People Pleaser: Yellow Eve Illustration

People pleasing and the lies we tell ourselves

I’ve been thinking a lot about people pleasing and how it permeates every area of our life without us noticing. Once we can start to acknowledge, we can then start to do something about it and make the changes necessary to live the life that we want.

Ask yourself honestly – at this moment in time where do you think people pleasing shows up for you?

  • is it in your workplace?
  • is it in your relationship with a partner?
  • is it in your friendships?
  • is it in the commitments you just can’t say no to?
  • is it in the family dynamic that’s always been this way?

It’s likely that you answered yes to some if not all of those questions, we know we like to say yes to things!

Where did we learn this behaviour? When were we taught that the way to get people to like you was to say yes to every reasonable and unreasonable demand thrown our way?

More importantly, when were we taught that we need to get people to like us at all?

How long have we been partaking in this popularity contest?

Who are we in competition with?

If we stopped competing, stopped saying yes to everything and stopped trying to get everyone to like us would our lives be better?

As driven ambitious women it can be really hard to accept that competing and saying yes to everything aren’t necessary ingredients on the path to success. It means we have to unlearn a lot of things we have picked up. We have to admit that maybe our way hasn’t been serving us well so far. We have to say no.

We also need to take time to decide what our idea of success is. Has it changed? Are we motivated by money? Are we motivated by fulfilment? Whatever we are motivated by and whatever success means to us we have to really consider what we are CHOOSING to sacrifice in it’s pursuit.

This is one place where sometimes we get it a bit wrong, we don’t accept that we are choosing the life we are living.  It’s a lie we tell ourselves.

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.

So often we say “I have to” or “I don’t have a choice” or “this needs doing” we don’t often accept ownership and admit that we are in control, even when we feel like we are not.

It’s so much of the way we were brought up to behave, the things that used to be positive words on CVs for me now scream out at a much deeper problem.

I think we have all been able to accept recently that perfectionism isn’t a good thing.

As Brene Brown so eloquently puts it “Perfection is the enemy of done”. I know I have sat in interviews in the past and talked about how my perfectionism is a strength and occasionally also used it when I need to discuss my areas for development too… sound familiar to anyone?!

But another phrase has got me thinking recently – team player.  Is this another lie?

Do you describe yourself as a team player? Have you ever thought about what that word is disguising?

What do we actually mean when we say team player? What behaviour would that entail?

I started to investigate and think about what it really means.  Turns out quite a few of the things we put under the “team player” column, on closer inspection were pretty similar to people pleasing.

It made me really consider, how many other people are doing the same thing? Are we setting ourselves up for a failure when describing ourselves as a team player and then wondering why we are struggling to get people to respect our boundaries?

Is team player jargon for “I’ll pick up the slack, I’ll sacrifice myself, my needs are less important?”

This is not to say that you cannot be a team player but I would encourage you to think more about what you actually mean and make a conscious effort to separate the people pleasing behaviour and the team player behaviour.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article – does it ring true for you? Is it something that you can recognise in yourself or colleagues?  There are a lot of questions in here that I would encourage you to really take the time to ask yourself, you might be surprised by the answers that surface.

Amelia Kirk

Amelia Kirk

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.

IG: @ameliakirkcoaching
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