This is my column this week in the New Zealand Herald, which is published in the digital edition every Thursday…
“What does it mean if I’m a “people pleaser”? Is it a bad thing?
It’s one of those strange ideas in the self-help books isn’t it? Who wouldn’t want to please people, and how could that be a bad thing?
What we normally mean when we talk about some one being a “people pleaser” is someone who tends to put others needs, wants, desires ahead of their own. And there’s the rub.
Balancing needs in relationships, our own with those of the other person, is a constant juggling act, sometimes we give, sometimes we receive. The ebb and flow is normal, but if all the giving heads in one direction then it tends to create problems.
Resentment is the biggest red flag. If we are unable to say no, to set limits, or stop ourselves being generous, resentment is inevitable. But it’s also a trap of our own making when we’re the one offering too much, not communicating, and not tending to our own needs.
Why do people allow themselves to give too much? Generally because we feel lie our worth is defined by what we give: to be loved, valued, cared for we must put the other person first.
Upbringing plays a part, being overly valued for what we do, rather than who we are; expressions of needs or wants being invalidated or made wrong; a parent who needs looking after in some way, alcoholism is a common factor, requires the child to abandon themselves and focus on the parent being “okay”.
Traditional gender roles also play a part. The role of “wife” or “mother” can lend itself to giving with little expectation of return. But it’s not the giving that is ultimately the problem.
It’s the absence of selfishness.
Being selfish is usually considered an insult, but normal selfishness is a useful and challenging way of thinking about how to listen to our own needs more.
Most people feel guilty when they behave selfishly, but if you’re prone to people pleasing you’re likely to feel guilty any time you put yourself first.
So how can you be more selfish?
• Beware the red flag of resentment, it means you’re giving too much.
• Take time every day to check in with yourself, your own energy levels and mood.
• Ask yourself: What do I need today?
• Challenge guilt. Feeling guilty doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong, it can just mean you’ve hit an unhelpful rule or belief in your own mind that likely needs to change
• Embrace selfishness. Allow yourself the luxury of putting yourself above all others every now and then.
• Be clear, and communicate more with those close to you.
• Beware the fallacy of mind reading. People don’t know what you want or need from them if you don’t tell them.
• Challenge thinking and ideas about your own worth. Everyone deserves to be looked after and have their own needs attended to, despite what you’ve been told
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