By Dr. Patricia Adson
Do you feel insecure? Do you have trouble making decisions until you find out what everyone else wants? Do you have an out of control schedule that accommodates everyone but you? Is it hard for you to say “no”? Are you exhausted trying to make everyone happy? If so you might be suffering from the People Pleasing Syndrome.
Of course you want to please, youíre a nice person after all. It gives you pleasure when people approve of what you do and say and that makes you to want to please them even more. The desire to please is human, built in to the hard wiring in our social species. To make matters worse, we are rewarded handsomely all of our lives for pleasing parents, teachers, partners, friends and bosses. Why wouldnít you want to please?
There comes a time, however, when this useful social skill and coping strategy turns into a handicap and you realize how much effort it takes to focus outward all the time and please everyone but yourself. †If you find yourself in this situation itís time to turn your attention inward, take seriously your responsibility for self-care, and put yourself into the equation. Fortunately, this is something you can usually do without professional help by looking at people pleasing not as a syndrome needing professional help, but as an essential part of growing up.
- Examine your behavior. Become conscious of what you do automatically. Note how often your default response is geared to whether or not others will like you. This doesnít mean you have to stop being polite and considerate of other people. Doing something nice for the sake of doing it, without expecting anything in return isnít people pleasing, but always polling the delegation before you speak keeps you stuck and wears you out.
- Determine what you really want. While this is a difficult issue to tackle all at once you can start small by asking yourself what you like or dislike. Take time for self-reflection. Formulate opinions. Make this a daily practice.
- Commit yourself to making this change. Look at the consequences of not changing. Are you willing to live with chronic exhaustion and end up pleasing no one?
- Look at the potential rewards. Imagine the freedom of a schedule under control. Think of how much more energy youíll have when you donít have to check with everyone else to figure out where you stand.
Giving up being a people pleaser doesnít mean you have to turn into a people “dis-pleaser.” Saying “yes” to yourself doesnít mean saying “no” to everyone else, nor is it being selfish. Saying “yes” to yourself is being responsible and no matter how much you try to please them one else can do it for you!
Dr. Patricia Adson is a psychologist and coach specializing in personal balance, women in transition, and life purpose, and the author of A Princess and Her Garden (December 2011). Learn more at aprincessandhergarden.com.