People-pleasers are martyrs to niceness!
I find that most people are more willing to own up to the name "martyr" than "people-pleaser," though the two are kissing cousins. Martyrdom is a noble little hat to wear, and a lot of my clients come to coaching with it clutched ruefully in their hands.
Their priorities are all mixed up, they tell me. They give themselves away!
They acknowledge they have a hard time saying no, or being honest about how they really feel, but they're not sure how to switch gears. I hear this story from my female clients especially. They put themselves on the backburner, and sacrificed their own needs so often that now they don't know what they are anymore. They devoted so much time and energy to XYZ (family, relationship, job, partner) that they didn't check in on their own dreams, and now they're coming up shorthanded.
If this sounds like you, it's okay. Like all pesky personality traits, this too can be dismantled with the right tools and the right intention.
It starts with telling the truth.
It requires more than just admitting to people-pleasing. You can acknowledge that you're a martyr and feel justified all the same. At least you've got a big heart, and you're a hard worker, right? The harder pill to swallow is owning up to the fact the underlying driver is the need to be needed, to feel important, to get brownie points without taking the real risk of doing it for yourself. Everyone can count on you, except you. People-pleasers don't believe in their own dreams, and eventually they forget about them. They please others. They aren't true to themselves.
And the opposite of the truth is, well, a lie.
The same people who admit to being martyrs sometimes scratch their heads at that notion. After all, they felt sincere every time they cancelled their plans to accommodate a friend in need, right?! Lies in the form of people-pleasing have a sneaky way of masquerading as goodwill.
Don't be fooled! You might be a people-pleaser if...
- You're having a difficult day, but as soon as you're with company you put on a big smile act like nothing is wrong, because you don't want to make anyone uncomfortable/you don't want to talk about it. You act like everything is better than it is.
People-pleasing breeds inauthenticity on many levels.
You can't be true to yourself and focused constantly on others. You're not just hiding your real feelings from them, you're lying to yourself too -- about what's important to you, and what will make you happy. About your justifications, judgements, and autonomy. Convinced that they're taking the high road, people-pleasers stay busy and committed but continuously taken for granted and unfulfilled.
It's a backwards power grab -- they avoid being powerful (and responsible!) in their own lives, and instead get their power from the validation of others, currying favors and winning the badge of martyr that allows them to avoid stepping up to the plate.
What's the cure for people-pleasing?
The opposite of people-pleasing is inspired leadership. It's not a distant dream -- we can easily identify the qualities of leaders when we meet them every day. They are the people who have boundaries, who stay true to their ideals, who are transparent and honest in conversation. They have ideas, and vision, and integrity. They walk their talk.
It's being a leader in your own life.
That requires getting reacquainted with your needs, getting clear on your dreams, owning up to your secret fears and bad theories, and doing the work to replace them with better practices. A 12 week tele-course in The Handel Method can teach you the steps to take and exactly how do it in any area of your life you wish to lead. Your health? Family? Career? Community?
Either way, it's yours to design as you please. People pleasers, take heed!
Schedule a free 30 minute private coaching call and see how it works. You might learn something about yourself you never knew! Or you might decide to be a way you have never been before. Which is kind of incredible.