I’m done being “nice.”
Gone are the days of swallowing my opinions to make others happy, acting like aggressive or rude people don’t bother me so as not to rock the boat, and saying “sure” when I mean “F**K NO.”
I’ve become a champ at boundaries as of late, and this people pleasing shit was the last straw.
Stand back: I’m about to analogize.
The People Pleasing House
You remember the children’s story, The Three Little Pigs, right? Well, I like to think of people pleasing as a house that I built to protect me from the big bad wolves…and maybe the regular people, too. It’s real nice looking, but it’s made of straw so it’s weak AF. For some reason, though, I believed it was protecting me from other people seeing my vulnerable insides (’cause heaven forbid people realize I’m really a pig in there, right?).
I was sure that if people saw me for who I really was inside with all my opinions and preferences, that they wouldn’t like me for being “difficult” or worse: they’d eat me alive.
Through recovery, I started learning that disagreeing wasn’t so bad. That maybe – just maybe – my opinions are just as worthy as everyone else’s. I gradually released the fear of being seen as I was; actually, I started to welcome it.
This house that was supposed to protect me was doing nothing but keeping the real me trapped in the dark; safe from being vulnerable, real, and honest… you know, HUMAN. All that juicy jazz that other human beings relate with and expect from their friends and mentors. And I was ready to be those things.
I realized I didn’t want to wait for some wolf-troll to come along and blow that shit down on me. I wanted to be real; for people to truly know and see me for who I was. I’d have to blow it down from the inside.
Today, I want to grab a cup of coffee with you, sit down and just shoot the shit about what it takes to ditch people pleasing without turning into an arrogant prick.
…something I feel like I’ve done pretty well at and am still doing consistently. After all, that’s the main fear people pleasers have about quitting people pleasing, right: that they’ll turn into a dick?
If you’re reading this and thinking, “ehhhh I don’t know if people pleasing is something I want to give up,” have a seat, honey bear. Let’s have a little heart-to-heart…
Why Stop People Pleasing?
There will always be people out there who just won’t like you no matter what you do. You could people please your face off and you just wouldn’t ever be able to sway those people. Now, you could use this information to keep jamming that square peg into the round hole OR you could do what I suggest: use it as a tool to empower yourself out of people pleasing.
People pleasing is an effort to control how other people feel about you.
We’ve talked a LOT about the limits of our control on SIO: we just can’t control other people’s feelings or actions. If you’re spending energy and time to be who you think everyone else needs you to be, you might need a little wake up call. You’re going to run yourself ragged trying to control what can’t be controlled.
And if you’re out there saying, “So I should just give up being considerate altogether?”, calm yourself. It’s not about opposites here. You don’t have to be either a people pleaser or an insensitive asshole; like all things healthy, there’s a balance to be found in the magical gray zone.
You’re not on this Earth to please everyone. You developed this specific set of skills, personality and voice because you’re meant to speak deeply to certain people.
By hiding your truth in a people pleasing house, you’re robbing all those people who would benefit from your authentic voice.
You’re also robbing yourself of the life-changing experiences of vulnerability, honesty, learning from disagreements, and the confidence that comes from standing up for yourself. Plus, all that resentment energy that comes from holding in your honest thoughts and being can finally start to clear.
There is a way to stop people pleasing AND be Loving, and we’re going to get to the bones of it today. Grab your toasty bev and let’s chat about the rules of ditching people pleasing without Christian Bale-ing it all over the place.
Rule 1: Your Highest Good Reigns Supreme
When it comes to ditching people pleasing, this rule guides them all and motivates us to take the hard action. Your highest good is the most important thing and you’re the only one who can fight for it.
This rule is two-fold, guiding both the choice to speak up and the choice to be who you are without apology. Let’s visit the speaking up part first.
Speaking up when it’s hard
If you’re uncomfortable with something, no one will know you’re uncomfortable unless you say it out loud. While there are many people out there who can read body language, there are many more who – when they want something – will ignore your body language to get what they want. You can’t count on other people to save you.
Something I always ask myself when I’m scared to speak up is this:
“How much energy would I spend thinking about this or being affected by it later if I don’t say something now?”
When you use that question to guide you, it’s interesting what happens. You may find that you sit back on the small stuff only to realize that it affects you more than you’d thought it would later on. Soon, as your level of awareness around this improves, you’re finding that speaking up more often is for your highest good.
Being who you really are
One of the scariest things for people pleasers is being who we really are. If you’ve been a people pleaser all your life, you might not even know who you are under all that “nice” straw. Don’t worry: I didn’t either until I started gently chipping away at my people pleasing shell. It will come piece by piece.
