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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

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    Last Updated on July 13, 2020

    9 Simple Ways to Always Stay Positive

    9 Simple Ways to Always Stay Positive

    It’s common to be struck with a bout of pessimism, or to naturally be more towards the pessimistic end of the perspective spectrum. It’s hard to see the positives in life and become an optimist when you’re lost in the murky waters of negative thinking.

    However, Henrik Edberg, the founder of The Positivity Blog is here to share nine ways we can create a more optimistic outlook and positive perspective:

    “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” — Maria Robinson

    When I was younger — in my teens and early 20s — I was trapped. Not physically, but mentally: by the destructive thought pattern called pessimism. This negative thinking poisoned what might have been a pretty good and opportunity-filled childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. This pessimism created ceilings and walls where there really were none.

    Throughout the period when I was ridden by pessimism, my life and I mostly stood still. Looking back, it was a terrible waste. If you are in pessimistic place, you don’t have to stay there for the rest of your life. I didn’t, for I learned to replace my negative thinking with optimism.

    In this article I’ll explore nine positivity habits that have helped me to go from someone who was pessimistic most of the time to someone who is now optimistic almost all the time. I recommend to not try to add all the habits at one go but to choose one habit and to practice it for 30 days so it becomes a habit, before adding the next.

    1. Ask Yourself the Right Questions

    This is the simplest but perhaps also the most important habit I have discovered in adopting an optimistic mindset. The questions we ask ourselves day in and day out when we wind up in negative, difficult or uncertain situations make all the difference in our life.

    A pessimist might ask him/herself questions like:

    • “Why did this happen to me?”
    • “Why do bad things happen to me all the time?”

    But an optimist asks him/herself the questions that open up the mind to new viewpoints and possibilities. A few of my favorite questions for finding the optimistic perspective are:

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    • “What is one good thing about this situation?”
    • “What can I learn from this situation?”
    • “What is one small step I can take today to start solving this situation?”

    2. Create a Positive Environment to Live In

    The people you spend your time with and the information you let influence your mind will have a huge effect on your attitude and how you think about things.

    Watch this YouTube video and learn the power of a positive environment:

    So choose to:

    • Spend more time with the people who lift you up. And less time – or no time – with people who just bring you down by being negative and critical. Read: You are the Average of the 5 People You Spend the Most Time With
    • Let in the information that supports you. Spend less time on negative and self-esteem damaging media sources and spend more time reading positive and constructive blogs and books, watching motivating movies, listening to inspirational songs, and listening to audio books and podcasts created by optimistic people. Check out 12 Inspirational Movies With Important Life Lessons To Learn and 25 Most Inspirational Songs of All Time.

    3. Be Grateful for What You Have (Don’t Forget About Yourself Too)

    A very simple and quick way to boost the positive energy in your life is to tap into gratitude.

    I usually do it by asking one or more of these questions:

    1. What can I be grateful for in my life today?
    2. Who are 3 people that I can be grateful to have in my life and why?
    3. What are 3 things I can be grateful for about myself?

    Just spend 60 seconds or a few minutes during your day with answering one of these questions to reap the wonderful benefits.

    4. Don’t Forget About Your Physical Self

    Being an optimist isn’t just about thinking in a different way. It is also about caring for the physical part of ourselves.

    I have found that working out a couple of times a week, enough quality sleep each night and eating healthy food has a huge effect on my mindset.

    If I mismanage those very basic things then negative thoughts pop up far more often and I become more pessimistic and shut down about the possibilities in my life.

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    So don’t neglect these basic fundamentals. Just caring for your physical self the right way can minimize a whole bunch of problems in life.

    5. Start Your Day in an Optimistic Way

    The way you start your morning can set the tone for the rest of your day. For example, a stress-free morning often leads to less stress during the rest of the day.

    So how can you set an optimistic tone for your day?

    A three-step combination that has worked very well for me is to ask myself a gratitude question during breakfast, read some positive information online or in a book very early in the morning and then follow that up with exercising.

    This sets my mind on the right path and fills me up with energy for my day.

    6. Focus on Solutions

    A sure way to feel more negative about a situation is to sit around and do nothing about it. Instead, use the questions I shared in step one and open up your mind to the possibilities of the situation you are in.

    If you have trouble to get started with taking action, ask yourself:

    What is one small step I can take today to get the ball rolling?

    Then take that small step forward. However small this step is, it can have a big effect in your mood and thoughts. If the step feels too big or it just makes you procrastinate, then ask yourself:

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    What is an even smaller step I can take to move forward today?

    The most important thing is to move forward, even if it’s a tiny baby step.

    7. Reduce Your Worries

    The worrying habit is a powerful and destructive one and can take over anyone’s thinking. It used to be one of my biggest obstacles to optimism and to moving forward in life.

    Two effective steps that have helped me and still help me to this day to minimize the worries are:

    1. Ask yourself: how many of my worries ever happened in reality? If you are like me you will find that the answer is: very few. Most of the things you fear throughout your life will never happen. They are just nightmares or monsters in your own mind. This question can help you to do a reality check, to calm down and to realize that you have most likely just been building another imaginary nightmare.
    2. Focus on solutions and the action you can take. The worries grow stronger in a foggy mind and an inactive body. So use the questions in Steps 1 and 6 to move out of your worries and into resolution.

    8. Don’t Let Ideals Ruin Things

    A common mistake people make when making a shift in their attitudes is that they think that they have be perfect and do things perfectly all the time. This traps them from being positive.

    Changing to a positive attitude can be gradual. While you may slip and stumble, continuing this way over time will strengthen your positive viewpoint more and more.

    But if you set an inhuman standard for yourself and think you have to go from being a pessimist to always being an optimist, then you may find it hard to live up to that. And so you may feel like a failure. You get angry with yourself. And you may even give up on changing this habit and fall back into negative thinking.

    So instead, focus on gradual change. If you are optimistic 40% of the time right now, try to improve this to being optimistic 60% of the time. Then, increase that to 80% when you are used to the new standard, then subsequently 100% if you can.

    This focus on gradual improvement is far more sustainable and likely to bring long-term success than trying to reach an inhuman standard grounded in perfection.

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    9. Finally, a Reminder to Help You to Not Give Up

    I would like to end this article with a simple but powerful and timeless thought that comforted and encouraged me to continue on when things looked bleak.

    That thought is: It is always darkest before the dawn.

    This thought has helped me to hold on and keep going when my social skills and dating life was just plain bad. It has helped me to continue on in my online business when things looked like they would never pick up. It has helped me to put one foot over another even when things looked dark.

    I have found this thought to be very true. Why? Because when things seemed to be at the lowest for my blog, business, dating life or life in general, something positive would always happened. That’s probably because being at a low point forced me to change how I did things.

    But maybe also because life has a way of evening itself out when I go on. By taking action rather than give up, something good will always happens.

    Seeing this thought live itself out has strengthened my belief in staying optimistic, in taking action and to keep going even when going through rough patches.

    Re-syndicated 9 Simple Habits to Stay Positive in Life | Personal Excellence

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    Featured photo credit: Allie Smith via unsplash.com

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