How does one stop being a ‘people pleaser’—but do it pleasantly?
Pleasers are thought to have developed their characteristics in childhood, probably influenced by stringent parental expectation and a deficit of attention or support. I don’t think that fairly describes my own upbringing as a child; my folks weren’t “bad” parents. It is true, though, they were pretty laissez-faire in their child-rearing approach, and, as a tendency, concerned with their own wants over ours.
I have spent my teen and adult years being a people pleaser (at least beyond the limits of my immediate family, as I am sure they’d attest) and worrying terribly about what others thought, whether I had upset them, about not being liked.
An article in Psychology Today gave a list of signs of the people please, summarised below, of which I tick (or hopefully ticked, past tense) eight. These are that you…
- pretend to agree with everyone.
- feel responsibility for how others feel.
- apologise a lot
- feel burdened by the things you have to do.
- can’t say no.
- feel uncomfortable when someone is angry with you.
- act like the people around you.
- need praise in order to feel good.
- go to great lengths to avoid conflict.
- fail to admit when your feelings are hurt.
Whilst tending to be empathetic, pleasers also are more likely to feel crushed by criticism and have low self-worth. It is draining.
Recent experiences at work have presented a choice: sit nicely and quietly (but seethe inwardly with hurt and resentment), or kick back, and risk being ‘disliked’ or labelled a trouble-maker as a result. I chose to do the latter, winning no friends and influencing no one, but I am not sorry. I have stood up for myself, refused to accept the unacceptable—or at least not without a fight, and been honest about feeling hurt. And I am now less afraid of disagreement with others. There is a particular person at work who now likes me a lot less, which is not ideal, but frankly I don’t care that much.
I have not quite managed the right balance yet of assertive yet calm and reasonable, true, but let’s hope it’s the start of a better, more self-confident future.
Don’t get me wrong, I do accept that at work my time is not my own. If we’re lucky, we will have jobs that we mostly enjoy (and I have been pretty lucky), but rarely in every single aspect, be it the admin, the unpaid overtime, the commute, petty irritations with colleagues, or something else that can stress us.
All the more important, therefore, to please ourselves in our down time.
I don’t think the importance of leisure time needs to be sold, even though amidst over-scheduled work hours, family responsibilities, and the bombardment of media via various digital devices it feels increasingly precious. Leisure isn’t wasted time, and isn’t necessarily about having ‘nothing to do’ (not that that’s necessarily a bad thing either). No, of course it is important for de-stressing and recharging.
For me, different non-working activities suit different needs, such as country walks to clear my head; gardening, cooking or baking to feel back in control; reading to escape a while. And more recently writing as an escape, too.
I have blogged before about the pressure to ‘write for the market’ in self-publishing, i.e. first analysing what is currently saleable in terms of market trends, then creating a publication to meet that. I am not suggesting that calculated approach is ‘wrong’—commercially, no doubt it’s very realistic. Just for me personally, I want to spend my precious free time and energy on something I enjoy, have an interest in, and do not have to ‘force’.
Guess I’ll never be rich then!
Now I have some notes to make, and I think I’ll take them out into the garden on such a lovely day.
Amy Morin, 10 Signs You’re a People-Pleaser in Psychology Today, retrieved 27 April 2019.