The Disease to Please

Walking on eggshells. 

Holding back my true thoughts and feelings and slapping on a smile instead. 

Losing sleep over trying to craft the perfect thing to say.


These are some of the ways I have been a life-long people pleaser. I made it my duty to make other people happy, even if it was to my own detriment. I thought I was doing other people a favor because I thought the worst thing was to disappoint people.  


I made it my job to keep other people happy and I completely disregarded what I wanted. I was full of so much guilt or for messing up. Even worse was if I disappointed someone. Then I would feel resentment for the other person and towards myself for putting myself in a situation that didn’t make me feel happy. 


People pleasing is such a slippery slope. This is especially challenging for women because we are socialized and taught to please others. It is modeled for us by the elder women in our families. We see our mothers sacrificing for the good of the family time and again and it becomes ingrained that the definition of a good woman is one who gives everything to everyone else. And if someone takes time for themselves then they are selfish and that’s bad. Don’t even get me started with how our standards of beauty are all about being pleasing to another person’s eyes rather than what is pleasing to our own eye. The concept of beauty is rarely about what I think is beautiful and more about what other people will think is beautiful.


It’s tricky work to break out of the cycle of people pleasing. But the rewards are great.


When we stop people pleasing we stop manipulating others. Yeah, I said it. People pleasing is downright manipulative. Our efforts to control our environment and make others behave in certain ways is actually an effort to control and manipulate them. I bet your first instinct is to say that you’re trying to make other people happy, so that isn’t manipulative. But look at the sentence again. You’re trying to make other people feel a certain way. It’s robbing them of the ability to have their own natural feelings and reactions. Not only are you not being authentic because you’re trying to behave in a pleasing manner, but you’re subconsciously communicating that it’s not ok for other people to be authentic either.


When we stop people pleasing, we also increase our own confidence. When we start communicating what is true to our own self, it sends a message that your feelings and preferences matter which builds your self-esteem. To reclaim a phrase from the beauty industry, you deserve to speak your mind “Because YOU”RE WORTH IT.”


How does a person actually STOP people pleasing, you may ask?


Like with everything, it’s not going to magically change overnight. I encourage small shifts in one area, and then build from there. So, I encourage you to look at just one relationship where you notice a lot of people pleasing. Maybe it’s with your best friend when you’re always driving to her neck of the woods to hang out and you want her to come to you for once. Maybe it’s with your coworker who keeps giving you more and more work, even though you are drowning in stress. Maybe it’s your neighbor that keeps blowing his raked leaves into your yard and you never say anything. 


The first step is to notice when it happens. When are you acting in a way that you think will make others happy, but actually feels bad to you? At first, you’re only going to notice when it’s happened in the past. When you notice, it’s important to simply notice without any judgement of it being right or wrong. Simply say “oh look, I did that people-pleasing thing.” I like to imagine having a feather duster and just dusting the event lightly. It’s completely neutral. 


When you start to catch yourself in the moment acting in a way that is people-pleasing, give yourself a pause. Having a phrase handy, like “Can I think about it and get back to you?” is really helpful in this situation. You want to build in a moment to reflect and assess how you really feel, because you want to make a conscious choice away from the habit of pleasing others. 


When you come back to the other person, state your preference and say how you feel. Remember “No” is a complete sentence and it doesn’t need a reason. If it helps you, you can say “No but thank you for thinking of me,” or “This is a no for me at this time,” or “This isn’t a good fit for me and my needs.” You can also try phrasing like “Can I make a simple request?” and then you can state what it is that you need. 


Know that this might bring up some feelings of discomfort for you and for the other person, especially if they are used to you always saying yes. And feeling discomfort is OK! If you were lifting weights in the gym and it never felt hard, you’d never get stronger. This is you getting stronger, so discomfort is part of the process. And then let go of the other person’s reaction. Their feelings are not your responsibility, that responsibility belongs to the other person. You are only responsible for your own reactions. 


Now it’s your turn. What is one relationship you have where you have the Disease to Please? What is one thing you will do this week to shift the focus back to meeting your own needs? Share in the comments below or send me a message. I look forward to hearing from you! 


Did you find this blog post helpful? Do you want to increase the love in your life? It all starts with yourself, which is why I created a simple self love meditation. Claim yours here and get more love immediately.