In this episode, I’ll help you identify if you’re a people pleaser, why you do it, how it is harming you, and what to do about it. Many of us have false beliefs that we have to say yes to everything, make everyone happy, and not let anyone down, ever. This of course creates so much pressure. And in the end, is not only exhausting, but deep down we know we are letting ourselves down. We may believe that is it loving to pretend like we are okay with things when we actually aren’t. If you have been people pleasing for so long that you don’t even remember what your own voice sounds like, this is the episode for you!
I’m Andrea Giles and you’re listening to The Heal from Infidelity podcast, episode number 12, People Pleasing.
Hello, and welcome to the Heal from Infidelity podcast, where courageous women learn not only to heal from their spouse’s betrayal, but to become the boldest, truest, most decisive and confident versions of themselves ever. If you know there’s more for you than the life you’re currently living, but don’t quite know how to get there, you are in the right place. Stick around to learn how to create a life that will knock your own socks off. Is it possible? It is, and I’m here to show you how. I’m your host, Andrea Giles. Are you ready? Let’s dive in.
Hey everybody, I hope you are doing well. I’m happy to be here today for episode number 12. We’re moving along. I love hearing from you. I love hearing how the podcast is helping you. I’ve heard from some of you that even though you’re not necessarily working through infidelity, it’s helping you in your own life and I’m really grateful. Even my own mother, hi mom, said to me that it’s helping her in her life. So I’m really grateful, it makes it worth it. And I’m going to go ahead and just dive right into this week’s topic, which is people pleasing.
So first of all, I want to talk about what is people pleasing? What it is, why we do it, what it’s costing you, and how to stop. Okay? What is people pleasing? People pleasing is someone who tries really hard to make others happy, even at their own expense. I found a little article on Psychology Today with 10 questions that identify if you’re a people pleaser or not. I want you to listen and see if you identify with any of these.
Number one, you pretend to agree with everyone. Number two, you feel responsible for how other people feel. Number three, you apologize often. Four, you feel burdened by the things you have to do. Five, you can’t say no. Six, you feel uncomfortable if someone is angry at you. Seven, you act like the people around you. Eight, you need praise to feel good. Nine, you go to great lengths to avoid conflict. And number 10, you don’t admit when your feelings are hurt. Can you raise your hand to any of those? Guess what, me too. I’m working on it. I’ve come a long way, but there’s still things in there that I go, “Yeah, I can work on that too.” I am a recovering people pleaser.
Back in episode two, I teach why we keep stuck in cycles that are not serving us. If you recall, or you could go back and listen to episode number two. I teach about the motivational triad. We like to stay in places where we can feel ease, and pleasure, and avoid pain at all cost. So when somebody is mad at us, it might feel very uncomfortable. Thinking about having a difficult discussion with somebody might feel hard. And in days of old, if we got cut off from our tribe, it literally could have meant death. So we are programmed to hate being rejected. We’re programmed to want people to like us. And when people don’t like us, we don’t like it. It feels very uncomfortable.
Another reason we do this is by cultural teaching. Our sense of worth often comes from how others perceive us. As long as others think we are kind, loving, and good, we get to feel great about ourselves. The second someone is disapproving, we question if we are actually good. So we get to work trying to get their approval, so we get to feel good about ourselves again. We hustle for our worth. We figure that if most people like us were okay, if I just try a little bit harder, right? I want to tell you why this is a problem though, by sharing a scenario and a story of personal experience with this.
Let’s say for example, that your spouse has been flirting online with other women. You are mad, and hurt, and sad. You know you aren’t okay with it. But then he tells you that if you’re more flirty, or affectionate, or sexy, he wouldn’t have to do those things. In this situation, a people pleaser cares more about what the other person thinks about them than what they actually think of themselves. Rather than really truthfully asking if you want to take responsibility for his actions, you scramble to try to make it better. You try to tell him the things that will make him want to be with you. You say the words, you try to jump through hoops, you try to do the things, in an attempt to change how he feels about you. And ultimately, giving more weight to his opinion than your own. You don’t hand back to him his choices, because then he might be mad, and then what if you believe that it’s your job to make him happy? It keeps you hustling, trying to make him happy.
Here’s the problem here. This relationship actually cannot grow from this space because you aren’t telling the truth. You aren’t telling him how you really feel because you’re trying to keep the peace. This never works. Unsaid things turn into resentment, and ultimately we are actually being manipulative. Does that come as a surprise? Let me explain what I mean. Manipulation means to manage or influence skillfully, especially in an unfair manner. Also, another definition, to adapt or change to suit one’s own purpose or advantage. So in that last scenario, she’s trying to change his mind about her so she can feel better about herself. She wants to tell him what she thinks he wants to hear, so she doesn’t feel threatened. But in the end, how we actually feel is still there, and will come to the surface one way or another. She is trying to manipulate his opinion of her by telling him the things that he wants to hear, even if it’s not actually what is true. Can you see how that’s manipulation, a form of it?
