
People pleasing causes you to ignore your pulling if it isn't matching with someone else's. You don't want to turn them down, hurt their feelings, or cause any upset.
When you begin to move your awareness to where it's being called, you can't go wrong. And I'm not talking about big, life-purpose type pulling. I'm speaking of the moment to moment pulls.
The pull that says you're done with a conversation, that a warm bath would feel so good right now or that you're ready to go home.
Start listening, and you'll find that you are prompted and pulled throughout your day. Be like a child who follows it, without believing that you're doing anything wrong to others.
When you do this, you show up more fully. You're in the conversation until you aren't, sharing an experience until you're pulled once more in a different direction.
This is closer to how we are on a soul level, always moving, like in our dreams at night. No one takes offense, we all just move, experience, and explore.
Following the inner pull looks like:
- moving in the direction of your needs and desires, moment by moment
- saying no when it doesn't align with your inner pull
- being in the moment, fully enjoying it, until you're pulled once more
We practice following the inner pull by:
- asking ourselves frequently: what do I most feel like doing right now?
- releasing guilt, moment by moment (in other words, letting ourselves off the hook and not dwelling in guilt-ridden thoughts)
- acting on the intuitive suggestions we receive rather than overriding them for the sake of someone else
3. Be real
In order to be real, the mask and protection has to come off. We open up and let ourselves be vulnerable. When we're real, we have more authentic and deep connections with others.
To end a conversation we don't want to be in, we have to be lovingly aware and honest. We appreciate that person and don't assume they will take offense. We say goodbye and move to where we're being pulled.
People pleasing is based on assumption and carried out on guilt. We can't assume how someone else is going to feel or think, and we can't take on the responsibility of it either way.
You aren't responsible for someone else's thoughts or feelings, good or bad–they are. Others aren't responsible for your thoughts and feelings–you are.
So if we're all only responsible for ourselves, this lets us be completely authentic and honest in who we are.
When we're vulnerable and real, we let ourselves be truly seen, which opens us up to have deeply intimate relationships with others. They want you, not who you think they want from you. They aren't perfect, so what makes you think they want a perfect version of you?
We all want real, authentic, deep connections, and in order to achieve that, we have to be who we are–not who we think the world wants us to be. That fake mask will never, ever be as interesting, fascinating, enveloping or beautiful as the real you.
Being real looks like:
- acknowledging your current thoughts and feelings
- understanding your inherent worth and value to others
- giving someone all of you rather than a shadow of you
We practice being real by:
- speaking our truth, moment to moment
- being vulnerable and opening up rather than hiding and dicing parts of ourselves away
- letting others work through their own feelings and thoughts without taking responsibility for them or trying to sway them in a certain way
What are we to trust in? We're to begin trusting that the world is a safe place, that others inherently love us, and that everything that happens holds a higher purpose.
We trust that others have their own inner guidance as we do, and that we don't need to fill that place or do anything beyond what we're being pulled towards.
Trusting that we don't have to have it all figured out, for ourselves and definitely not others. That what others say or think about us is not an accurate reflection of who we really are.
The whole world could hate you, but if you trusted that their higher selves loved you, you could find understanding in their confusion. That's all it ever is when we're separated from our true nature of loving awareness–confusion.
Trust in love, in things unseen, in your higher self and guidance, and in divine unfolding.
Trusting looks like:
- believing the world is a safe, loving place
- understanding on a higher level that you are loved by everyone, even if they don't realize it
- knowing that everyone has their own inner guidance, just as you do
We practice trusting by:
- assuming the best in ourselves and others
- not taking personal offense at what others say and do
- realizing that others don't need to be rescued by you
Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed this article and found something to take away with you.
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Jessica Dimas is the creator of Anything Can Be: A Reference Guide for Applying the Law of Attraction.