How to overcome being a people-pleaser
My client today talked to me about her desire to make some new, casual friends.
Her nervousness to do so came down to her tendency to be "a people pleaser".
She was worried that either she would end up compromising on herself if, for example, any new friend wanted to spend more time together than she was available for. Or, if they wanted to do things she didn't. Or if she didn't click with them as much as she'd like.
She started telling me about other times she's people-pleased, particularly with her current friends. Usually it comes down to her not voicing what she really wants.
However, the problem with labelling it as "people-pleasing" is that it's not really about wanting to 'please others'.
It's about wanting to avoid ourselves not being liked.
My client was afraid that if she expressed what she wanted, her friends wouldn't like her, and if people didn't like her, she wouldn't have any friends at all.
Of course, nobody wants to be disliked, and nobody wants to not have any friends. But these fears are hardly rational - will she really end up alone for the rest of her life just because she expresses her opinion? Of course not.
But this is why people 'people-please': not just because they want the other person to be happy, but more because they themselves don't want to be judged or disliked.
Everyone wants to 'look good' and avoid 'looking bad', to some degree. It's human nature. It's survival.
But it doesn't mean we have to continue sacrificing ourselves.
So to overcome being a 'people-pleaser', first of all, be honest with yourself and stop calling yourself a people-pleaser. Because you’re only masking the issue.
Instead, identify what it is you are really doing (avoiding being disliked), and why. What’s the fear that drives this behaviour?
Whatever that fear is, forgive yourself and see your innocence in how and why you have this fear.
Whatever event that may have triggered this fear, ultimately, the part of you that created it was trying to do you a favour. It was looking out for you. Thank it.
And, you can reassure it that there’s actually nothing to fear.
Create a new way of seeing yourself, just like my client did:
"I am liked and I am loved no matter what."
And my client could really see how she is, truly, liked and loved no matter what.
As a result of our conversation, this is going to be her way of being from now on. A reminder for whenever she finds herself afraid of speaking up.
She also talked about expressing what she wanted as 'a battle', as though others were on the opposing side, and to speak up would result in conflict between them.
Which again, wasn't a useful way of seeing or being.
To overcome this, we created the idea that she's actually part of a team, not in a battle, and that expressing what she would like enables the team to win.
How does everyone benefit by her speaking up?
Because she will feel happier that she spoke up which will improve the quality of the time she spends, and, by being honest, they can create a win-win outcome. But by not speaking up, she creates a win-lose situation. And win-lose situation is actually a lose-lose situation by default!
By seeing how actually everyone benefits by her speaking up, regardless of whether she gets her way or not, she experienced a greater sense of ease in being able to do so. No longer was it seen as a battle.
You too, can experience ease and confidence in being true to yourself. All it takes is a shift in perspective.