I want to give you an example of something that happened to me years ago. At the end of my junior year of high school, I decided to run for student body president. I was excited. I decided to just go for it. I gave my little speech. And the results came in. And at my particular high school, the way it worked is that you are just generally running for student council, and then whoever had the most votes, got to pick what part they wanted to play. They got to pick if they wanted to be the president, vice president, secretary, all of those things. Okay? The votes came in and I won by quite a bit. I was told that I could pick whatever I wanted to be. And I wanted to be the president. But there was somebody else who wanted to be the president who had lived there for a long time, and she was my friend, and I cared about her, and she wanted to be the president.
And so I said, okay, you be the president. I’ll be the vice president. But inside, I kind of felt lousy because I actually wanted to be the president and I actually won the election, right? I went home that day and told my parents that I was going to be the vice president, and my dad said, “Andrea, did you actually win?” I said, “Yes, I did.” He said, “What did you want to be?” I said, “Well, I wanted to be the president.” “Well, then why didn’t you say that?” And I didn’t have the words at that time, I didn’t know that I was people pleasing, but that’s exactly what I was doing. I didn’t want to make them think that I was being selfish, or greedy, or that I thought I was just so important, or anything like that. And so, I just let this other person have it. My dad said, “Andrea, you won. You need to speak up and say what you actually want.”
So I called the person in charge and said, “Hey, I changed my mind. I actually wanted to be the president. I am telling the truth. This is what I actually want. I don’t want to be the vice president.” And I said that I would be okay with it because I didn’t want to hurt this person’s feelings, but I actually want to be the president. And here’s the thing, at the time, again, I didn’t understand this, but I didn’t want to hurt this other person’s feelings, but in some ways I was willing to hurt my own. I was willing to let myself down to not let somebody else down. Ultimately, I was the student body president. That person decided to drop out all together and was not in student council at all. And I got to be the president and I enjoyed it, and I learned an important lesson about speaking up. And nothing major came from it as far as any backlash, and I got to enjoy being the president.
Sometimes when we’re people pleasing, we think that we’re being kind and loving. But what turns out is we’re not being kind and loving to ourselves. We’re putting other people in front of ourselves and, ultimately, lying to both of us, by saying that we’re okay with it when we’re actually not.
So let’s talk about unconditional love. Sometimes we think that we have to people please to be unconditionally loving. One of the reasons it gets so confusing and hard to spot is because we think that being loving means to agree, conform, give, give some more, turn a blind eye, and let people just be who they are. Just let them be who they are. I am all for letting people be who they are, doing what they do, right? People are going to do that anyway. And we can love them. We can love them, and we can love ourselves enough to tell the truth.
Loving them does not mean you have to agree with them. It means that you love them enough to tell the truth. And however they respond, you love them anyway. When we pretend to agree with somebody when we really don’t, we might be fooling them, but we’re not fooling ourselves. It does not feel like love. It feels like obligation. It feels like resentment. It may feel like a quick hit of adrenaline, but you actually miss the opportunity to feel good in the long term. We may be giving ourselves a quick little shot in the arm of feel good. But in the long run, we’re feeling bad. We know it. We know that we’ve shortchanged ourselves. We know that we weren’t actually completely truthful with how we feel. Real love is telling the truth, and allowing others to think whatever they want about you, and loving them anyway.
A thought that I like to practice is, it’s okay for them to be wrong about me. I have gotten to practice that a lot over the past years. Going through divorce, having people have their opinion of me, even more recently, being married to my new husband and having opinions about how I should be parenting my new kids, and how I should be working less, or working more, or various things. As long as I am okay with my level of work, with my level of commitment to my family, to my husband, to my faith, I really truly allow people to be wrong about me. It’s okay. It’s okay for them to be wrong about me. And I can still love them.
So now I want to talk a little bit about the costs of people pleasing. One of the costs of people pleasing is that you forget how to access your own wisdom. I can’t tell you how many women I talk to that forget the things that matter to them. They literally can’t answer the question. Does this sound familiar? I was the same. I forgot what I cared about. I forgot what I loved. Even hobbies. I gave so much time to everyone around me, supporting them in everything they did, my kids, my husband, everyone, my church, all of it, that I forgot what actually mattered to me. I forgot the things that I was good at. I forgot the things that lit me up and made me feel alive.
People pleasing does that. You forget who you are in it. You forget what your own opinion is. You literally don’t know what you think, because you have spent so long living for other people and managing their opinions of you. It feels like losing yourself. It may look like love and sacrifice from the outside, but it does not feel like love on the inside, because you aren’t telling the truth to yourself or to the other person.
