Hey People Pleasers, It’s Time to Stop That [Confessions of a Twenty-Something]
Hello. My name is Katie, and I’m a people pleaser. I am constantly worried, anxiety-ridden, and concerned about how other people are feeling toward me. I am not one of those “love me or hate me” kind of people. You must love me. You must love me or I will not be happy. I need to please and do for others so that I remain in good graces with everyone around me. I’ve heard people pleasers also referred to as “approval junkies.” I need the approval of all of the people around me. My family, my friends, my boyfriend, and my coworkers—I am untiringly trying to make them happy. I just want everyone to be happy, is that so terrible?
I’m now learning that yes, it actually is.
For as long as I can remember, I have been a people pleaser. When I would go out on a date, my main concern was always how much the guy liked me. I never took the time to ask myself if I even liked him. With that mindset, I never enjoyed myself. I would agree with their opinions and ideas even if they were totally conflicted with mine. I would let them choose the restaurants, the movies, everything. It wasn’t just me being laid back. It was me afraid to have an opinion. It was me not having a backbone. I wanted him to like me, so I decided not to be me. My oh my, what a contradiction.
I got into this pattern of trying my best to be the person everyone else wanted me to be instead of the person I wanted to be—that I was meant to be. I was constantly worried how others would view me if I was to say no to. I didn’t want to seem lazy or egotistical or rude. I didn’t want people to ever think I was selfish. It truly wasn’t until I turned twenty-four that I realized this wasn’t how I wanted to live my life anymore. It’s too stressful. It’s too much of a hassle. And while it’s almost physically painful to say “no” to the people I love, I’ve realized that I need to do this in order to be happy—for myself.
If you have people pleasing syndrome like me, you have a hard time saying no to people or setting limits. You tend to avoid conflict. You want other people’s approval. You want everyone to love you. You want to be well liked and cared for. I totally get this because I feel the same way. Who doesn’t want to be wanted and loved and cherished? But we need to realize that if we want people to truly love us and think we’re good people, they need to know the real us. They need to know our true identity instead of the one we’ve morphed into according to whom we’re with. This is no way to live.
Being a people-pleaser is just no good for your mental or physical health. When we’re determined to please, we tend to overcommit. When we overcommit, we lose sleep and get even more anxious and upset. We can even get depressed because down the line, we will finally realize that we can’t do everything. We can’t please everyone. It’s a hard pill to swallow for a people pleaser. We want to be able to make everyone happy, but it’s just not possible. Somewhere, sometime–you’re going to need to do something for yourself. And someone may not be pleased with your decision. Oh well, they can deal. As long as your decision is not a malicious or intentionally hurtful one, you can live your own life, on your own terms.
By overcoming your need to please, you will be able to be your own unique self. The biggest disservice you can do yourself is shapeshifting to please your “audience” of the moment. It’s pointless. No one will get to know who you really are, which will leave you feeling empty and unwanted. And no one wants to feel empty and unwanted. When you feel compelled to say “no”, you’ll feel empowered and fulfilled. You’ll feel confident and happy and secure. You won’t need to worry about what others are thinking of you because you’ll be happy with yourself. You won’t be a doormat.
We show people how to treat us by the behavior we accept or reject from them. If we constantly allow people to walk all over us because we’re too busy worrying about whether or not they’re happy with us, we’ll never gain any respect from anyone. Respect yourself, and you’ll receive that respect from others. Next time you’re faced with a decision, and you’re torn between doing something you don’t want to do in order to please someone else and doing what you want to do–go with yourself. Trust yourself, and trust in the fact that saying “no” is not the end of the world. Put down that “approval junkie” needle, and get clean. You’ll be happy you did.