People-pleasing is common amongst women, especially women who struggle with Imposter Syndrome. Most people-pleasing is born out of a dislike of confrontation because we don’t feel worthy of exerting our own wants, wishes, or desires. We remain quiet or even accept blame unnecessarily rather than confront the person about the issue.
Recently, I coached a woman who labeled herself as a people-pleaser. She was frustrated because she felt like she always bent over backwards for her co-workers, yet they never returned the favor. She felt like they took advantage of her good intentions, and she was at the point of leaving and finding another job.
After listening to a list of things she had recently done for her office to “make everyone’s lives easier,” I asked her a few questions like this:
Sonya: “So how often do the people you work with ask you to make their lives easier?”
Client: “Well, they don’t have to ask. I just know it will be better for everyone.”
Sonya: “Your boss and coworkers don’t ask you to take the actions you do, you don’t ask them if these actions are what they want, and yet, you expect them to make the same sacrifices they don’t even know you are making?”
Client: “Oh. I guess I didn’t think about it like that.”
People-pleasing creates unnecessary suffering for ourselves and a lack of authenticity in our relationships. We accept the blame in the moment; maybe we even justify it, but deep in our hearts we feel wronged by the other person. That feeling is based on a thought that goes something like,
“Why don’t they ever accept responsibility?”
“Why am I always the one who has to apologize?”
“I am willing to sacrifice for them by accepting the blame, but they never are.”
Thoughts like these leave us feeling resentment or hurt and often create MORE conflict and drama (at least in our minds) rather than solving it. We shut down our level of communication with the person or feel less open with them. We spin and stew in our thoughts about the situation. The result is often an inability to show up as our authentic selves with the person and may even cause us to end the relationship without ever explaining why, leaving the person confused.
People-pleasing is never a good solution for creating less drama and conflict in our relationships. Being our authentic selves and practicing open communication with others is most often the better solution.
But if you’re a people-pleaser, how can you get to the point of telling people how you feel?
This work begins in our minds. We often want to avoid conflict in a situation because we assume it is inevitable, but what if it’s not? Many times, the expectation of conflict has to do with our own thoughts about the situation and the assumptions we make about the other person’s feelings. My client didn’t ask her coworkers how they wanted her to show up. She simply made assumptions and then felt hurt that they didn’t recognize her “sacrifices”.
What if we start with a clean slate and a vow not to make assumptions?
What if we question ourselves about our own role?
In my session with my client, we went on to question the assumptions she was making. It turns out much of her behavior was learned from her childhood and had no basis at all in her relationship with her coworkers. Turns out she was carrying this outdated information into many of her current relationships, even though she wasn’t having a lot of success with it any more.
If you are tired of being a people-pleaser, schedule a free session with me today and let’s work on a plan so you can drop your people-pleasing and get into an authentic relationship with yourself and those around you. Until then, much love!