So what is the remedy here? The remedy is to start telling the truth. Let’s say that someone asks you to do something. The only reason to say yes is for one of these three reasons. One, you say yes out of guilt. You think If I don’t say yes, I’m selfish. I’m not prioritizing them. Any such thing like that, that creates guilt. The next reason to say yes is people pleasing. I want them to think that I’m so nice and generous, or that I’m such a hard worker, or that I’m really dedicated to this, or that I just care about them so much. The third reason to say yes is because you want to. You want to. I’m not talking that it’s not some kind of inconvenience to you, that it might be something hard for you to do. That’s fine. It can be an inconvenience. It can be a sacrifice. It can be hard. But you want to do it. You want to say yes because you want to do it.
That, my friends, is the only reason to say yes to anything. Otherwise, you’re feeding resentment, victimization, and even shame, because you know that you’re not being truthful. You know that you’re hiding from who you actually are and what you actually want to say. The more you start telling the truth, the more you will build this muscle. You will learn that you can do this uncomfortable thing and not die. You can learn that you’re still standing, still breathing, and guess what? People still like you. People can be unhappy with you, and they might look at you a little different because they’re not used to it.
But guess what? People’s respect for us grows when they know that we’re telling them the truth. And you know who else’s respect grows? Your own. You get to respect yourself more, because you know that you are being more truthful. You know that you are learning to trust yourself. You will know that you’re being strong and the most courageous version of yourself. And even if others might not like your opinion, your own opinion of yourself will go up. You’ll start to see yourself differently. Now, I’m not talking about being mean, far from it. Telling the truth is actually the kindest thing you can do, because it allows others to make choices with all of the information at hand. When we actually are doing things from a loving place, it feels good. It feels amazing. We know it, and other people know it too.
People pleasing often causes us to hide and lie. We’re lying because we’re not telling the truth. Real love feels scary sometimes, but it feels like love. It feels like truth. So some areas that I see my clients deal with in people pleasing here are some examples. Some of my clients are either divorced or going through divorce, and they have people that are interested in them, like in a dating romantic sense. And they’re finding themselves wanting to say no, when they say yes. They’re finding themselves not wanting to let people down because they don’t want to hurt their feelings. And in the end, they’re feeling very, very uncomfortable, because they know that they’re in a spot where they could hurt somebody, or where somebody could not like what they have to say. And what I remind them of is that their opinion of themselves is what matters most. And that they will attract to them that people who respect them for telling the truth. Ultimately, those are the people you want in your life.
Another thing I see is in marriages, let’s say you’re trying to make it work. You really care about your spouse. You really love them. You really sincerely want to make it work. And you don’t say how you actually feel, because you don’t want to hurt your spouse. You don’t want to hurt them. You don’t want to add more pain to their suffering or their guilt for the things that they have done and the pain that they’ve brought to the marriage. But ultimately, the things that we need to say but don’t, can come out in the form of resentment. They can come out in the form of pain and feeling unheard. Those things need to come out. They need to be said, and when they’re said from a loving place where you allow the other person to feel whatever you’re going to feel, you’re not trying to control them. You’re not trying to manipulate them, you’re just telling the truth. That is a basis for a strong, powerful relationship and for love to grow. Trust is the best place, the best foundation for a relationship to grow.
In closing, I’m going to wrap this up. I want you to practice saying this, I love you, and it’s a no. Have you ever said that to anybody? What about like a kid? Have you ever had one of your kids, if you’re a parent, come and ask you for something, and then you feel bad, you’re like, “Oh, they’re going to think I don’t love them. They’re going to think I don’t care about them. I have to say yes.” I want you to practice saying, no. I love you, and it’s a no. I love you, and I can’t say yes to you, because I love you so much, and I would be lying if I said that I’m okay with that. This is where the muscle is built, by allowing other people to be unhappy with you, and standing your ground, and trusting yourself.
It’s okay to say no. And it’s okay to love somebody and say no. It might be practicing saying no to making some kind of thing for the PTA, or doing a service for somebody, or doing something for your kid, like driving them to a thing that you don’t really want to drive them to. I’m all for sacrifice. I’m all forgiving and serving. I think those things, of course, are wonderful. But only say yes if you want to say yes. And if you don’t want to say yes, then it’s a no. I dare you to practice this. It’s uncomfortable. Trust me, I know. Like I said, I’m coming along with this. I’ve come a long way, but even in preparation for this podcast, I can see areas to work on. It’s a muscle.
Don’t worry about being perfect. Just notice it. Notice how you might be trying to manipulate somebody’s opinion of you, so you’ll get to feel better. The goal here is that you get to feel better without any outside validation. That is freedom. When you can have your own back, where you can validate yourself, and where you can look yourself in the mirror, and know that you are being honest with yourself, and with everybody. That’s power. All right, thank you, my friends, and I will see you next week. I hope you have an awesome weekend. Bye-bye.
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