I had just broken up with my boyfriend, and my confidence and heart were both a little bruised. It had hurt me that no matter how I idolised him, I never quite earned the compliments held out as bait.
"You'd be so beautiful... if you lost a little weight."
It was delivered as a compliment but wounded as an insult.
But I was young and the flirt was strong within me.
I met someone new. But I was still all wrong.
"You're too skinny" he said, "you need to put on a bit of weight".
Spoiler alert - I didn't marry either of those guys. But while I left behind these people, it was harder to leave behind the idea that somehow everything about me - my values, politics, body, beliefs and personality were somehow fair game for judgment, and it was my job to be a chameleon to ensure I lived up to the expectations I imagined the world had of me. I had to be the best team player at work, the most supportive friend, the perfect partner.
The truth about people pleasing
The basic foundation of all people pleasing is that those of us caught in this trap believe one basic lie - we can earn love somehow - if we can only be good enough, live up to unspoken and possibly contradictory expectations and be perfect.
But it's a lie because for those who don't love us, we can never do enough. And for those who do - we don't need to earn it.
The truth is, we can't allow love in when we are trying to earn it all the time. When we stop trying to earn it, we get to actually receive it.
When I stopped jumping through hoops, I met someone who loved me regardless. And no one else really seemed to notice! But I did - it was a huge weight to let go of.
How to drop the weight of the need to please
If you can recognise yourself in the striving to earn approval, worth and love, try the following:
- 1Begin with mindfulness - bring gentle noticing when you do or say something because you feel you need to to please others
- 2When you notice it, if you feel emotionally safe, express what is really true for you. Start with small things like choice of movie or restaurant, opinions of books and current events
- 3Take time to yourself and journal - In what situations and with who do you feel compelled to monitor yourself to please others? Where can you begin to express preferences, opinions and personality traits that feel more like you? How can you change how much time you spend in company that creates feelings of unworthiness?
- 4Most importantly - where in your life do you need to show unconditional love to yourself? We teach others how to respond to us. Which makes the best starting point acknowledging your own truth, preferences and needs in the privacy of your own mind and honouring that.
- 5If making these changes feels overwhelming or confronting, you don't have to do it alone. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a call to discuss the support I can offer.