When I set out on a journey to rebuild the balance in my life, I was not expecting to find the thing that had been holding me back was in my control the whole time – people pleasing.
For me, that key ingredient in finding balance in your life is to let go of the people pleasing behaviour that leaves you with no time or energy for yourself.
I learnt this the hard way so I want to show you the easy way.
Acknowledge & accept
Hopefully by reading this article you are on your way to acknowledging the fact that people pleasing has been showing up in your life. The next step for you now is to accept a couple of important things.
- You have a choice.
- People pleasing is actually selfish.
These two things are difficult to accept but it’s time to start trying.
So often we don’t take ownership and admit that we are in control, even when we feel like we are not. We need to accept that we are choosing the life we are living.
We are choosing to put up with the work demands that we don’t agree with.
We are choosing to say no to the things we actually want to say yes to because we are choosing to prioritise something else.
People often worry that changing their behaviour and stopping people pleasing makes them selfish. The opposite is in fact true. When we are coming from a place of people pleasing all the “good” things we do and sacrifices we make are actual coming from our own desire to be liked and deemed worthy and loveable. When we start letting go of people pleasing we can then choose to act kindly towards other people purely because we want to! That is a lot less selfish.
Once we can start to accept and know that these things are true we can start to move forward, knowing is the first step to change!
Take some time to notice where this is showing up in your life and write it down. Initially we often think of one key area that we notice it but once we become more aware you are likely to notice it trickling into many aspects of your life. This step will be important later!
It’s also worth, if you are open to the exploration, taking some time to journal about who you are really seeking validation from.
So often our people pleasing begins at such a young age as a response to a key figure in our lives; parent, teacher, sibling.
You might not have been aware that this was causing this behaviour, you can then follow the step of noticing your language and reframing your thoughts in connection with the specific person that comes up for you.
What language are you using? Does should, need and have to feature a lot?
For me the easiest way to notice my language is to write it down as I then have time to reflect back on it.
In the early stages it is more likely you will notice your use of language afterwards, but with practice you’ll be able to change it before it happens.
I recommend enlisting the help of a partner or friend and ask them to point out when you are using those words and any other key ones you notice for yourself that signify you are doing something you don’t want to do.
Once you’ve started to notice the specific words the next step is to notice what beliefs you hold around people pleasing.
When thinking about a specific scenario (or a few that you know commonly come up such as cancelling on a friend, taking on too many tasks at work etc) write down what you believe the other person would think about you in this scenario. Take a moment to observe that this is most likely untrue and then write down a new belief and back this up with evidence.
My boss will think I am incapable if I don’t finish this work on time and take on the extra project she wants me to do.
My boss knows that I am capable, I am well regarded by my colleagues and it will benefit me to explain my workload and ask for help. Asking for help is a strength and I will be setting a good example to my junior team members that they should not struggle alone.
I recently read Untamed and Glennon Doyle mentions that anger signifies a boundary that has been crossed. We are not always aware of our boundaries but take time to notice when something has made you angry and upset. Write down what happened, is there a common thread theme?
It will help you to notice where you need to strengthen a boundary. What would help make sure this doesn’t happen again? That is your starting point for a boundary.
You don’t need to change everything at once.
People pleasing has most likely been a behaviour that you feel has been protecting you for many many years. You will probably want to resist the change so go easy. Find something small to change, then another and another.
I often recommend starting with something simple like practising saying no to things that you don’t feel have high consequences. It might be not feeling you have to reply straight away to the whats app group you are part of.
Remember your small is different to everyone else’s find what works for you. If it still feels too scary to take action, break it down even further.
When in doubt about whether you are people pleasing or just trying to be kind ask yourself these questions.
“What is this costing me?”
“What am I sacrificing to be here/do this?”
Is it costing me time with my loved ones? Is it costing me emotional turmoil? Is it costing me my mental health? Is it overstepping a boundary?
It’s up to you whether you are happy with the cost and the sacrifice.
This helps us accept and identify that we are making a choice and if you aren’t happy with the choice, choose again.
Also by Amelia: People pleasing and the lies we tell ourselves
Amelia works with ambitious driven women to help them stop people pleasing and start reclaiming their time to create balance, progress and fulfilment in their work and life.