The Curse of People Pleasing

There is something I used to struggle with heavily, that, after hard work, boundaries, and commitment to seeing it through to the end, I am happy to say I no longer struggle with as much. Something I know quite a few people struggle with their entire lives, and, for some people, generationally: being a people pleaser. 

A lot of people think people pleasing looks like saying yes to everyone all the time, never sharing how you feel, and limiting your range of emotions and your right to feel them if it is sensed that how you feel is unfavorable to the receiving party—it actually does simply look like that way for many people, and it isn’t any less exhausting. However, being a people pleaser takes on many more harmful forms that I actively took part in, so I wanted to speak on those to help anyone in a similar space move beyond them. 

Here are a few ways I repeatedly exhibited people pleasing: 

  • Being overly generous with my affections, finances, time, and energy so that people would find me favorable—despite that I rarely got that in return—just so I could say my efforts were appreciated and I was well-liked by many
    • I am already well-liked by those who matter to me, and I do not need to be overly generous to earn the affections of those who do not care for me.
  • Doing “favors” for people which allowed them to utilize my skillset and services without compensation for my time and efforts—or being compensated less than I am worth—just to be able to say someone appreciated what I had to offer
    • It’s okay to be firm in my worth and realize that the services I provide and the way I utilize my skills are priceless—I deserve to be compensated for that; I am not doing anyone a favor by working for less.
  • Listening to someone’s problems for hours on end and ending the conversation with the knowledge they never inquired about my wellbeing, or generally care about me beyond the knowledge that I am a pair of ears
    • I know I am a good listener; I listen intently to comprehend and not to respond, and I give good advice when solicited. I do not have to prove I am worthy of being confided in, especially when that person drains me, so I can feel needed.

One of the most fascinating parts about realizing these things about myself is that I didn’t permit myself to feel like a victim. I allowed people to treat me this way because I didn’t believe I deserved to feel these things naturally without having to try to force it out of someone. We cannot force anyone to feel anything about us, to believe something about us, or to see us the way we wish to be seen. What we can do is make conscious efforts to open our minds and spirits to attracting the kind of people who embrace us on all levels of our beings so that we can flourish without bending over backwards to please others. 

There is space and time within our lifetimes to fully feel the affection and admiration we desire, but there is no space and time to feel these things from the wrong people. The “wrong person” might look a lot like someone who tells you what you’re asking of them is too much, they can’t hold space for your expectations, or they’d simply rather give the things you’re asking for to someone else. Don’t try to make them see things your way, simply release them or adjust your relationship with that person to what feels healthy and right for you. If you have to force it, it’s truly not meant to be. Know you deserve better, and there are people out there you won’t be too much for.

I am not perfect in exercising my right to be free from people pleasing, but I am making a conscious effort to change that every single day that I wake up and enforce a boundary, leave a group chat, block a phone number, unfollow someone on social media, or let that work email sit until business hours resume. 

The way you wish to be treated and how you desire to be appreciated are not annoyances, a burden, and they’re not hard to accommodate to the people who embrace you fully. If your relationships and interactions with others are balanced, you give as much as you take, and you exercise your right to simply say no without explanation when you feel depleted, you’ll not only find that you’re drained less, you’ll value what you have to offer that much more without feeling guilty for giving yourself credit. 

Feel free to receive the energy you give without being weighed down by giving with the expectation to receive. Start with creating some small boundaries. How will you reclaim your time and energy?


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