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How I Stepped Out Of The Vicious Cycle Of Pleasing Others

How I Stepped Out Of The Vicious Cycle Of Pleasing Others

Everyone needs to be safe, loved and to have a sense of belonging. These are innate and natural basic human needs. In an effort to have these needs satisfied, many of us resort to people pleasing. And it works for a while. We find that we experience less conflict with others, but the conflict within ourselves grows. Saying “no” produces feelings of guilt, and saying yes brings anger and resentment. It is the quintessential dilemma–  you find yourself caught between a “rock and a hard place.”

The longing for acceptance which lead to people pleasing, began for me at a very young age. My father was in the military so we relocated frequently. I experienced being “the new kid” a lot. Being naturally introverted further complicated matters as I was shy and did not make friends easily. I was naturally “book smart” and making good grades came fairly easy–but being smart–back then–was not on trend as it is today.

To further complicate matters, I grew up in a household where grades, image and how others perceived our family was very important. In our household a “C” was unacceptable, a “B” should have been an “A” and an “A” meant the class was to easy and we needed to be moved to a higher level class. I was too skinny, my sister was too fat and my brother’s lips and ears were too big for his tiny head (actually true–but not his fault).

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People pleasing became a way of life.

By: Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget
    Photo Credit: Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget on Wikimedia

    How to stop pleasing others just for the sake of acceptance

    The ability to stop pleasing others as a coping mechanism after it has been a way of life for so long is easier said than done. It’s a long process one in which I consistently am working to perfect.

    The turning point for me came shortly after I married my husband. He was a people pleaser as well. We found very earlier in our marriage that in order to remain married and have a successful future together we would have to stop pleasing others and do what was best for us as a unit. That meant learning to say “no” and making people upset.

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    Best decision we ever made.

    One of the very first things we did to end the cycle of catering to others was developing our own identity as individuals and then as a couple. A funny thing happens when you know who you are–you begin to care less about what others think of you.

    The second thing that really changed our lives and helped us stop pleasing others was the develpoment of a strong set of core values and a vision for our future. We determined what was important to us, established our non-negotiables and made all of our decisions based on these factors. We developed a habit of discussing all decisions with each other. And this was especially crucial during the initial stages of our transformation. Saying “no” is just hard for some people. It was extremely difficult for us. So, instead of making a decision the moment a request was made, we always told the person we would get back to them. If we could not discuss it and at least sleep on it, the answer, most often, was a no. When we would discuss pending decisions and if the answer was no, we would assist each other with framing the response and then provide support in helping each other stick to the decision.

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    The third and one of the most valuable things we did during this process was developing our own personal sphere of influence. These are people we surrounded ourselves with who are, older, wiser and more successful than we are and whose opinions we value deeply. The sphere was and still remains very small. Our sphere is objective, holds a similar value system that we have and above all else– is honest with us.

    The last thing we did was come to an understanding that sometimes helping people actually hurts them. When we are quick to swoop in and rescue individuals or remain at their beck and call, we actually create a system of co-dependence which inhibits them from every being their best selves. Struggle is essential to success. Struggle strengthens character, builds tenacity and resilience and forces people to use ingenuity an grit. Sometimes allowing a person to struggle is the best thing you can do for them.

    Now, when I am approached to attend an after hours office party which I vehemently do not want to attend; I square my shoulders, look my co-worker dead in the eye and say, “I would love to, but my cat just died.”

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    I am still a work in progress.

    Featured photo credit: Hobvias Sudoneighm via flickr.com

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    Denise Hill

    Denise shares about psychology and communication tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on December 10, 2019

    5 Smart Reasons to Start Journal Writing Today

    5 Smart Reasons to Start Journal Writing Today

    Here’s the truth: your effectiveness at life is not what it could be. You’re missing out.

    Each day passes by and you have nothing to prove that it even happened. Did you achieve something? Go on a date? Have an emotional breakthrough? Who knows?

    But what you do know is that you don’t want to make the same mistakes that you’ve made in the past.

    Our lives are full of hidden gems of knowledge and insight, and the most recent events in our lives contain the most useful gems of all. Do you know why? It’s simple, those hidden lessons are the most up to date, meaning they have the largest impact on what we’re doing right now.

    But the question is, how do you get those lessons? There’s a simple way to do it, and it doesn’t involve time machines:

    Journal writing.

