A super-star coaching client of mine recently expressed two insights in the space of about seven minutes. And in doing so, she highlighted the emotional roller coaster that people-pleasers live on.
First up, she shared how great she’d felt when she received some very positive feedback on a piece of work she’d done. In the next breath, she told me about how bad she’d been feeling after a robust discussion with a colleague. The common denominator behind her feelings about both these interactions was her need to keep everyone happy. It left her at the mercy of others and swinging from high to low.
If you’re reading this there’s a good chance you relate. So many women do. And it’s also likely that you’d happily get off the people-pleasing roller coaster. After all, mood swings are rarely the hallmark of a fabulous life. So here are my top tips for keeping your people-pleasing tendencies in check.
How to stop people-people pleasing
Get clear on your particular brand of people-pleasing
Clarity is one of the most important gifts we can give ourselves. We can’t fix what we don’t know about. And when it comes to people-pleasing, knowledge is power. In the coming weeks, jot down all the situations where you find yourself people-pleasing. How will you know when you’ve moved into people-pleasing mode? Well, the indications are different for everyone but common signals include:
- Any time you tell yourself you ‘should’ be doing something for someone else.
- Whenever you wonder what someone else might be thinking about you.
- Any time you find yourself imagining a scenario where someone is praising you.
- Any time you find yourself imagining a scenario where someone is criticising you.
- When you catch yourself engaging in ‘what if they’ thinking. Perhaps ‘what if they yell at me’ or maybe ‘what if they never speak to me again’.
It usually doesn’t take long to see a pattern. And once you understand what people-pleasing looks like for you, you’ve taken the first step to control it.
Recognise people-pleasing for what it is – part of your survival instinct
At it’s heart, people-pleasing comes from the need to be liked and accepted. Acceptance is crucial to our survival. And its importance is hardwired into the most ancient part of our brains. If we’re not liked and accepted then we might be abandoned and discarded. And without support of our family or our tribe, we would surely perish. The minute you recognise that people-pleasing is linked to your survival instinct, you can start to deal with it. The logical part of your brain knows that in today’s world, unless you’re living in particularly violent circumstances, you’re unlikely to be harmed as a result of displeasing someone. Sure, we might have to accept their disappointment or even their anger. But we are unlikely to perish. When you notice ‘what if they’ thinking that so often comes with people-pleasing, remind yourself that you are safe. And that you can survive whatever response they might have. While your lizard brain is loud, your logical brain is telling the truth.
Set your own standards rather than looking for endorsement or adoration from others
Lots of us love the rush that comes from the positive feedback of others. It puts a spring in our step and makes us feel competent and confident. But what happens when we don’t get that acknowledgement? Well, we feel the exact opposite. The fact is, constantly chasing affirmation from others is exhausting. Because we never know when those affirming words are going to come our way. A far more sustainable approach is to set your own standards and start pleasing yourself. You are the person you spend the most time with. And deep down you know when you’ve done something well or when you could lift your game. Set your own benchmarks and release yourself from needing external validation.
Adopt a mantra
One very popular mantra for people-pleasers is ‘it’s none of my business’. When you find yourself wondering what someone might be thinking or saying about you, start reciting the words ‘it’s none of my business’. Do this in a rhythmic way, over and over again. It doesn’t matter if you say them quietly or in your head. Focusing on the words allows you to disengage from the stories your mind is creating. And the truth is, what other people think really is none of your business. Their thoughts always say more about them than they do about you (or anybody else).
Do find yourself regularly riding the people-pleasing rollercoaster? How does people-pleasing show up in your life? I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Warmest, Janelle x