I recently had a conversation with a friend about our shared need to constantly please people. I don’t think we’re alone in feeling like this. While our discussion centered mostly around our people-pleasing habit in the workplace, I’m sure this can be extended into social situations and relationships, too. We both admitted that sometimes we are driven really hard by our desire to want to make others happy and to create satisfaction based on our performance. In simple terms: we want people to be happy with our work and, ultimately, to like us. And when we don’t think we’ve succeeded at achieving these things, we become frustrated, feel defeated, or think we’re not qualified.
Someone once told me, “If you’re pleasing everyone, you’re probably doing something wrong.” These words have stayed with me for years. Trying to make everyone happy all the time will leave you feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. And when you over commit – whether through time or energy – you put a lot of stress on your body. This can manifest not only internally (you feel anxious and upset), but physically, such as disrupted sleep and lowered immune system. Not good.
I recognize that being a people-pleaser is simply part of my character. It’s something that often drives me. But the key is to realize when it may cross the line and become counterproductive!
Here’s are a few ways I’ve learned to keep my need to please people in check:
Value your values. Remind yourself of what your priorities are and stick to those when you think they could be compromised. It can be easy to put everyone else’s needs before your own, especially if you have a strong desire to help people. But if you always put yourself last then you’re never going to feel valued. And others may start to undervalue you as well.
Side note: I highly recommend reading Knowing Your Value by Mika Brzezinski. The book is all about how women achieve recognition and worth and I found it SO interesting and helpful.
Be realistic about what you can do and speak up when you need help. Don’t confuse yourself with superwoman. When we try to do it all we run the risk of crashing and burning. Promising the moon and stars may seem like a good idea, but trust me – it will catch up with you eventually. And don’t ever feel embarrassed to admit mistakes or ask for help. Reaching out to others shows that you respect their input and let’s them know you need their help.
Don’t take it personal. I know – it happens. And maybe women experience this more than men. We receive criticism and we immediately make it about us. My father likes to remind me, “It’s just business. Don’t take it personally.” This has really helped me separate myself from situations or events. For example, when we bought our first house, I remember feeling discouraged during negotiations, but reminding myself that this was not about me – it was business – helped me see the bigger picture.
Avoid being the person that always says NO or cancels. This one took me awhile to figure out. Always saying yes is super easy. I never said “no” because I didn’t want to seem unkind or unfun (I know that’s not a word). But then I’d get to the day in question and dreaddddd it and sometimes I’d back out – which made me feel worse than if I just said no to begin with. So rather than always saying yes or just saying no, I’m trying to think more about what I really want to do before I answer.
Okay, I would love to know your thoughts. Are you a people-pleaser? What have you done to keep this habit from getting out of control?