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    Improved mental clarity, the ability to see our lives in the big picture, as well as serving as a piece of evidence cataloguing every success we’ve ever had; we are provided all of the above and more by doing some journal writing.

    Journal writing is a useful and flexible tool to help shed light on achieving your goals.

    Here’s 5 smart reasons why you should do journal writing:

    1. Journals Help You Have a Better Connection with Your Values, Emotions, and Goals

    By journaling about what you believe in, why you believe it, how you feel, and what your goals are, you understand your relationships with these things better. This is because you must sort through the mental clutter and provide details on why you do what you do and feel what you feel.

    Consider this:

    Perhaps you’ve spent the last year or so working at a job you don’t like. It would be easy to just suck it up and keep working with your head down, going on as if it’s supposed to be normal to not like your job. Nobody else is complaining, so why should you, right?

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    But a little journal writing will set things straight for you. You don’t like your job. You feel like it’s robbing you of happiness and satisfaction, and you don’t see yourself better there in the future.

    The other workers? Maybe they don’t know, maybe they don’t care. But you do, you know and care enough to do something about it. And you’re capable of fixing this problem because your journal writing allows you to finally be honest with yourself about it.

    2. Journals Improve Mental Clarity and Help Improve Your Focus

    If there’s one thing journal writing is good for, it’s clearing the mental clutter.

    How does it work? Simply, whenever you have a problem and write about it in a journal, you transfer the problem from your head to the paper. This empties the mind, allowing allocation of precious resources to problem-solving rather than problem-storing.

    Let’s say you’ve been juggling several tasks at work. You’ve got data entry, testing, e-mails, problems with the boss, and so on—enough to overwhelm you—but as you start journal writing, things become clearer and easier to understand: Data entry can actually wait till Thursday; Bill kindly offered earlier to do my testing; For e-mails, I can check them now; the boss is just upset because Becky called in sick, etc.

    You become better able to focus and reason your tasks out, and this is an indispensable and useful skill to have.

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    3. Journals Improve Insight and Understanding

    As a positive consequence of improving your mental clarity, you become more open to insights you may have missed before. As you write your notes out, you’re essentially having a dialogue with yourself. This draws out insights that you would have missed otherwise; it’s almost as if two people are working together to better understand each other. This kind of insight is only available to the person who has taken the time to connect with and understand themselves in the form of writing.

    Once you’ve gotten a few entries written down, new insights can be gleaned from reading over them. What themes do you see in your life? Do you keep switching goals halfway through? Are you constantly dating the same type of people who aren’t good for you? Have you slowly but surely pushed people out of your life for fear of being hurt?

    All of these questions can be answered by simply self-reflecting, but you can only discover the answers if you’ve captured them in writing. These questions are going to be tough to answer without a journal of your actions and experiences.

    4. Journals Track Your Overall Development

    Life happens, and it can happen fast. Sometimes we don’t take the time to stop and look around at what’s happening to us at each moment. We don’t get to see the step-by-step progress that we’re making in our own lives. So what happens? One day it’s the future, and you have no idea how you’ve gotten there.

    Journal writing allows you to see how you’ve changed over time, so you can see where you did things right, and you can see where you took a misstep and fell.

    The great thing about journals is that you’ll know what that misstep was, and you can make sure it doesn’t happen again—all because you made sure to log it, allowing yourself to learn from your mistakes.

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    5. Journals Facilitate Personal Growth

    The best thing about journal writing is that no matter what you end up writing about, it’s hard to not grow from it. You can’t just look at a past entry in which you acted shamefully and say “that was dumb, anyway!” No, we say “I will never make a dumb choice like that again!”

    It’s impossible not to grow when it comes to journal writing. That’s what makes journal writing such a powerful tool, whether it’s about achieving goals, becoming a better person, or just general personal-development. No matter what you use it for, you’ll eventually see yourself growing as a person.

    Kickstart Journaling

    How can journaling best be of use to you? To vent your emotions? To help achieve your goals? To help clear your mind? What do you think makes journaling such a useful life skill?

    Know the answer? Then it’s about time you reap the benefits of journal writing and start putting pen to paper.

    Here’s what you can do to start journaling:

    Featured photo credit: Jealous Weekends via unsplash.com

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