Why Doesn't People Pleasing Work?
Hi, my name is Kira and I’m a people pleaser. I’ve been in recovery for four years but I relapsed last week. Let me explain.
My life used to revolve around keeping other people happy and avoiding conflict at all costs. After many years of pleasing everyone around me, I grew more and more tired and resentful. I was doing so much for everyone else, why was no one doing anything for me? Everyone was so unappreciative of my hard work, my sacrifice, my dedication to others.
I wasn’t consciously aware of this pattern until someone pointed it out to me, and then off to counselling I went. Since my emotional rehab, I’ve been on track, no longer focused on keeping everyone else happy. Sure, I have to remind myself on a regular basis that I come first now, but I’ve been doing well. Until last week.
What happened last week? I started dating again. Dating and relationships are a slippery slope for me when it comes to people pleasing. I used to be a master morph-er, changing into whoever I thought my partner wanted me to be. Keeping him happy and avoiding abandonment were my top two priorities, and old habits die hard.
Two men asked me out last week, and I said yes to both. I had a short evening date earlier in the week which went well. The second one I booked for Sunday afternoon.
Here’s the problem – long ago I set a boundary for myself that Sundays are my day. I stay in my pj’s all day long, cuddle with my dog, watch football, read and relax. In the evenings I visit some friends and we watch Downtown Abbey (I know, I’m a real wild woman). I need this day each week to ensure that I’m pacing myself, and to prevent ME/FM crashes and flare ups.
I agreed to meet my date on Sunday because my schedule is pretty full right now, and that was the only free day I had last week. So I crossed my own boundary because I didn’t want him to feel bad, misled, disappointed or let down that I was unavailable for a week or two.
The problem was, I wasn’t happy about the Sunday date. I was dreading it because it meant I would miss out on my couch time, football and Molly. I started feeling resentful, which is a strong and reliable sign that I need to change something. So I did. I texted him and asked if we could reschedule for next week. You know what he said? “Sure.” - with no hint of being upset, because he’s probably not. I was getting ahead of myself and trying to keep someone happy, who wasn’t unhappy in the first place. Yikes!
People pleasing doesn't work because as a people pleaser you give and give and give and feel like you get very little or nothing in return. You feel like a martyr. You become exhausted and resentful. And you feel like you can’t stop working to keep everyone happy and conflict free. The thing is, that’s not your job, and it’s not something you could achieve even if you wanted to. Everyone is responsible for their own happiness and you are responsible for yours. If you keep on going the way you are, hoping people will finally “get it” and start giving back, you’re going to be waiting for the rest of your life. No one else is going to make sure you are happy except you, so it’s time to start putting yourself first.
When you put yourself first, you make sure your needs are met before you go and help others. This will decrease your feelings of resentment and increase your energy level.
Putting yourself first may be one of the hardest things you ever do, but no one else is going to do it for you, and you’re worth it!