Set a healthy example by learning to put yourself first instead of people pleasing.
If you are a compassionate, caring person you may also be a people pleaser – continually taking care of others’ needs while denying your own. Overtime this can be draining and exhausting. It can also lead to codependency, enabling others instead of letting them take care of themselves.
Feelings of guilt, obligation and over-responsibility, along with a need to appear nice and kind, motivate people pleasing behaviors. There’s an urge to say “yes” to another’s request when deep down inside you want to say “no.” But you can’t, without feeling guilty or responsible for the other’s predicament. Yet in reality each of us is responsible for our own creations, however they turn out.
You may be a people pleaser at work, or perhaps only with family and friends, or maybe you’re vulnerable to anyone who looks at you with a puppy dog eyes. But at some point you need to learn to put yourself first or you’ll become so over burdened focusing on others that you’ll end up scattered, bedraggled, and ill from burn-out.
How to Stop Being a People Pleaser
The first step in letting go of people pleasing behaviors is to discover what motivates you in the first place. With this awareness you can catch yourself before saying “yes” and make a healthier choice. Explore the following questions:
~ Is obligation and loyalty important to you? Many people are raised in families that stress the importance of doing what is “right” according to family and societal norms of the day. This may mean attending family events regardless of desire or interest, taking care of others even if it creates hardship to self, or being of service to others. Whenever people take action out of duty and obligation, instead of from their heart and soul inspiration, they end up doing more harm than good in the long run. Explore your underlying beliefs as a way to break free from external conditioning.
~ How important is it to be nice? Some people believe they need to be nice all the time otherwise they feel they are being mean. This is all or nothing thinking. In reality, it is possible to say “no” without being mean, and it is possible to put yourself first without harming others. Experiment with how you can speak your truth with kindness.
~ Does saying no trigger guilt? What underlies the guilt – is it feeling responsible for the other, feeling a sense of owing the other, or feeling undeserving or less than? It is helpful to tune into the underlying messages to see what’s true and false. Say hello to the feelings of guilt or over-responsibility, but then focus on your higher truth of goodness and worthiness.
~ Are you over concerned about others? Do you view those in trouble as helpless or needy? This perspective will lead you to feel you have to help everyone who has a problem. In reality, we each make our own mistakes and create our own predicaments as a way to learn, grow and evolve. Remember this the next time you are tempted to rescue a struggling family member or friend.
As you learn to let go of being a people pleaser, the next step is to learn how to put yourself first.
How to Put Yourself First
If your habit is putting others’ needs first then it makes sense that the antidote to this would be to put your own needs first. This is not an easy task for those well trained in the art of sensing what others’ need before even being asked. But with practice, a new balance can be achieved. Try the following.
Create a new motivation. Before tending to others, doing favors, and putting others’ first, check in to what is motivating this behavior. If it is not coming from a place of true desire and interest that benefits both parties, rethink any actions before taking them. What would you like your motive to be? What would truly help another? What would be best for both of you?
Discover your underlying needs. If the need for approval, appreciation, love, or acceptance underlies your behaviors, find healthier ways to experience these. What can you do to expand your self-love, self-appreciation, self-approval, and self-acceptance?
Meet your own needs. Check in with your mind, body, heart and soul on a daily basis to discover you need for the day. Then brainstorm ways to meet these. Practice saying “yes” to yourself and “no” to others until it becomes comfortable.
See others as capable. If sympathy motivates caretaking behaviors, rise up to a place of compassion where caring for the others’ dilemmas is balanced by seeing their resourcefulness. This will lead to allowing others to care for themselves.
Set healthy boundaries. If friends or family pull at your heart strings as a way to manipulate your behavior, it may be time to set healthy boundaries with family and friends. If you are an empath who is sensitive to the energy, emotions and problems of others, you may also need to create healthy energy boundaries.
It takes time to find a new balance between caring for others and caring for self, but once it is achieved, exhaustion drops away and energy returns. Make a choice to put yourself first and let go of people pleasing.