I think we can all agree that we here on Strong Inside Out have the goal of happiness. It’s safe to say that your highest good requires happiness. For real, core-centered happiness, being authentic is an absolute necessity. True connection is a major contributor to this goal. All of us human beings crave it.
When we’re focused on being who we believe others need us to be, the connections we make with others aren’t based in reality; no one gets to see the real us. Thus, our “happiness” is based on false validation; we get gold stars for the masks we wear but not for who we really are. It all starts to feel hollow.
When we allow ourselves to be seen in all our vulnerable glory, however, the connections we make with others are deeper, more intimate and more rewarding. When we allow others to truly know us – flaws and all – we feel safer to be real and to let ourselves speak, act and BE freely.
Your highest good is not to be someone else; it’s to light up this world with your unique gifts, which requires you to be who you are. It will take time to discover and reveal your true self if you’re not used to being her/him. Take small steps that feel safe and good to you to start letting the true you out. The people who need you are waiting.
How does this rule keep you from being a dick?
Simple: have you ever held back saying something again and again only to blow up when something super small happens? Or maybe you held back who you were for a long time only to blow up from all the pressure? That blow up = dick move. Keep your energy clear by speaking up for the stuff that matters as it happens and being true to yourself and your beliefs (as you feel comfortable to do so).
Rule 2: It’s Never About Them
When we say things like, “He makes me so angry!” or “How could she do this to me?” we’re reinforcing the lie that other people have control over the way that we feel. It’s never about them. It’s all about how we perceive our world and the people in it.
People can say and do things to you, but it’s ultimately up to you how you react. We need to take responsibility for how we feel and to do that, we must set boundaries that keep our energy safe.
Boundaries are the anti-people pleaser. They’re designed to keep you emotionally, physically and energetically safe by connecting with your real needs.
People pleasers tend not to have strong boundaries; they give too much of themselves to please others leaving them drained or frazzled. To stop people pleasing, boundaries are a critical step. When you first start to set boundaries, not everyone will like them, especially if they’re used to taking advantage of your giving.
Setting boundaries without seeming like a cold, hard B comes down to this: keep it about you. Blaming serves no one; it makes the other person angry and it deflects your responsibility, distracting from the healing power of owning your shit.
To set boundaries without being a dick, check out this excerpt from my post, Setting Boundaries 101:
Whenever possible, use “I statements” to illustrate your point. It is never a person’s fault that you feel a certain way or take on more than you feel comfortable with. We must accept responsibility for what we have not said in the past. Blaming others most often causes others’ defenses to go up causing them to be unable to actually hear what you’re saying.
For example, if I were setting a boundary about how many extra tasks I can take on at work, I might say something along the lines of: “I’ve found that when I take on too many extra tasks makes me inefficient in all areas of my life including work. While I’d love to help with 2 extra tasks per month, taking on more than that is overwhelming for me.”
NOT, “You give me too much work and it overwhelms me. Can’t you see I’ve got too much on my plate?” or “I’ve been saying yes too often for too long and Janice doesn’t do half as much work as I do. Why don’t you ask her?”
Stick to your side of the fence, and the person you’re setting boundaries with will be more likely to be receptive to them.
Plus, it’s just not cool to yell at someone for something they might not know has been bothering you and then blame them for it. If someone else has ever blown up at you after holding it in, you know it’s majorly messed up. Don’t be the blamer. Take responsibility for yourself.
Rule 3: Come From Love
This is the most major rule of not being a dick: come from a place of Love and you can’t go wrong.
To come from Love, you must consider yourself as well as others. Your highest good comes back into this rule as well: if something is harming you emotionally, mentally, physically or energetically, then the Loving thing to do is to put a stop to it even if it’s not the popular or “nice” thing to do.
By this rule, the most seemingly difficult acts become less difficult if not easy for us to do. Maybe the Loving thing to do is disconnect a friendship or step back from a project you committed to. Maybe it’s to tell your family member the ways you’ve been hurt by them so you can work through it with them and forgive them for it.
The Loving thing doesn’t always look pleasant from the outside; sometimes it’s the raw, uncomfortable, but necessary act that helps you release negative energy. Sometimes it’s the hardest (but bravest) thing you could do.
Before taking any actions to stop people pleasing, cue yourself to come from a place of Love both for yourself and for whomever this action might affect. It might help to do a short meditation or prayer beforehand to center yourself in Love and ask for guidance before you have the talk.
When all is said and done…
That straw house of people pleasing is smothering your life force. Good news: you can build a sweet set of skills by listening to and honoring your needs through the rules above. Speaking up, being yourself and setting boundaries are skills that get better with practice.
So let’s huff and let’s puff and let’s blow that MF to the ground. ‘Cause being “nice” ain’t doing you (nor us) any favors.
Here’s to the real you, baby. Long may she/he reign.