Do you ever find yourself complying to those around you just because it's easier than standing up for what you want or need? It could be as simple as agreeing to go to a restaurant that your friend likes (but that you hate), or watching a film that you are not particularly excited about seeing. You may even identify as a people-pleaser, someone who finds it easier to keep the general environment copacetic, while sacrificing a piece of themselves.
The problem is that people-pleasing often involves contorting yourself into positions that don't serve you. You are the square peg trying to fit in the round hole; you often degrade your integrity and your authentic self in the process of making choices.
But even though people-pleasing may seem like an immediate way of avoiding discomfort, it can lead to a cropping-up of negative repercussions: depression, anxiety, general sadness, often along with headaches and other physical ailments.
Today, I affectionally refer to myself am a recovering people-pleaser. As a child I always wanted to make life as easy as possible for my working single mother. This behavior led me to sublimate my needs in adulthood, as I was constantly looking to make everyone else feel good all the time.
But eventually, this habit led me to crash with reoccurring massive migraines and mild depression. I was sacrificing my own happiness for the sake of others with out even recognizing it. It took my body screaming at me to stop myself in my tracks. I had to learn to love myself first; then and only then could I begin to give love to others.
Note that un-training yourself to please others isn't an easy feat: it takes work and pushing through situations that normally are uncomfortable. But the pay-off if is sustainable, long-term happiness!
With that, here are four ways to kick your people-pleasing habit for good:
1. Recognize when you make sacrifices (and examine why).
Sometimes we need to make sacrifices. But it's essential that we develop some level of self-awareness around when we make sacrifices, and why (even if they are small like where you and a friend will go after work for happy hour). For example, notice if you usually allow others to pick out things to do or experience; if this is the case, try to pipe in next time. Your friend, family member or partner may be surprised to hear you speak up! (And if they resist your suggestion, take a stand!)
Above all, push through the discomfort of asserting yourself, and just go for it: say or ask for what you want. Silently take note of how this gesture of self-care makes you feel inside. Is there a tingle of relief? Perhaps a twinge of excitement or joy? These positive sensations is your body signaling to you that you are in alignment with your desires. This is your compass that will help you navigate future experience and honing in on what makes you feel that you are being authentic.
2. Make a list of your sacrifices, and take inventory (literally).
Can you find five ways in which you sacrificed what you wanted in the past in order to make others feel safe, happy, or appeased? You could take it a step further and challenge yourself to look at five ways you did little things to please another and five big ways in which you sacrificed a big part of your happiness.
Play the game of "Remember the time when..." The more you uncover about past sacrifices and look at how they made you feel the more you will see a pattern in your people-pleasing behavior. This will help you move into status of recovering people-pleaser and will help allow you to put yourself first in the future.
3. Stay present and listen to your body's signals as you make decisions.
The positive feelings that come to the surface when you put your needs before someone else's are a good indicator that you are in tune with your authentic self. Use these feel-good experiences to govern how you handle yourself (in all contexts) in the future. When you tune into your body and feel your way through people pleasing situations, you will never steer yourself in the wrong direction. It may not be easy, but it is actually quite simple.
4. Realize that others may react to your change.
When you start shifting your thought patterns and behaviors to prioritize your own needs, you'll notice an accompanying shift in how people treat you. Inevitably. When you stand up for yourself, speak from your heart, people will ultimately respect you. (And those that don't, if they exist, are not serving you in your relationships). When you stop cheating yourself, you'll notice that you wont be taken advantage of as often. People naturally gravitate toward others who have integrity and positive, strong self-regard.
Your decision to prioritize yourself doesn't mean you should become egotistical and arrogant. In fact, it signals that you have self-respect and self-love, both qualities that better prepare you to be there for others. Placing yourself first is the key to finding inner peace and happiness on your own, and to making your relationships with others more fulfilling in the process.
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