By: Pamela Tippit, LPC-S
Pleasing others and all forms of codependency threaten your mental health and life as you know it.
My saying is, "If everyone likes you, you're living a lie. You're either lying to yourself, someone else, or both." So why do we do it?
The answer is both simple and complicated. The simple answer is we want to see others happy, and we want to be the ones to make others happy, especially those that are closest to us. The more complicated answer is that maybe we people please because we have experienced trauma or unhealthy ways were modeled for us to connect with others. We've learned that making others happy is how to receive love, care, support, or attention. No matter the origin, pleasing others may serve you somehow, even if it hurts you. In the front of your mind, you know that people-pleasing isn't the best approach, although all other parts of you know that this behavior generates people to like you and encourages people to accept you. You're merely doing what was expected of you.
While people-pleasing can be pretty damaging and maybe one of the hardest things to pivot away from, there are a lot of secondary gains; hell, if I am being honest here, there are a lot of primary gains from pleasing others, although not the healthiest.
How do you begin to make that first turn away from pleasing or living for others to pleasing and living for yourself primarily? Think about these following skills to discover what you need to hold on to and let go of.
Recognize that pleasing others is a futile effort.
This idea goes back to the ever-beaten ground skill I share with all clients, the emotional account. Have you heard of the emotional account? Click HERE and get yourself up to speed! Often, we overspend, meaning we use our emotional funds of time, energy, and effort without budgeting, tracking, or noticing. Then we become emotionally bankrupt. So, when we need energy for ourselves, time for ourselves, and we need to expend effort for ourselves, we are out of funds. Then when you try reaching out to friends and family for their time, energy, and action, they can choose whether they will give off their emotional currency and resources. How often do others return the same amount of emotional money you feel that you have given to them? Here is the kicker, no one has to offer of themselves to you even if you've provided to them previously. If you consider this truth, you may quickly realize that emptying your emotional account for others will, figuratively & literally, drain the life out of you. AND that there may NOT be a lifeline for you when you find yourself drowning. This realization will help you consider letting go of pleasing others.
Reflect on your own needs and desires.
As a therapist and in my own life, I see how often many of our wants, needs, and desires are driven by what others prefer and crave. Take the time to explore what truly brings you joy, fulfillment, and satisfaction. What are your passions, goals, and aspirations? Making yourself aware and comprehending your wishes, needs, and desires is imperative in shifting your focus from people-pleasing others to living for yourself & pleasing yourself.
Challenge your beliefs and mindset.
Do you engage in irrational thoughts? Are you still trying to figure it out? Check out the most typical irrational thoughts HERE. Once you have figured out the logic behind what drives your people-pleasing behavior, pause & ponder on that for a moment. Then challenge yourself to acknowledge and recognize that you deserve love, care, and acceptance simply for being yourself and not because you make others happy. Once you do this, you realize that your happiness matters.
Establish your boundaries.
Boundaries are essential for maintaining your mental and emotional well-being. Identify what you find acceptable and unacceptable in various relationships and situations. Communicate these boundaries to others and, most importantly, practice these boundaries and learn to say no when necessary. Need help with clearly communicating your boundaries? Go HERE to learn how using "I-statements" can help you.
Being kind and compassionate towards yourself as you navigate this process is essential. Recognize that letting go of people-pleasing is a journey. It's okay to make mistakes or have setbacks along the way. Treat yourself with the same care and understanding that you extend to others.
Remember that prioritizing your needs and authentically living your life your way does not mean you will disregard others entirely. It just means finding a balance that allows you to care for yourself while maintaining healthy and mutually beneficial relationships.
While implementing this advice in your day to day, bear in mind, "If everyone likes you, you're living a lie."