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Please Stop Pleasing

If you're reading this, then I'm guessing you’ve identified as a people-pleaser at one point or another in your life.

You’re not alone... me too! It could have been my middle name for a few decades there.

And, to be honest, every now and then I catch myself wanting to say 'yes' to something when my whole body is shouting ‘no’, or to agree with someone just so I don't have to rock the boat, or to listen to my ‘shoulds’ rather than listening to my ‘wants’, or to withhold from fully expressing myself out of fear of being judged.

Truth is, I’m not sure the people-pleasing desires ever completely disappear. This habit comes from a deep mammalian need and desire to feel safe by keeping other people happy with us, because our brain links external validation and approval with our own survival (fitting in = staying in the tribe). And, it’s often reinforced in childhood and throughout our lives, whenever we’re being rewarded for ‘being good’.

The sneaky thing about people-pleasing is that it can feel like it's all about taking care of others but what it actually really is, is a self-protective mechanism we develop to avoid judgment or rejection.

For a long time I shaped my life around the desire to be approved and liked. From ‘life changing’ moments like going on my first diet at 17 and going to university instead of becoming a yoga teacher at 21, to day to day behaviours, such as ignoring my personal boundaries, putting everyone else's needs first at the expense of my own needs and desires, and not sharing my thoughts out of fear of being seen as 'silly' or 'ridiculous'.

I was totally out of alignment with my own truest deepest dreams and desires. I didn't listen to my intuition. At some point I knew that if I ever wanted to be happy, I got to pave my own path instead of following a path paved for me by others. I got to put down that desire to please others in order to please myself. It’s been a challenging journey. And, ultimately, so profoundly rewarding.

When you’re busy pleasing others, you’re depleting your most precious resources (time & energy) on things that don’t bring you joy, growth or love. Think about how much energy you waste obsessing about what other people think of you or trying to strategise your actions to satisfy others.

I’m not saying that it’s not important to be a generous, considerate person, but -

There’s a difference between pleasing others out of fear, and being there for others out of love.

This is the paradox of people pleasing, we want to believe that we’re being noble for putting others first, but we’re actually ‘selfish’ because it’s about how we want to feel.

Monday’s journaling prompts:

As you're exploring, do it with compassion, this work is never to beat yourself up, it’s to get into alignment with yourself and your true needs and to find that balance.

  1. How does ‘people pleasing’ show up in your life? (Not protecting your boundaries? Not wanting to rock the boat? Worried about other peoples opinions? Shoulds? Not listening to your intuition when she says 'no'? Seeking validation?)

  2. What has people-pleasing cost you?

  3. What's your biggest fear about no longer people-pleasing?

  4. What would open up for you if you let go of it? What would you gain?

Your worth and value are not determined by how other people perceive you. Your worth is inherent, it's based on nothing more than your existence. Love, Naama


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