Overcome the "People-Pleaser" Mindset


I never realized that I was a people-pleaser until about a year and a half ago when someone very near and dear to me mentioned in a totally sweet, completely loving way that they noticed I was always "rising" to try to be who others wanted me to be. This doesn't necessarily have  to come in the form of always saying yes to everything. For some people, though, the 'yes' habit dominates, and it's draining. There is a sense of importance associated with being a people-pleaser, and these habits form early. Think back to your adolescent/teen years, where image and status were everything. In a lot of ways, these habits carry well into adulthood and a lot of us get lost in continually trying to "keep up with the Jones'es", if you will. 

I've learned over time that my 'people-pleaser' mindset comes from a place of shame and/or unworthiness: feeling like I won't be accepted, or that I'll no longer be needed, or worry that I'll look like an ego-maniac if I decide to do my own thing. This longing for external validation is exhausting: not only is the pressure and stress of having to "be somebody" bad for our health, it damages our sense of self-worth and clouds our ability to see what values we bring to the world as unique individuals. 

Being "in recovery" as a people-pleaser does not mean that these ingrained habits have disappeared completely. As with being "in recovery" from other bad habits or addictions, the underlying desire to act or behave in a certain way never fully disappears. It's a constant battle that gets easier with time, as individuals learn to replace the bad habit with something healthier and more fulfilling. 



You'll always hear me suggest some kind of writing/journaling exercises. Journaling is incredibly powerful, and when we write, there are never any wrong answers. Sometimes ideas start to flow when the pen hits the paper that you didn't even realize you had. Write out all of your strengths first so that you have a solid understanding of what you bring to the table. 


The "shame" that I mentioned earlier comes from the belief that who we are isn't good enough or that we aren't lovable. When this happens, we'll go to great lengths to find fulfillment, to be heard, accepted, understood. This eventually cancels out any efforts we've made to set boundaries and value our own strengths. Building a sense of self-worth, using the "I am enough" mindset, allows you to stand strong in your beliefs and avoid getting knocked over by criticism or someone else's bad mood or disapproving glance.


When we don't know what our boundaries are, it's easy to cross them and exhaust ourselves. Know what it is that you need to do to feel good about you. This will prevent you from saying "yes" constantly. Setting clear boundaries with ourselves helps us avoid inadvertently resenting others because we're pushing ourselves over our edge to meet their expectations. 


Believing that we have control over our own thoughts and actions, versus needing to find validation and worth from an external source (your partner, parents, friends), is the key to being a recovering people-pleaser. When your happiness relies on another person's happiness, you're directly feeding the people-pleaser mindset (and unknowingly, codependency). Find ways to 'fill your own cup', which for some is easier said than done. 


Like everything in life, overcoming being a people-pleaser is a practice, and one that needs to be worked at every day. Be grateful that you are doing the best you can and you will find that you're better able to make confident, independent choices and decisions for yourself.