Confession: I'm a Recovering People Pleaser

Hi, my name is Sarah and I'm a recovering people pleaser.

I don’t want to tell this story, it’s so embarrassing to me that this is how I used to think.

I was dating this guy that I really liked. We had actually dated previously and decided to give things another go. But I was hesitant. He had burned me before. I thought it might be best to keep my options open and also keep dating other people. I talked to him about this, and he agreed.

In my heart of hearts, I wanted this guy to be my only option. But I was scared of being hurt. I was also scared that I was making a big mistake by letting him back into my life, and that everyone would think I was being stupid.

I only told a select few people we were back together. I kept things very quiet. The secrecy was fun, but it was also a bit toxic.

As time went on, I realized he was the only person I was interested in dating. He was still dating other women and figuring things out. I decided to play it cool and patiently wait them out. Surely he would come around and see how awesome I am. Especially because I was being the “cool girl” and keeping this open thing going.

My communication was full of mixed messages. I never asked for what I wanted, which was a real relationship. When we were apart, I sulked and cried. Then when we were together I pulled a 180 to be really fun, sexy and happy. I thought I was being the perfect potential girlfriend.

Eventually he decided to pursue a relationship with one of the other women.

My behavior to try to keep him happy didn’t work, and it made me miserable. And since I hid the relationship from many of my friends out of fear of what they’d think, I didn’t have a big network to turn to when I was heartbroken.

I was isolated and quite depressed, and feeling completely foolish.

This is people pleasing at its worst.

People pleasing is learned behavior. We think by making someone else happy, we will prove our value, worth, and worthiness of love.  It’s what happens when we value other people’s opinions more than we value our own. By doing this repeatedly, you place our power outside of yourself, lose trust in yourself and your ability to keep promises with yourself. It weakens your personal strength.

For me personally it has led to discontent, anger, resentment, frustration, hopelessness, and sadness.

People pleasing is a toxic behavior. I see it most with my clients in how they show up with their romantic partner, family members and friends, and at work.

When the stakes are high - meaning, we really care about the result - it is really easy to slip into people pleasing because we think we will get the desired result. It can also be really hard to stop, because it involves not only speaking up and saying the hard thing but also changing expectations.

It might be scary to go through all that. But you are stronger than that.

  • Your voice and opinion matter. Your preferences are important.

  • Your needs matter as much as anyone else’s.

  • You have the right to your feelings, thoughts, opinions, needs and desires.

  • You have the right to express and enforce your boundaries.

  • You are important. You matter.

Communicating can feel scary, but it is a necessary part of life and relationships. Do yourself a favor, and speak your mind. 

Now it’s your turn. Where in your life are you exhibiting people-pleasing behavior? Do you have an embarrassing story to tell about making choices to try to make someone else happy? Share in the comments below!


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