My name is Rosanne Orlando and I am a People Pleaser.
As I’ve noted many times, I am also a recovering perfectionist. I am currently one year and six months without a relapse. It all started with the joy I experienced when I would come up with a thoughtful gift for someone. I also remember as a child being so excited to show my mom when she arrived home from work that I had cleaned my room without her having to ask me. “Mommy, mommy, look what I did! You’re going to be so happy!”
Do you have trouble saying “no?” Is it a badge of honor that you’re the one that’s always there? Sure, that’s a great quality in a friend, colleague, family member, or any other roles you may have. But when does it become a problem? If I have a glass of wine every night because it helps me relax and deal with my stress, does that make me an alcoholic? Well, does it affect your life? If so, how much?
Does this sound like a typical “therapist talking to their client” scenario to you? It’s actually very real. It’s part of a conversation I once had with my therapist. I wanted the black and white “yes” or “no” to my potential problem, but it’s just more complicated than that.
Does the following people pleasing scenario feel familiar?
You are overworked, tired, stressed, and irritable, but “happy enough,” and a friend asks you for a favor (something non-life-threatening) and you, without hesitation say, “sure no problem.” And then you immediately regret it. It becomes a problem when saying “yes” to something or someone, and you are saying “no” to yourself. You. Your health, your desires, your sanity. This is an insidious disease. It looks non-threatening at first. A little overexertion here, a couple of late nights there, no big deal, right? Well, have you been feeling exhausted lately? Stressed out? Antsy? Have zero time for yourself? Is that really okay? It’s an addiction. A socially acceptable addiction that offers rewards!
We feel important when we feel needed. That’s the reward you get. Think about what you get out of saying “yes” to someone or something:
- Is it validating your needs?
- Is it gratitude?
- Is it feeling needed by others?
- Is it wanting to be liked, loved, or looked at in a certain light?
- Is this a martyr situation?
- Is it a badge of honor to have bags under your eyes, messy hair, and a sarcastic 90’s cartoon Daria-like attitude?
- Does it feel nice?
Maybe in the short term, these things serve a need and make you feel good, but in the long run, it probably makes you feel pretty crappy. Nothing that gives you immediate gratification is sustainable over time. That’s why we talk about healthy habits and lifestyle.
People pleasing does not discriminate, but what we do know about it is that it’s generational.
People pleasing is a way of relating to others from a vulnerable, passive state instead of a confident, empowered one. I think it’s appropriate to mention some people are fearful that they will come off as cocky if they were to walk around feeling empowered. One of my mentors said, “If you speak from what’s in your heart it will be reflected through your face!” There’s no rehearsing, nothing to be scared of, and no lack of authenticity when you’re speaking from the heart, rather than from a place of wanting to influence people.
People pleasing is a scared, defensive pose.
It’s disguised in a cloak of “I’m doing, I’m helping, I’m being a good (insert role here: friend, person, mother, spouse, etc.).” You create excuses for why you should push through. If you were to refrain from this behavior, what would that mean for you? What would you replace this behavior with? How would you fill the silence? Would you have to listen to the tapes in your mind that, until now, you’ve pushed down and ignored, never allowing yourself to face them? They come out one way or another, that I’m sure of, both personally and from what I have seen professionally.
You will be of most use to the other person when you help them from a healthy, happy state. The entire experience will be more pleasant. Should you not be able to fulfill how it was asked of you, could the outcome be reached differently in a suitable way? Remember, (or know that) fulfilling the request in a different way than it was asked still shows you care.
People pleasing is not just about lacking confidence in yourself, it’s really about fear. Fear of being inadequate. Marianne Williamson speaks of this fear in the following quote:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
From my heart to yours, as we move forward together.