Sharon Ramsey, Family Therapist talks to us about people-pleasers and how to stop being a people-pleaser. Here's what she had to say:
There's a distinction between someone who doesn't have a sense of who they are and someone who can make a choice. People have preferences and principles; people pleasers will violate their principals to fit in. Things become problematic when we lose ourselves.
A people pleaser is someone who is looking to be accepted. For whatever reason they've really never had a chance to know their own worth. They follow someone else's fashion or style. At the core the message that's coming across is that it's not OK to be me.
It takes a lot to decide to go your own way. People pleasers feel that the more they give in to you the more they get from you.
People pleasers have a low sense of contentment. They're thinking, "I'm going out with these folks so I have to be the same way. The other person responds to this in the short term in a positive way and that makes the people pleaser happy for a short period of time.
At work people pleasers are constantly trying to please their boss - staying late, taking on more work, because they're afraid their boss won't like them.
The work environment is a place where there's often a lot of support for the people pleaser. When the boss says I want this by tomorrow what do you do? Do you go full out and make yourself sick or look like the under-performer. But if you're doing this all of the time then there's something wrong.
Women as people pleasers
There's a lot of encouragement for women to be people pleasers - to take on the mother-nurturer role. Men and boys have been taught to be more independent.
How do they feel about themselves?
In the moment they feel exhilarated, later they may feel anxious, they may worry that, "I said more than I actually believe was true about myself." Or they may feel hopeful that all of the pleasing they've done is going to consolidate them with the person or group they're pleasing.
People pleasers have to keep running and running - I don't know today if we have that kind of energy.
The people pleaser is often the one who can get it done - at work this person can become a bit of a star. Would I want someone who says yes all of the time in my life? No.
Being a PP doesn't invite a respectful relationship. Takers can thrive on these relationships.
How avoid being a people pleaser?
We need to ask ourselves, "What is it that I really want to give in this relationship?" For example, as a Mom you might think, "I can't always serve the full-out breakfast. I know it's not possible but here's what I'm willing to give". There's some modeling we want to pass on to your kids - if you say yes go full on - if it's "no" or "I'm not really sure," what are my options here?
You have to think about principals and preferences, and the longer term - who do I want to be, what is the core of who I want to be. Let me take stock of who I am and stop being what's not really me.
We have to stop feeling guilty when we say no. Sometimes guilt can be about not living up to a standard I've set for myself - doing something that I knew wasn't really on. When we say no we have to be sure that we're prepared for the heat. If you haven't done something that you said you would do you have to spend your time dodging the person - it's about finding options - I can't bake five-dozen cookies but I can bake two. Before jumping in headlong we need to ask what the options are and put them out there. It's important for us to hold integrity.
The number one thing to remember is to give yourself the time to respond to a request. If someone asks you to volunteer for the school funfair, ask questions - what are you expecting of me - how long would I have to be there. Tell them you want to make sure you have the time. If you can't do the full nine yards is there a portion you could do.
With friends if someone keeps standing you up you need to speak up. "I understand things happen, that's fine," or "I'm disappointed" or "this is the third time this has happened. We need to talk about it."
We do want people to like us. We don't want friction but friction doesn't mean you're wrong it just means that something didn't go the right way. Don't be hard-line all the time but let people know that, "When I say yes I mean it when I say no I mean it."
Couples - do check in - it seems to me that I can't be chief bottle washer and work 40 hours. I wonder if we can talk about some changes - sometimes these talks need to be with a therapist. Not everything has to be a 50/50 split.
Remember the other person may have needs. This isn't overnight stuff - you need to check in to see how much progress you're making. Ultimately you'll find a greater contentment and the person in the relationship may appreciate the change.