Do you find yourself consistently doing things that you regret committing to? Maybe you joined the PTA when a fellow mom told you how great it would be if you could help out? “Sure! I’d love to!” Insert foot. It feels so good in the moment…We’re “helping” our fellow mom in need, building camaraderie, and also receiving validation. “Wow, she thinks I’m awesome!” Problem is…now you have to figure out how in the heck you’re going to add one more thing to your already overpacked schedule. Yikes. Sound familiar?
Hi, my name’s Peg and I have the disease to please. I’m definitely a bonafide people pleaser…in recovery thank goodness! It’s not a fun way to exist. I used to do almost anything and everything someone asked me to, especially in regards to my sons’ schools. I’ll preach from first-hand experience…it’s absolutely exhausting. I’d overextend myself trying to make everyone happy and instead, it all suffered including me. Nothing gets done at the caliber that you’d like.
Like the time I agreed to create my son’s Montessori yearbook because…Ummm…they asked me and I felt like I should do it. The truth was I wasn’t in a very healthy headspace at the time so it took me double the time it should’ve taken me to complete and I wasn’t able to meet my own deadline. It was a beautiful result but parents had to wait until the summer to receive it. Not ideal. If I’d been honest with myself I would’ve realized my limitations and said no upfront.
I’m in recovery but I definitely still have to check-in and fight my urges to please on the regular. It’s a knee-jerk reaction…Liar Liar anyone? Except instead of the truth I just blurt out “Yes! You can count on me!” I don’t even have a chance to consider if it’s something I have time for or want to do before the words leave my lips. No bueno.
Disclosure: This post may contain product affiliate links which means I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase using them. And, there’s no additional cost to you.
We’re not just talking about work or school commitments. It’s important to consider our social commitments too…our time with friends, which have an especially sneaky way of adding up. Because who doesn’t love a party?! Just because it’s a social get-together and you don’t have any other plans that night does not mean you have to go. I think a lot of us struggle with not hurting someone’s feelings if we decline. We feel we need a good excuse or else they’ll think I don’t “want” to be there.
Social commitments can be especially depleting because of the amount of energy they require. Have you ever come home from a party and felt completely emotionally exhausted? It’s important to know your limitations with these types of gatherings and pay attention to how you feel before, during, and after events.
For example, I personally love seeing my friends but I prefer smaller, intimate gatherings. Larger parties totally drain me and I don’t feel like I typically make as many quality connections. I’m also careful not to plan more than one social get-together per week (sometimes less). I need a break to re-energize and present my best self. Otherwise, I feel resentful about being there and it’s a lose-lose.
1 – Are you continually adding new obligations to your calendar even though you’re already super-busy?
2 – Do you make new commitments only to regret them shortly afterward?
3 – Is your calendar is filled with events/obligations that you’re not looking forward to?
5 – Have you forgotten the last time you said “No” to an invite?
6 – Are you always worried about what others will think if you decline or don’t help out?
If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions join the club and keep reading below! If not – you’re already rockin’ your life girl…props.
Let’s start with the fact that most all of us have been taught from a very early age to be “agreeable”. Women are expected to be nice, smile, friendly, don’t be argumentative, don’t be a bitch, be polite, don’t be rude, you get the picture. We’re taught that it’s more socially acceptable to swallow our wants/needs for the greater good. That it’s more important how society perceives us than how we perceive ourselves. So, our identity gets linked extrinsically instead of from within.
You don’t see these same expectations for men. It’s considered completely socially acceptable for them not to smile, agree, or be polite. It’s no wonder there are so many more women pleasers than men.
Regardless, not everyone grows up with this same disease to please so if that’s you, it’s likely that your actions are rooted in childhood. Somewhere along the way you’ve been rewarded by pleasing others. Not once or twice but enough times that your “pleasing” behavior has been reinforced to stick. Maybe your parent(s) doled out affection based on something you accomplished? Did you get more hugs when you got all A’s? How about if you continued with those ballet classes you hated? Would mom gush over you spending hours making your costume? Would she have been disappointed and sad if you’d quit to play soccer?
1 – First of all it’s important to identify where your need stems from. Think back to your childhood experiences…what resonates with this pattern of behavior today? Are you yearning for approval from your boss because of a paternal relationship? Are you taking on too many projects because you don’t want to disappoint her? Does this pattern sound familiar and who would you connect it with? Your childhood relationship with your mom perhaps? What decisions are you struggling with the most? Make sure your decisions are rooted in joy, not fear.
2 – Learn to say “No”. This is critical to creating boundaries and respecting your own limitations and needs. It’s something I have a very difficult time with still. I personally “step back” from the commitment at hand for a short period while I work through my feelings regarding it. Yes, you have feelings about commitments! I know it’s a difficult concept to consider because we automatically want to weigh the pros and cons like a rational person but this can be a slippery slope. We can talk ourselves into anything!
A little trick I use when I’m feeling conflicted is paying attention to how my body is reacting to the proposed commitment, physically. You can rationalize anything in your mind but your body never lies. Do I feel heavy? Queasy? Does my heart rate quicken just thinking about how I’ll manage to fit this in?
And, my surefire trick that works every time to help keep me on track is…if my answer’s not an immediate “Hell yes!” then it’s a solid “No” in my book.
The hard truth is that we all have a choice. We don’t have to do anything we don’t feel good about. These are not just random things on our calendars to be completed like a to-do list. These commitments take our limited, precious time and energy…time that’s taken away from other possibly more important things in our life like a passion project or our family. We all only have a certain amount of ourselves to give before we hit our depletion line. Once you see your time and energy as something finite, to be cherished, you’ll be more mindful about your commitments.
3 – The more in tune you become with what truly matters to you, the easier it will become to say “no” and put your needs first. Create limitations and boundaries for yourself ahead of time so you won’t feel so on the spot. For example, you may decide that you’re only going to go plan one social outing per week/month/etc. Be specific. No Sundays since you’ve designated them for family time only. No exceptions. Or, that you’re only committing to one volunteer commitment per week. You get the picture.
Also, Come to understand and accept that some of your relationships may change, be redefined or even fizzle out once you make these changes. And, that’s okay. You’re choosing to prioritize your own needs as opposed to others and everybody may not be on board with that. You have to see it as putting yourself first for the sake of a greater, better you.
Stop worrying about what other people think of you…it’s none of your business.
Heard this quote? This is super important because it’s where we get wrapped up in self-talk. We play out the “what if” scenarios in our minds. What if I say no and they don’t like me anymore? What if they think I don’t like them? What if they think I’m incompetent, not smart enough, not generous, not caring, etc., etc.
We have a concept in our minds-eye about who we are and it relies on how others see us. As long as you know your truth, that you are all these wonderful things, that your heart is in the right place and you’re being true to yourself that’s all that matters. Keep reminding yourself that and you’ll be good, girl.
And, don’t beat yourself up if you regress into old patterns now and then…just as long as you can identify your slip and take action to correct it…even if that means backing out of a commitment after the fact. I know you just cringed at that but you’ll be so relieved you did and I promise lightning won’t strike you down. It’s taken a lifetime to create these pleasing patterns so give yourself some grace. Trust me, take it from someone who knows. The struggle is real.