The problem with people pleasing is that you actually inevitably don’t fully please anyone, least of all yourself.
I know, because I spent an awfully long time people pleasing myself. It got me nowhere and the expectations of the people I was pleasing increased existentially over time making them harder and harder to please, leaving me depleted and run down.
I am sure that as you are reading this, you are in agreement.
My most recent experience, and the one that made me change my ways, is from my role as Office Manager in a small charity. I was in a support role as part of my job and aware of the tiny budget (plus, I LOVED the work and ethos of the charity) I would constantly go the extra mile to save money by doing the work myself rather than paying a contractor and covering the work of my colleagues (without making a noise about it) to make sure that everything was completed and in order.
I did this for almost four years! In which time, I had a couple (yes, a couple!!) of breakdowns due to the lack of support and ever increasing wants from me. I ended up crying in a heap in the server room one day when my colleagues were getting annoyed at the lack of internet connection, placing all their anger and discontent onto me and my “inability” to get it sorted NOW so they could continue their work.
The experience left me feeling broken and bruised and my confidence in my work was rock bottom despite knowing insider that I was a excellent Office Manager. I ended up on stress leave when my ability was questioned and I was pushed just too far.
This was to become the beginning of my transition to reclaiming control and taking my life back.
Just to explain, it wasn’t just my work life that was being affected. I would bring the pain and anguish home with me. Pouring it onto my very understanding partner, but inevitably making myself feel increasingly worse for doing so.
So you see, not only does people pleasing hurt you, it enables people to put unrealistic expectations on your ability – to which you say ‘yes’ to and regret later when you are struggling to pull things together.
You know the feeling, don’t you?
My breaking point was when I had more work than ever and I was slogging away while some colleagues were whiling the hours doing menial tasks or taking TOIL (time off in lieu) when they had spent a day tidying. It made me really quite angry that I was buys doing the work delegated to them that right then, in that moment I decided to change. I was no longer going to be a yes person. I would be a sometimes yes person and sometimes no person depending on my capacity. I would also leave work on time and monitor my hours closely to ensure that I took my TOIL too.
And you know what? I did!!
And it made me feel so much more empowered and in control of what was happening for me. My confidence grew and I regained my own time.
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t an easy ride. I could very well caved into saying yes following some of the responses I received but I stood strong. I gave valid reasons (not excuses and always backed up with FACT!) as to why I could not take more work and kept my ground about leaving on time. If they needed assistance, they would have to be organised enough to ask before I left. I even turned off my phone on my days off to ensure no contact could be made when I was not in work mode.
Taking back control is not about being selfish or in stopping supporting people. It is about creating your own boundaries, knowing when and how you can do things for people while maintaining your own self care. When you find yourself working too much for other people that you let your own life slip, it is time to DO something about it before it is too late.
Take time to notice where you are people pleasing. Are there specific people that suck up all your time? What do they do to take your time and energy?
When you are able to notice where you are saying ‘yes’ too much and where you would like to take back control, think about how you can begin taking the stand for yourself.
YES, it is going to be difficult at first. Every time that I have tried to carry out some changes by building my boundaries, other people have found it harder than me to adjust. They may become bemused at you saying no or they might exhibit another reaction that might make you want to leap back into ‘yes’ mode just to keep the peace. But DO NOT DO IT! You need to keep going so that they get used to the fact that you are not always going to be there to help, that you do have other priorities as well as them.
Keep going and you really will reap the benefits…and the people you please will adjust too and respect you for the changes you make.
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I seriously can’t wait to find out how you get on and to cheer you on with your journey to recovery from being a serial people pleaser! Here’s to creating a more manageable life for yourself!