How I Learned To Stop Being A People Pleaser & Say What I Really Feel
People-pleasing is a lot like a mosquito bite; the more your scratch it, the more it will itch. But if you can summon the willpower to focus on something other than scratching it, eventually it will heal.
Five years ago I would have chocked on my champagne if you suggested I was a people pleaser. Not because I'm bad at drinking champagne, but because I wasn't aware of all the different shapes this behavior takes. People-pleasing isn't just bending over backwards to makes sure everyone's needs are met before your own, it's a habit that manifests in various ways. Being agreeable when you have opposing thoughts is people-pleasing. Not saying what you really feel to keep the peace is people-pleasing. Holding back your true self to make others feel better about themselves, also people-pleasing. Staying neutral so you come across as appealing to everyone? People to the pleasing all day long.
You can pull the curtain off of any type of people-pleasing behavior by asking this simple question: Am I sacrificing, silencing, or minimizing some part of myself in order to make other people feel comfortable and happy, or to stay in their good favor? I became aware of my people-pleasing nature when I finally heard the voice of my own negative narrator, the one that kept whispering, "like me, like me, like me." I wanted to be liked by other people because it feels crazy good, duh! There's nothing inherently wrong with enjoying being liked, the corrosion process starts when you try to manipulate the act of being liked instead of allowing it to happen naturally.
I had a surefire way of staying in people's good graces, being liked, and guaranteeing everyone felt hunky-dory: keeping myself small enough to make those around me feel big. In my mind, I was building people up by stepping back, keeping quiet, and not permitting myself to fully express my authenticity. On the surface I believed this to be a selfless act. It wasn't until I dug deeper that I was able to realize the degree to which this mindset was completely whacked-out. Worse yet, I began to forget who I really was and the very things for which I stood.
The tipping point came for me when I realized the pain of silencing my honest voice was harder to endure than the pain of someone not liking me. I decided to make new habits and stop scratching that nasty old mosquito bite. The troublesome thing about people pleasing is that it sponges a buttload of inner peace. The subtext I bought into was that I had to be someone other than my real self in order to be accepted and liked. I was looking outward and seeking external validation by pleasing others, which kept me habitually restless. Once I accepted that I am enough just how I am, and my ideas, thoughts, and opinions are valid for no other reason than they come from my heart, I started to feel the internal strength I needed to worry less about what other people were thinking.
You make think, "Who am I to speak up? To challenge the norm? To express my whole self?" But the better question is, Who am I not to do these things? You build others up not by shrinking yourself, but by showing your unique colors and being bold — because this very act prompts others to recognize their own uniqueness and tap into their boldness as well. There is nothing evolved or progressive about keeping yourself small to make others feel safe and pleased. It's not your job to anticipate other's insecurities and then tailor your interactions to make sure they don't feel bad about themselves. It's your responsibility to take charge of your own extraordinary qualities and lovingly share them with the world.
I am not for everyone and that is OK. Actually, it's more than OK — it's freaking fantastic! It's an energy suck to invest in people who aren't picking up what I'm putting down. I'm choosing to share the unedited, director's cut version of myself with everyone and welcoming those who are naturally attracted to the real raw me. It's a lovely place where there are no mosquitos and the champagne goes down easy.