Recently I attended a weekend-long social function that left me absolutely drained.
I was around many people I didn’t know, and I cared greatly about what they thought about me. My subconscious focus the whole weekend was trying to be as likable as possible.
Nothing felt natural about the way I was acting. In fact, I felt completely disconnected from my own wants and feelings. I wanted nothing more than to gain the approval of the people I was with. I tried to say the “right” things in every conversation I had and exerted all my energy to be outgoing and perfectly sweet.
Even though I got my regular hours of sleep each night, I felt more exhausted with every passing hour. Instead of enjoying the conversations I was having, I was preoccupied with how I was being perceived the whole time.
Trying to please the people I was around caused me to abandon my true self. Because I was so focused on being liked I didn’t show up as my authentic self. My cup was left completely dry by the end of the weekend.
While I was sitting in the airport to fly home, I couldn’t hold in my suppressed emotions any longer. Tears poured down my face (it was one of those moments I really wished I had sunglasses available). I finally felt like I could let down. The pressure to perform was off, and my suppressed emotions poured out.
The crying continued on the airplane as I thought back on how difficult the weekend was for me. I realized that my pain was all caused by my brain. I had completely depleted myself by putting so much effort into gaining approval from others.
No one else forced me to keep a constant smile on my face. No one else forced me to engage in small talk for 48 hours straight. No one else was telling me that I needed to be overly accommodating. But I did.
I know many of you struggle with the same people-pleasing battle that leaves you empty every time.
Why do we people-please?
People-pleasing is often rooted in beliefs you learned as a child that you need to earn love and protection.
Some of the other childhood-rooted thoughts are:
- “I am responsible for my caregiver's feelings.” This is learned when parents blame their feelings on the actions of their children. The reality is that parents are in charge of regulating their own emotions.
- “I need to be on my best behavior for my caregivers to show me love.” Since children are helpless, they rely on their caregivers for all of their needs. If they fear any chance of abandonment they will do anything to stay safe. And that is often through trying to overly please their parents.
How do we overcome people-pleasing?
While the belief that you need to earn love and approval runs deep, there are intentional practices you can start today to overcome people-pleasing:
1. Ask yourself, “What do I want?”
When you are in a situation where you feel inclined to do something you don’t want to do, reclaim your power and ask yourself what you truly want. Even though it may feel VERY uncomfortable, follow through on what you want instead of what you think someone else wants you to do. Over time you will feel the freedom that comes from taking action for you from an empowered place.
2. Be the most YOU version of YOU
Before you go into a social situation you feel you may be tempted to people please, set the intention that you will be the most YOU version of YOU. Imagine how you would feel, what you would say, and how you would act. Then make your #1 goal to be true to that in the situation.
3. Make a daily list of 10 things you love about yourself
The more you truly love who you are, the less you’ll feel the need for others to love you. You will have your own back. By recognizing the lovable things about you, daily, you will train your brain to see yourself for the amazing soul that you are!
Please remember to be patient with yourself in this process. Our needs for love and approval run so deep. But by doing the work to feel them within yourself, you can finally live from a place of true self-acceptance instead of fear.