We all have old behaviors, thoughts, beliefs we need to release as part of awakening and leading a richer, fuller life. Often, we are more entrenched in one behavior than another. The one you are more entrenched in has more “charge” to it, more energy, more stories around it. More than likely it has been with you your entire life or most of it. Those are the behaviors we really want to let go of to move forward.
No one has a perfect childhood so we all have varying degrees of dysfunction. There are many “strategies” we adopt to cope or learned from our parents or care-givers, even in less dysfunctional homes. Today I’m going to pick one that has a seemingly positive outward reward – people pleaser. You may have also heard it called people who are givers. They over-give.
We usually like people pleasers because they are nice to us, they want to help us. But for the people pleaser, as they begin to wake up, they may suddenly find this behavior exhausting. They have been doing and giving to others for years. That’s nice. That’ve earned a “gold star in Heaven” so to speak. They’ve been a good person. They are still a good person but they realize it’s time to be a little selfish in a good way. To stop being such a people pleaser and start doing more for themselves.
So they start on a program to pay attention to their behavior. Start saying “no” to the things they really don’t want to do, don’t have time for etc. Stop being the person others can always count on to do such and such. They may learn about boundaries and taking care of yourself. They may apply a lot of these strategies to their life. They may succeed at stopping the activities of a people pleaser. If they do, that’s great.
But maybe they feel guilty about it. Or maybe they start doing it again after a period of pulling back. Maybe they get sick and wonder why they are getting sick. Please note I’m not saying you will get sick if you are a people pleaser. People pleasing, like any other “strategy” can lead to that, but it certainly doesn’t have to, especially if you pay attention to it.
That’s when you have to dig a little deeper and see how being a people pleaser is serving you. What are you gaining by it? Why do you do it? Some people call it the “pay-off.” What are you getting out of it? We don’t often look at our “negative” behaviors as serving us in some way, but that’s the way to really understand it so we can let it go.
Helping others is an honorable thing to do. There can be many reasons why we help others in the form of people pleasing. Maybe you had a parent who was mentally or physically ill or an addict. You may have been forced into the helper role and became a people pleaser. Or maybe you were trying to win their approval by helping. Particularly if you had a strict or ignoring parent, you may have tried to win their approval by being the “good” or “helpful” child.
Maybe you do it because it makes you look good. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look good in others eyes, but why? It’s where you’re coming from when you do it that matters in terms of letting it go. Is it a deeper, concealed lack of confidence? Lack of worthiness? Maybe you don’t feel good about yourself unless you’re helping others? Maybe you were taught “nice girls” help others. Maybe you were taught that story but you didn’t really buy into i?t Or maybe you don’t even care about being nice all the time but you did it anyway because your mama told you to? And then you noticed it worked. People like you more when you’re helpful. No doubt about it. We all like people that are nice and help us out. I’m not saying stop helping others.
What I am saying is get underneath it. Why are you doing it?
When you realize the “why” you can work on letting that go. In my experience, it helps to understand the “why” to truly let go. Once you know the story, you can write a new ending.
If you realize you’re a people pleaser because you lack worthiness (which most people do, so don’t feel singled out), that’s the story you want to re-write. It served you to be a people pleaser because it made you feel good about yourself to help others. But deep down you also did it because it covered up the fact that you didn’t feel very worthy inside. Worthiness is the issue that you’ll want to work on. That’s the story you want to re-write.
As a side note having grown up in the South part of my life, a lot of southern mamas teach their daughters to be people pleasers. It’s a way of parenting daughters. It’s a cultural thing. It certainly happens in other parts of the country too, but if you grew up in the south (including Texas), you were probably exposed to it and taught it. People pleasing isn’t exclusive to women, but it occurs more often in women because, as I said, many of us women are taught that as a cultural thing.
Once you work on the worthiness issue, BTW, a lot of other dysfunctional behaviors will also fall by the way side. But that’s another conversation. As you reinforce your confidence you can still help others, but now you’ll do it coming from a different place. Not because your mama taught you to do it or you saw how it buys you friends. On the path to awakening you’ll do it because you are coming from your heart. Same end result, but completely different way of getting there. Actually, the end result may look different because you’ll have a different energy about you. You may have pulled back on your people pleasing activities as you were growing through this, but then you may find you’re ready to do them again or do them with limits, boundaries that aid you. If you don’t have time, say no. If you have the time and energy to go full on, do it.
This is just one example of how a behavior serves us and getting to the bottom of it can help us release it. In this case because people pleasing is about helping others, it’s a behavior that has a good end result vs something like being a victim. And because of that it can often be harder to identify as something that’s holding us back in our growth.
It’s like when you go to a job interview and they ask you to name two of your weaknesses. No one wants to name a weakness because it doesn’t make you look good. Career coaches will tell you to pick something that you can spin. Don’t pick you have a short temper or your co-workers think you’re a jerk. Instead you may say you’re impatient, but that’s because you’re a high-achiever and can’t get everything done fast enough. Being impatient can have a good end result (if channeled properly) just like being a people pleaser can. That’s why sometimes it’s harder to see it in ourselves and to let it go. On the outside it looks great.
But for the people pleaser it can be draining. It can lead to illness or exhaustion or burn out because you have suppressed your needs for so long. Get to the bottom of the people pleasing before it leads to any of those things. Again, I’m not saying you will get sick. All coping mechanisms can make us sick (but don’t have to) if we don’t let them go before it gets to that point. I’ve seen it in myself and you may have seen it in yourself or someone you know.
As I said, part of waking up is letting go of behaviors or the motivations behind the behaviors that no longer serve us. Helping others is a positive behavior, just not coming from a people pleasing place. Let go of the reasons why you people please. Get to the bottom of it. Then you can go back to helping others, but this time on your terms and with an open, energetic heart.
If you are a people pleaser and would like to learn how to stop this behavior, want to discuss it or want help on your path to awakening, please feel free to contact me by clicking this link. I’d love to hear from you!