personal development relationships

That BS called People Pleasing

people pleasing vidya sury

People pleasing.

Putting others’ needs before ours. Who hasn’t done it? That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, as humans, we are all wired to want to feel loved and accepted and when we go with the flow, it feels good. But when people pleasing becomes second nature, it is a great way to let stress take over our lives and let our own well-being go to hell.

Yes, I am guilty. I’d love to say was, but I know I am still not fully out of it. It is a hard habit to break.

At work, I was known as the person who could never say no.

I remember an incident back in 2001. I had a part time job working 9 to 12 – convenient, because I could drop my son off at playschool and pick him up on the way home. It was his birthday and we had planned a small get together with the kids in the apartment complex we lived. Knowing this, my boss asked if I could stay a little longer to take care of a consignment that had to leave that day. I agreed. What was weird is, I knew I should have said no, but I went ahead and said yes, because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. The feelings of a person who did not care that I wouldn’t be home in time for my son’s third birthday party.

People pleasing is like a disease

For me, it was part of my upbringing and the silly notion that the elderly can never be wrong. In our culture, the elders in the house are revered and talking back was unheard of. Imagine actually having the nerve to disagree with them or saying no when I meant no! As strong as my Mom was – she was pretty much guilty of people pleasing, too. Again, it was mostly because of how she grew up. We wouldn’t dare to say no even if it meant making ourselves miserable, at times.

We were like split personalities, mush at home and powerhouses outside. Can’t say that always felt good.

I can uncomfortably recall several instances when I was a total wimp.

I remember that time we were joining some friends at the movie theater and had to go via my aunt’s place, where she had some chores for us to tackle. When we said we were running late for the movie, she actually forbade us from going. I am embarrassed to say we didn’t go, as we didn’t have the guts to rebel.

I couldn’t say no to my friends…they trusted me, right? Looking back, I know they wouldn’t have minded if I had said no.

Why – even small things – like

  • Feeling bad to hang up the phone when we know we’ve got to rush somewhere.
  • Standing and talking to someone who’s holding us up from going where we want to, even though we know we must go.
  • Hesitating to disagree with someone because you don’t want to rock the boat.
  • Taking on something when we know it means overloading ourselves, because we feel bad to say no.

Sound familiar?

As recently as six months ago – I knew I couldn’t finish a writing assignment within the impossible deadline, yet I agreed to do it. And stayed up all night finishing it because my ego wouldn’t let me say no.

Allowing someone to push us around is downright stupid.

Not standing up for ourselves, worse.

Do we care so little for ourselves that we’d put up with any crap to please someone else? More often than not, that someone might have been happy with an honest answer.

What is disgusting is when those people are aware we’re saying yes when we mean no and laughing behind our backs.

  • Do we not deserve our own love and attention?
  • How hard is it to realize that it is okay to put ourselves first?
  • Why the desperate need for others’ approval?

People pleasing is often a personality type that develops during childhood, when we find it safer to say yes, because it makes us feel loved. We want to be cooperative and avoid conflict. This becomes a habit. Sadly, we end up paying the price. It never occurs to us to be assertive even when we must be. By the time we realize that self-respect is a myth, we’re too far gone to want to do anything about it.

People pleasing is the best way to be bullied – how nice does that feel?

Here is a great questionnaire from Self Therapy Journey that helps you figure out whether you are a chronic people pleaser and what drives you to being one.

vidya sury people pleasing

In an article on Yahoo Health titled Why being a people pleaser is bad for you and how to stop Rachel Grumman Bender recommends asking the following questions to figure out whether you are a true-blue people pleaser:

vidya sury people pleasing

If you answered yes to more questions than you care to admit, you are a people pleaser.

Can you stop being one? Can you reclaim yourself?

You can change, yes. You can do it without hating yourself for it. And yes, again, it is okay to put yourself first on your priority list. Practice self care. That way you’ll please more people even as you set an example. When you look after yourself, you are in better shape to look after others.

Take care of you

Admit it. When you please people, you feel all warm and happy inside as a result of saying yes. You feel appreciated. Fine, so you deserve it…but when you get addicted to being the yes man, you will pay a hefty price that’s just not worth it. Saying no is uncomfortable. But get used to it. Find another way to feel good – try exercise or going for a walk. Win win for you. You have to set boundaries. I know it is hard, but you have to.

