Maybe there is something in the Kansas water that is the love potion of mixed marriages. Like Barack Obama, I am a half-breed. Growing up as a Quew (Quaker-Jew) on a gravel road in Bucyrus, Kansas was not easy. Mom was Quaker and my Dad was Jewish. Neither religion claimed me. Maybe that's why they chose our 80-acre "Green Acres With Kids" existence. Neither parent was a farmer -- so we faked it. I went to a prep school in Kansas City where waitresses served us lunch and spent weekends on the farm with kids that ate fried squirrel. (I am not kidding... fried squirrel.) My youth was spent polishing my chameleon act as I shuttled between two different worlds with completely different values. I learned to take my cues from those around me instead of speaking up. Fitting in seemed more important than being the crazy patchwork quilt that was authentically me. What about you?
The People Pleaser Quiz
Is it hard for you to set and keep healthy boundaries?
Do you think that you will be abandoned or punished if you do or say the wrong thing?
Do you tolerate behaviors that don't work for you to 'keep the peace' or get ahead?
Do you say yes when you want to say no?
Do you do things you regret later, so someone will have a better opinion of you?
If you answered yes to more than 1 of these questions you are a People Pleaser.
I see the challenges this brings up in my business coaching practice. Any time you try to make the opinion of others (add your personal favorite here) or stuff outside you (add your personal favorite here) responsible for your feelings of happiness, you get stuck.
When you blame other folks for those crappy feelings (like say... fear, loneliness, anger, hurt, hopelessness--add your personal favorite here), you get stuck. Why? As great as that approval seems in the moment, it can never fill you up. Darn. I wish it could. I have sought it for so many years.
And if you try to squeeze your self worth out of other people that means you have to control them so they will give you what you want. The big problem is that you can't ever really control anybody. They now have the power to control you. So you never get the juicy authenticity of what you want. Darn, I wish you could. But you can't. So you end up feeling abused and disappointed instead of content.
The only way to really fill up is to do it from the inside.
5 Tips To Lower Your People Pleaser Quotient
1. "No" Is Not A Four Letter Word.
If you have ever been in one of my presentations you are aware of how powerful your intuitive thinking is. You already know what doesn't work for you. Start small. Practice saying "No, thank you. I appreciate your thinking of me." Women in particular benefit from saying "No." People rarely take offense, and those that do are not worth pleasing any way.
2. The Want or Need Diary
Women are genetically engineered to give. (One example of this is that a pregnant woman's body automatically leaches calcium from her bones for her growing baby if she doesn't have an ample amount.) It seems counter intuitive to put their needs first. Many are addicted to people pleasing those around them. Keep a diary for a week. Ask yourself "What do I want? What do I need?" This will help you to discover what your boundaries are.
3. Where Are Your City Limits
What are your healthy boundaries? Many folks don't really know? One reason I use the analogy of becoming the Mayor of You-ville in my programs is that it makes the topic of personal boundaries and personal responsibility so accessible.
"Is this a self honoring choice?" is a question that you can ask yourself to begin discovering what is authentic and healthy.
4. Where's The Psychic Hotline?
No one can read your mind. People pleasers have the crazy idea that their needs won't be met- so they stay mute and hope someone will figure it out. Just for the heck of it, ask for exactly what you want this week. Ask to get the meal, movie or ice cream that you really want.
5. Simple Pleasures Instead of People Pleasing
Do something for the simple pleasure of making yourself smile. Go to the toy store and buy a tiara and boa, go camping in your backyard, or take kayaking lessons. Pick something you have been wanting to do, but are afraid others would find it frivolous. Do it anyway.
Eli Davidson is a nationally recognized executive coach and motivational speaker.
Her book, Funky to Fabulous: Surefire Success Stories for The Savvy, Sassy and Swamped, (Oak Grove Publishing) has won three national book awards.