In trying to please all, he had pleased none. Aesop, Aesop's Fables
Are you a People Pleaser? There is a reason I brought this question up! I am a recovering People Pleaser. No, really, I am, and I am not entirely sure how this choice of action began in my life, but I do think it is an easy trap for people to fall into.
I recently ran across a poem in a Chicken Soup for the Soul book which speaks directly to this issue. It is a bit long, but I believe it is worth the time to help us see clearly whether or not we have a problem in this area.
While most of this poem is obviously an extreme case of people pleasing, and does not describe my personal experience, it paints a good picture of different
characteristics one might observe in
oneself who leans towards people pleasing.
By, Barbara K. Bassett
When Angela was very young, age two or three or so, her father and her mother taught her never to say “NO”. They taught her that she must agree with everything they said, and if she didn’t, she was spanked and sent upstairs to bed.
So Angela grew up to be a most agreeable child; she was never angry and she was never wild; she always shared, she always cared, she never picked a fight, and not matter what her parents said, she thought that they were right.
Angela the angel did very well in school. And, as you might imagine, she followed every rule; her teachers said she was well-bred, so quiet and so good, but how Angela felt inside they never understood.
Angela had lots of friends who liked her for her smile; they knew she was the kind of gal who’d go the extra mile; and even when she had a cold and really needed rest, when someone asked her if she’d help, she always answered “yes”.
When Angela was thirty-three, she was a lawyer’s wife. She had a home and family, a nice suburban life. She had a girl of four and a little boy of nine, and if someone asked her how she felt, she always answered, “Fine.”
But one cold night near Christmastime when her family was in bed, she lay awake as awful thoughts went spinning through her head; she didn’t know why, and she didn’t know how, but she wanted her life to end; so she begged Whoever put her here to take her back again.
And then she heard from deep inside, a voice that was soft and low; it only said a single word and the word it said was…”NO.”
From that moment on, Angela knew exactly what she had to do. Her life depended on that word, so this is what her loved ones heard:
“NO, I just don’t want to; NO, I don’t agree; NO, that’s yours to handle; NO, that’s wrong for me; NO, I wanted something else; NO, that hurt a lot! NO, I’m tired, and NO, I’m busy, and NO, I’d rather not!”
Well, her family found it shocking, her friends reacted with surprise; but Angela was different, you could see it in her eyes; for they’ve held no meek submission since that night three years ago when Angela the angel got permission to say NO.
Today Angela’s a person first, then a mother and a wife. She knows where she begins and ends, she has a separate life. She has talents and ambitions, she has feelings, needs, and goals. She has money in the bank and an opinion at the polls.
And to her boy and girl she says, ” It’s nice when we agree; but if you can’t say ‘NO’, you’ll never grow to be all you’re meant to be. Because I know I’m sometimes wrong and because I love you so, you’ll always be my angels even when you tell me ‘NO’.
Have you ever had a hard time saying “NO” even though your instinct told you to? Were you worried about what the ‘asker’ might think of you? Did you say “yes” to avoid that negative response? I often had a terribly hard time saying that two letter word as my children were growing up. Being at home afforded me the time and the opportunity to say “yes” to many jobs that needed to be done by a volunteer. Being a teacher for nearly ten years before I became a mom, helped me to be comfortable as a volunteer, among a lot of kids, both in classrooms and in sports. So check, room mom, check, team mom, check, small group church teacher, check, teacher appreciation chair, check, PTF President for three years…you get the picture.
There are two books that have been especially helpful in helping me to break the habit of being a People Pleaser: Boundaries:When to say Yes and When to say No to Take Control of Your Life By, Henry Cloud and The Dance With Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships By, Harriet Goldhor Lerner, Ph.D.
Now, please don’t think I am suggesting that we should all say “no” to all requests for volunteerism! OUR world as we know it could not exist…it would be turned upside down, without the tremendous number of reliable folks who step out into the world each day, working diligently without earning a paycheck. And I bet most would agree that the rewards they receive from their labor is well worth the effort and time.
If you have a People Pleasing Pattern, you may often find yourself trying to be who others want you to be, agreeing with them to fit in. You may not be consciously aware that you are doing this, but there is part of your psych that wants to please others in order to avoid reactions that you are afraid of.
If this post has struck a chord with you,
here are five tips to help you stop being a People Pleaser:
(1) Realize you have a choice. You can say “NO”. Let the person doing the asking know that you need some time to think about and pray over your decision.
(2) Don’t apologize-if it’s not your fault. Ask yourself if you are responsible for the situation. If you’re not, let it go.
(3) Set clear boundaries and follow through. Be clear in communicating your boundaries to others.
(4) Consider who you want to share your time with.
(5) Realize you cannot be “everything” to “everybody”. That’s impossible. Even Gumby couldn’t do that!
OUR friends and family are important in our lives, but if they’re not giving us the support and love we need to pursue our dreams and goals, then we may want to consider spending a little less time with them. You may be that person that gives and gives and gives unconditionally, loving and supporting, yet, you do not receive the same when your needs come up. If this is true, take some quiet time out to take a good look at this. Like me, you will be glad once you begin to learn a healthier way to journey through this life. We teach people how to treat us. My sister, Laura Lea and I talk a lot about how often people can either “fill us up” OR “drain us”. We have and we need both kinds of people in our lives, but we also need to remember to refuel after the draining has occurred.
How about you?
Are you a People Pleaser?
If so, take a few minutes to begin the change today.
Is someone you care about deeply leaning towards being a People Pleaser?
Consider sharing this post with them,
so they, too, can live a more healthy life.
...love all and everything and spread a network of love everywhere. No matter who gets into this net, catch them all and fill them with love. Leo Tolstoy (1820-1910 Russian Novelist)