One simple change you can make TODAY to stop being a self-sabotaging people-pleaser and start living a life YOU love.
I have always been a people pleaser. I personally believe that it was my childhood trauma that sparked my inherent need to keep others happy, but regardless, providing pleasure to others became my main concern early on. This desire to help people has been wonderful in so many ways – I have learned to embrace it as a strength and have used it for all kind of good (such as becoming a life coach, for starters). As an adult, I recognize how this people-pleasing mentality can be applied in my work in a way that helps and heals both my desire to help and extends to those I come into contact with.
That said, this same quality has also led me down a number of bad paths: I used to insist that I perform extra work to my own detriment simply to alleviate someone else’s strain. I’ve been involved in a number of toxic friendships and relationships just because I felt like I couldn’t walk away. And I’ve participated in behavior that some might refer to as “promiscuous” as I’d get swept up in the moment and felt like I couldn’t sexually disappoint another by standing up for myself.
Needless to say, this people-pleasing behavior followed me into my early career as well. And a few years ago, I felt like my people-pleasing persona had my other needs on a leash. I was working every hour of the day to satisfy every other person in my world and I no longer felt invigorated by it. It was like I had to be “turned on” 24/7; even when I wasn’t at work, I was still anxiously scurrying around, trying to make myself helpful and useful. When someone had something that needed assistance, I would jump at the opportunity – these activities gave me purpose and acknowledgment.
I regularly had a full agenda and yet I’d consistently deprioritize my own needs when someone else would come up and ask me for something.
I was spent. I was exhausted. I felt great in the moment – while someone else was smiling at me – but I was crying beneath the surface. My greatest asset also became my biggest weakness. And truthfully, I wasn’t sure how to fix it because I still ENJOYED helping others.
But with some trial and error, I learned that I could have both. But the ultimate answer was that I needed to provide for MYSELF first.
The goal wasn’t to eliminate that desire to help others. That is a beautiful gift and I believe that we should ALL be loving and compassionate. Helping others builds community and spreading pure love like that makes our world go ‘round.
That said, if you’re reading this, you’re likely a similar breed as I have been. You’re likely someone who is cripplingly generous with your time… someone who has forgotten how to say “no” to others even when saying “yes” makes you resentful, exhausted, and overworked.
The Bad News
No matter how giving you want to be, you literally cannot say “yes” to everything. Since you cannot be in two places at once, the opportunity cost of agreeing to one activity means that you have forgone something else you could have been doing instead in the same time window.
So that means that EVERY TIME you say “yes” to one thing, you’re actually saying “no” to every other thing you could be doing instead.
Consider this: every time you decide to work in the evening, you may forego that romantic, intimate evening with your partner. Every time you decide to sleep in, you may lose out on the extra hour of time you could have awarded yourself to exercise and feel in control of your schedule. And every time you agree to another’s request for service, you minimize the amount of time you have to contribute toward your own goals and to-do list.
Even too much of a “good thing” can be toxic
In many instances, your desire to help others may become a method of self-sabotage. You may forget that your inner self is asking YOU for help to execute on goals that are important to YOU. By putting another’s needs before your own so consistently, you’re allowing external voices to become louder than your own, subconsciously enforcing the idea that another is more important than you. This practice is detrimental — because if you give away all you’ve got to others then you will have nothing left to give.
The Silver Lining
Realizing all of the ways that you’ve been denying your TRUE wants may feel a bit daunting at first, but there is absolutely no need to beat yourself up about that. Truthfully, this awareness is powerful because you can do something in this moment to change your behavior!
Being AWARE of what you’re saying “yes” to and becoming increasingly more aware of how saying “yes” to one thing is also saying “no” to other things means that you can now be more INTENTIONAL about these daily decisions. You can take responsibility for the areas you allocate your time to and determine whether or not these decisions align with your values.
You have a finite number of hours in this day and a finite number of days on this planet. Listen to what feels good to your soul and do more of that! Determine what YOU need first and acknowledge when you’re denying yourself of what truly deserves your time.