If you’ve had the people pleasing pattern, you may not be used to giving a lot of thought to what YOU want for yourself, separate and apart from what others want from you. That means you’re making decisions based on trying to manage others’ reactions and feelings toward you, rather than from your own inner guidance. You may be trying to avoid someone being mad at or unhappy with you. Or, you’re trying to stay on their good side. Sadly, the agenda of pleasing others often results in abandoning yourself.
Don’t misunderstand, there’s nothing wrong with doing things for others or compromising in a relationship. The trouble comes when you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. If you agree to something and immediately feel resentful, regretful, overwhelmed, sad or even uneasy, you likely made the decision from your pleasing tendency rather than from a place of authenticity.
Check In Before You Say Yes
One of the first things you can do to start shifting from knee-jerk pleasing to responding from your own truth is to create a safe space for yourself to review and “try on” your choices. When you’re asked to do something, take your time before you answer. I created the Choice Chain exercise as a tool to help my clients explore their options on the scale between Yes and No.
For example, my client Megan was consciously working on healing her pleaser pattern. A friend asked her to host a baby shower and she felt pressured to take it on even though it wasn’t a good time for her to do so. Rather than defaulting to her usual pleaser tendency to give in and then stew in regret and overwhelm, she and I created a Choice Chain to help her get in touch with her options.
To create her Choice Chain we took a plain sheet of paper and wrote the two extremes, unconditional Yes on the left side and unconditional No on the right. We then looked at some options between yes and no. It looked like this:
Sample Choice Chain
Yes. Yes, but only if friends share duties Yes, but only if we make it a casual pot luck No, but I will come early to help set up No.
You can have as many options as you can think of between Yes and No. And there are no wrong or bad options, including Yes and No; they are all simply choices you can make.
It’s important to review your choices in the context of what’s best for you, not how you think the other person will react. Set the other person aside for the moment. Review your Choice Chain while checking in with yourself to see which choice emerges as your highest and best option—you will sense it in your heart when you see it. If you are still not quite confident with your choice, imagine that your fairy Godmother popped in with a ‘guilt free’ card. Now which one would you pick? Chances are that’s your heart’s true choice.
Megan decided that if she could get some help with planning and cooking, she would be glad to host the shower. The decision did not come from an automatic need to please but from a thoughtful inner discovery process.
When you have the pleaser pattern, you can forget that you DO have a choice. The Choice Chain is more than a tool to help you explore your options, it’s a practical way to practice listening to and recognizing what your heart wants. The more you do this, the more natural it will become.
Next Week: Check the blog, or subscribe if you haven’t already, to get Part 3 of Ending the Tyranny of People Pleasing: Giving Up Over-Responsibility for the Feelings of Others
And, in case you missed it, here’s a link to Part 1 from last week:
Deb Purdy, is a transformation coach, speaker, workshop leader and author of
Something Gained: 7 Shifts to Be Stronger, Smarter and Happier After Divorce.
Visit www.DebPurdy.com for more information.
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