True Confessions of a Recovering People Pleaser
Hi, my name is Alice, and I’m a recovering people-pleaser.
This is my story.
Years ago, I had a fabulous fun friend — she was my best friend — we traveled together, shared many meals, milestones, and loads of memories. Over time she developed a problem with alcohol that progressively grew worse. Her family staged an intervention and invited me to participate. I declined.
I knew she would be furious, and I couldn’t stand the thought of her being angry at me! That’s right; I had such low self-esteem that the idea of anyone, ESPECIALLY my best friend, being outraged at me convinced me to pass up an opportunity to help her.
My non-confrontational people-pleasing self wouldn’t allow me to step up and tell her the cold hard truth she desperately needed to hear.
By declining to participate, I stayed out of her line of fire and kept her good graces while she raged against the “hypocrites” and “so-called friends,” who “sabotaged” her that day.
But in the end, I lost my friend. She died a needless tragic death a couple of years afterward due to alcohol poisoning.
Could I have changed the ending? Most likely not, but sadly I’ll never know. This experience is one of my greatest regrets and haunts me to this day. So you see, people-pleasing has a high cost, an extraordinarily high one in some cases.
We all crave authenticity, but we can’t be authentic when we gloss over the truth to keep the peace or, worse, keep the other person under the false impression that they’re: -fill in the blank- (fine, fit, friendly, can handle it when they’re not or cannot) to make them feel special, good or at the very least, not bad about themselves. (because we know how that feels)
As with most lessons, I learned this the hard way.
It’s taken years of introspection, meditation, affirmations, and coaching to understand the underlying causes and effects of people-pleasing on myself and others.
Among the many revelations, I’ve learned that:
People with healthy coping skills deal with frustrations head-on confronting them as they arise. People pleasers tend to suppress negative feelings instead of releasing them. Over time these pent-up emotions become a toxic garbage dump of feelings of inferiority.
I’ve spent a lifetime passively giving up my power to keep the peace, not rock the boat, and at times distorting the truth not to hurt anyone’s feelings.
People-pleasers are generally agreeable, mild-mannered, and meek, so you may be surprised to learn that beneath the laid-back, low-key persona is usually an enormous amount of unresolved pain stemming from some early trauma.
To cope with the natural craving for acceptance and love, people pleasers regularly place the needs, wants, and whims of others before their own in a futile attempt to be liked by everyone; avoiding conflict at every turn and any cost, even if it means saying “yes” when they need to say “no.” (or vice-versa)
People pleasers, over time, can become accustomed to being controlled by others that have no respect for their welfare, leaving them (and potentially their families) open and highly vulnerable to abusive relationships.
That day I lost my best friend was the day I found the courage to confront and address the root cause of my people-pleasing tendencies. I’ve made great strides in recognizing and curbing them, but I can’t say I’m 100% free. I’m not sure that’s even possible, but I am sure of one thing, I’m more self-aware and likely to speak my truth and let the chips fall where they may.
In conclusion, if you recognize yourself in any of this, I urge you to consider taking a thoughtful, deep dive into your past to discover what could’ve triggered a sense of “I’m not good enough” or that hopeless feeling of worthlessness.
Was it a lack of love or understanding, support, or something else? (However unintentional it could’ve been as our perception is our truth) The answer? Please give YOURSELF those things of which you felt deprived. No-one deserves it more.
In my experience, THAT is the key to unlock the door, behind which you’ll find all the love your heart can hold.