If faced with a choice, 11 times out of 10, I will choose to do something I absolutely do not want to do in order to make someone else happy or avoid conflict. For me, this “people pleasing behavior” affects everything from small decisions like what to do on a Thursday night to extremely important things like what I should value or how I live my life. I believe I have become more aware of this weakness in my character and the burden it has on my mental health. On a daily basis I was letting others control and use me just because I was too afraid to upset anyone or stick up for myself.
I was not sure why I feel such a desire to please the people around me or why I felt like I had to work in order to be loved. It could be an attribute of my core personality, or even a product of my environment. But more likely than not, these tendencies are a result of a deeper issue that I need to target before I am able to fix my behavior. That issue is self-worth.
True self-worth is something has seemed unattainable to me for years. I thought I was able to pour all I have into others without taking the time to pour into myself. I honestly didn’t think I was worth the effort. I would do anything and everything in my power to love those around me, yet I was always feeling empty. “Hey!” I would say to myself, “That’s just how life goes, if you serve others enough, you may start to feel whole yourself. But until then just keep making those around you happy.” And because I put no value in myself, I would do whatever I could for others in order to feel that sliver of wholeness and receive a crumb of affirmation.
If you’re like me, please let me warn you about how dangerous this behavior and thought process is. There is not enough that you could do for someone to make them love you. You are not worth less than the people you are serving. You are whole and complete without the affirmation of others and you do not need to work for love. Until you realize this, any satisfaction you feel will be as a result of affirmation from others, and will be only temporary.
So how can I shut this down? How do I identify when I am being a people pleaser? And how do I take care of myself in a healthy way without feeling as if I am being selfish or not doing enough for people? Here are a few steps I take to become a self satisfying person.
1. Set Personal Boundaries
I believe that being selfish is something that everyone perceives differently. In my life I have been taught that you should do unto others what you would want done to you. This is a beautiful saying and if everyone chose to live by it, things would be great. But the truth is they don’t. Many people live their life by looking out for number one, themselves. This can be harmful to a person that is putting their identity in others because this type of person will use them and leave them. In order to avoid this heartbreak, you need to put in place boundaries so as not to let someone take advantage of you in a way that will leave you feeling empty. This may look different for different people, but for me, I have decided that I will do anything for the people in my life until it affects my mental health, ruins my personal belongings, or I feel like they are manipulating me into doing things for them. I have set up these red flags so that I am able to identify when I am falling back into my old habits.
2. Learn How to Say No
It is important to be able to say no to things that you really don’t want to do. I know it can be hard to feel justified if the act is small or it doesn’t directly inconvenience you, but being able to say no shows an extreme amount of self worth. By denying other people, you are actually showing respect to yourself and prioritizing yourself. If you continue to put others’ desires above your own, you will be consistently disrespecting yourself and your needs and will never develop a sense of self worth. Start by saying no to little things. From there you will become more self-assured and will be able to stand up for yourself and what you believe in.
3. Value Your Own Opinion
I am a little ashamed to say, this is the thing I struggle with the most. I put a lot of my life into the hands of others and let others dictate things in my life. There have been many times when I have wanted something for myself but have let people talk me out of it because of their own opinions. I am taking the initiative to let myself have a say in my own life. I started out by doing little things like picking a hair color that I liked over ones that other people suggested or being decisive on what I want to do instead of just “going with the flow”. Let me tell you, this has changed my life in BIG ways. I now no longer need people’s approval on bigger things like what I value, who I date, or who I am. I now live to please myself not those around me, because at the end of the day your life is your own, not theirs and you need to make yourself proud of what you have become.
All this being said, it is more than okay to still ask those around you for their opinion or advice as long as you prioritize your own opinion over theirs. Don’t compromise who you are to fit their image of you. All of these pieces of advice are things that will take time. I encourage you to take the time to become aware of these tendencies and make a conscious effort to respect yourself and develop a stronger sense of self worth. People pleasing is an ingrained behavior that will not change until you get to the root of the problem and begin living your life for yourself and for God.