People pleasing has been an old protective habit of mine. For much of my life, I focused my attention on others’ needs – trying to do my best to accommodate, help or satisfy them.
I became very good at this behaviour, but I also started to notice I was developing an increased tendency towards feeling resentful. Why didn’t others seem to care about my needs in the same way? Why did I feel like I was running on empty, hoping that someone would step in and offer help or support?
It became clear that my people pleasing wasn’t an act of leadership but a subconscious method of self-protection in an attempt to get my love and belonging needs met.
Once aware of it I started to spot this defensive behaviour in many places.
I was the first in a team to put my hand up and take on a project
I would say yes to social events that I felt I “ought” to attend
I would hold back my feelings and intuition – waiting for permission to speak
I would ask questions instead of stating my opinion
I would overextend myself believing that eventually, I would get on top of everything
I would take responsibility for others’ well-being to the detriment of my own.
Being a sensitive empath aggravated the situation.
If those close to me showed up unresourceful or in pain, I would leap into rescue. I now know this wasn’t a respectful choice. Others do not need me to rescue them. I do not need to choose to be in the drama of everything.
Establishing boundaries has been part of this work. Once the boundaries are clear the job of consistently communicating and applying them begins. It would be easy to default to rescuing and people pleasing, but it’s an inauthentic choice. Instead, I am practicing being clear and kind, asserting and re-asserting and above all staying out of the drama and being emotionally hooked.
One of the things that helps is getting a grip on my anxious thinking. When my head lies to me and tells me of all the things I “should” do and that I am not a nice person and should feel guilty, I choose to stop and remind myself that I am responsible for staying in my own well of being, not someone else’s.
If this resonates and you’d like to change your own default pattern here are my top tips:
- Start journaling. Write down those thoughts that come up and encourage you to give your power away to people pleasing.
- Identify what you feel when you think those thoughts and what that’s trying to teach you. Mine was guilt and I eventually challenged whether this was actually helpful or just an old habit.
- Get clear about what you are responsible for and what you’re carrying for someone else.
- Get clear about what you authentically want. (This in itself can take some time!)
- Choose to honour and advocate for yourself. You deserve a happy fulfilled life just like everyone else. There is no rule that says you have to suffer for others’ well-being.
- Surround yourself with the right emotional support team – people that will hold you in your power and light.
If you struggle with people pleasing and want to reclaim your own authority and courage, I can help. Let’s book a free call.