We will never be able to please everyone in every moment at any day. That’s a fact. Jesus didn’t do it, Gandhi neither and nor did Martin Luther King. No one has in the history of humankind.
According to psychologists, the need to please others can manifest in always saying YES to others, or by seeking for an external validation. People-pleasers have a need to feel important, as if they’re contributing to someone else’s life. Moreover, people-pleasers get their feelings of security and confidence based on the approval of others.
I am a self-confessed people-pleaser. This need, for me, came in the form of pleasing my parents earlier by getting great marks at school because that’s how I got appreciated. This mindset is so deeply ingrained in me, that I still sometimes recognize myself wanting to get others approval unnecessarily.
So you can imagine that my self-esteem was tied to achievement – not only by achieving the goal itself but doing what was prestigious, nice and commendable in the eyes of others. The latter has especially caused me many moments of self-doubt and poor self-image: I am not good enough. How has it affected you?
Last year was when I came to face to face with this personal facet and decided that I needed to do something about it. I knew there’s no magic wand to erase the traces of the attitude and its root at once, but I can lead myself into coming through, step by step.
So what are the ways I’m applying (and what psychologists have suggested) are effective ways to stop the cycle of people pleasing?
Recognize your True Value
The root cause of people pleasing is the need for external validation in order to feel important, valued and confident. Ask yourself these questions: “Am I only important enough and valued enough if others give me their approval?” Is others approval the only way for me to gain self-confidence?” The answer to both questions will probably be a NO.
Our true value as a person doesn’t lie in the evaluation of somebody else based on their standards (brought about by other conditions you have nothing to do with by the way). Our true value lies in how we see ourselves as a whole person and how we see every aspect of our makeup that make us our very own unique brand.
The moment you start to recognize and appreciate yourself for all that you are, the less busy you will be in looking for others approval.
My coach has challenged me to keep a so-called white diary. Here I acknowledge daily the good I’ve done simply because I am me. It made me realize how much my self-confidence was tied to what I can do and less of who I already am.
Everyday that I write a good that I did or something commendable, I add to it, “because I am…”
Practicing it has rewarded me small proud moments that have slowly built my self-confident more and more. In retrospect I thought it’s a pity that I have not, for most of my life, recognized the greatness of just being me.
Be and Do from a Place of Love
Nothing will beat and will tantamount to the value you will feel as a person when you truly love yourself. Nothing will beat and will tantamount to the value that you add when you do from a place of love (or passion, concern, or importance).
Why? because loving yourself is loving imperfections, the ugly and the beautiful, that no one else can. Doing from a place of passion is what’s unique to you, what means the world to you, and what is important for you; from you (not from others – which is like approval) and through you creates the situation where you are selfishly doing from a higher self.
You know for yourself that no one can question nor disapprove your deep motivation because its what’s genuine of you.
Set an Intention
When I started speaking more and more to public, giving more and more training sessions to different audiences, I had this thought that I want to get 100% THUMBS UP from my participants. Unrealistic I thought but didn’t want to admit that it was so.
As I learned that doing from an intention gives more joy, peace and satisfaction, I changed my approach. I asked myself, what’s really important for me when I speak and give training? For me, among others, is that I make sure I have fun, clear, and connect with my audience. So I do all these and evaluate myself based on doing the approach I intended. Yes, it’s important that I meet the goals of the training but that’s not only what’s important for me. I know I will meet them anyway (because I’m good like that).
After all, its how I deliver the results that’s more valued than the results itself – the personal touch that I add. After all, most trainers and facilitators are educated to meet training goals.
Bring awareness to this tendency. Are you saying “yes” again without considering the impact to yourself further? How are you forming your goals? To whose satisfaction are your goals based on? How are you evaluating yourself?
When you recognize you’re doing it again, gently acknowledge it and realize that you can turn back to the path of your genuine intentions and motivations.
Say No and Set Clear Boundaries
YES is the notorious word that causes regrets, burn out, disappointments and it can destroy credibility. Saying YES all the time is equivalent to over compromise, overcommitment, and over promises. None in the end creates a win-win situation for anybody, especially for you.
Find out which situations you often said YES to and later wished you didn’t. Classify those situations and examples as the no-go. When faced with similar situations, practice saying NO instead. The more you do it, the more comfortable it will feel. Soon enough, you will reap the benefits of compromising fairly, committing adequately and promising reasonably.
Whether we developed this driver, attitude and habit because of childhood events, feedback from others or by following an example, we have the power AS ALWAYS, to change it. Remember to recognize the root, address it from there and then start to work your way into changing your behavior.
Can you suggest other ways to stop pleasing others? I’d love to hear from you!