Think before you speak

Before you agree to do something, pause for a moment to reflect on why you are saying yes. Must you sacrifice something just so someone else is happy? Will you feel resentful later? Is the give and take equation between you and the other person balanced?
Stop saying yes and practice saying no. Remember it is okay to say no. The world will carry on, regardless. And no, you don’t have to explain yourself. Don’t give in to negotiation.

Buy time

If it freaks you out, buy time. Don’t let people treat you as their go-to with their perceived emergencies. Just because they do not have a backup plan does not make you responsible.

Be assertive

It is tough to change overnight – but how about asserting that you are in the middle of something and will consider their request after you finish. Oh yes, you’ll face some fury and hurt feelings, but hey, it is time to stop being manipulated. Be firm. Recognize emotional blackmail for what it is.And you know what? People will get used to it. Even better, they’ll find someone else.

When you stop people pleasing, you reclaim your time, your self-respect and enjoy better relationships. After all, the people who really care about you would understand and appreciate it, right?

Those who matter don’t mind. And those who mind don’t matter.

People-pleasing can be a good thing so long as we make sure we take care of ourselves.

So – does people pleasing apply to you?

How do you tackle it?

I’d love to know in the comments.

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9 Comments

  • Reply
    Suzie Cheel
    January 13, 2015 at 2:14 am

    Yes a Recovering crowd pleaser I saw myself in much of your post. I have been a slow learner on this. Yes take care of you first. Namaste

  • Reply
    Debbie
    January 13, 2015 at 8:58 pm

    Happy New Year, Vidya! 🙂 This is great advice, for sure. I used to be like that during my corporate days and the end result was a bad case of burnout. The older I get, the easier it is to say “no”. A friend of mine had a great mantra: “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” Wish I had known about that one earlier. Cheers!
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  • Reply
    Sarah
    January 14, 2015 at 9:47 pm

    Reading this post, I don’t think I’m a die-hard people pleaser! However I do sometimes feel guilty saying no and I LOVE to please people with my food. That’s kind of inbuilt.

    Maybe that’s okay though? 😉
    Sarah recently posted…Hats and BadgersMy Profile

    • Reply
      Vidya Sury
      January 14, 2015 at 10:08 pm

      Absolutely, Sarah! 🙂 My Mom was like that, and I am (not so) surprised to find that I enjoy being a people-pleaser with food! I am happy to see you here – and yes, you’ve pleased me with your food – I am well on my path to being a regular fermented foody – your style.
      Vidya Sury recently posted…Just Be You #MicroblogMondaysMy Profile

      • Reply
        Sarah
        January 14, 2015 at 10:38 pm

        Good to know we both have a little of that gene then Vidya. I do enjoy it. And SO pleased that you’ve been fermenting more. Wonderful!
        Sarah recently posted…Red Onion and Garlic FlatbreadMy Profile

  • Reply
    Proactive Indian
    January 15, 2015 at 9:54 am

    I have never been a PP. Of course, there have been numerous occasions when I’ve put somebody else’s needs before my own, but on every such occasion, I was convinced that the other person’s need was more important and urgent than mine.

    “Can you stop being one? Can you reclaim yourself?” Yes, you can. I would compare it to a smoker giving up smoking. It’s difficult, but possible, and there’s a big chance of relapse.
    Proactive Indian recently posted…Food for thoughtMy Profile

  • Reply
    simple girl
    January 15, 2015 at 11:39 am

    a great article Vidya.. I loved reading it .. You have described all the situations very aptly..
    simple girl recently posted…The first timeMy Profile

  • Reply
    Irish Carter
    January 16, 2015 at 8:04 am

    Hi Vidya,

    I am a people pleaser who has learned the hard way to say no when necessary. I like you said yes and later had regrets on things I missed out because of not being more assertive and having a balance to helping. We definately learn from these experiences, don’t we?

    I have tackled it and gotten better by learning from these past experiences. I’ve learned to put my priorities first so that my family and other necessary things in my life are not neglected. There are still things I am working on but that is the awesome part of living our journey.

    Irish
    Irish Carter recently posted…Is It REALLY Your Dream You’re Living or Someone Else’s?My Profile

  • Reply
    Rachna
    January 22, 2015 at 10:51 am

    I can safely say that I used to be one when younger. But as I grew more confident and independent, I learned to say no and care a little less about what people in general thought of me. I guess experience is a great teacher too. It makes you realize that you can’t please all no matter how hard you try. Hence, it makes sense to at least be gentle to yourself. It is a constant struggle though. There are times when one gives in and feels bad later. Great post. I will take those questionnaires.
    Rachna recently posted…Five Traits I would like to pass on to my kidsMy Profile

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