Are You A People Pleaser?

May 2, 2019 Life, Work 0 Comments

Are you a people pleaser?

It is my extensive experience as a coach that has led me to the conclusion that around 90% of the women I have coached over the years have been people pleasers to a greater or lesser degree. These are successful, amazing women who have finally managed to move beyond being people pleasers, through our coaching sessions, to become women who are finally fully valuing and appreciating themselves.

Why is it you may ask that so many women carry the limiting belief of needing to be people pleasers? Well, the blunt truth is, that it comes down to conditioning. As young girls most of us were encouraged to be nurturing and caring, to be selfless and put other people first, this is when we received most praise and we felt very much validated and appreciated when we behaved in this way. The nursery rhyme ‘Sugar and spice and all things nice, that’s what little girls are made of’ comes to mind. As girls we learn to obtain the approval of our family, relations, teachers etc when we please people and put their needs first before our own.

The desire to help and care for people is a wonderful thing and I’m not saying that we should turn into heart hearted women, what I am saying is that we need to become aware of our conditioning and when we are conforming to learnt behaviour that makes us crave external approval and validation. Where as the secret here is to start validating ourselves, what I call moving from relying on external approval to developing a strong sense of internal validation and self esteem. We cannot truly believe in our self worth if we are people pleasers and always find ourselves seeking external validation in order to feel good about ourselves.

The first steps towards moving away from being a people pleaser is to become aware of our behaviour, to observe when we are demonstrating a need to be liked and acting in a way that ultimately makes us feel powerless. When we are relying on a sense of our own self worth from an outside source, we are very vulnerable, we are giving away our own personal power and it feels awful. The choice here is to start validating ourselves so the belief in our self worth is self generated and therefore we are no longer vulnerable to negative external influences.

I would like to share a story from one of my clients, Sarah. Sarah spent weeks planning a special presentation to her boss and an upcoming promotion was based on the quality of her performance. A lot was riding on it! Sarah spent weeks preparing and then the day finally came to present her work. Imagine her dismay when the boss appeared to be totally distracted throughout and at the end, as he was leaving, just gave a passing well done that felt very much like an after thought. Sarah was devastated and she felt a total failure. Her feelings of self worth and self esteem were totally riding on her boss’s judgement of the presentation and she felt totally worthless, a feeling of overwhelm and a crushing lack of confidence was completely taking her over.

The following day her boss called Sarah into his office, he explained that he was going through a divorce and had suffered a particularly acrimonious argument with his wife the morning before, apologised for not giving her due appreciation and congratulated her on a wonderful presentation. Sarah left his office stunned and that evening during our coaching session, she had the dawning realisation that she had put all her hopes and trust into her desire to receive approval from her boss, instead of trusting and believing in herself. This was a turning point for Sarah. She realised that her need to seek approval externally was making her very vulnerable and ultimately conflicting with the belief she has about her abilities and ultimately her self worth. Sarah has never looked back.

Now what I wish to clarify here is that there is nothing wrong with being valued and appreciated by colleagues, bosses, partners and family, it’s a truly wonderful feeling. It is only a problem when we rely on this as being the only source of feeling good about ourselves and are always trying to please everyone, sublimating our own wishes and desires. When we are totally relying on this selfless giving to make us feel good about ourselves, we are limiting the possibility of discovering our own amazing self-worth.

Feeling good about ourselves is very much about appreciating our lives as a whole, focusing on what I call ‘the good stuff’. It’s all about saying a big yes to life, if I’ve spiked your curiosity then here’s more

If you are reading this blog and identify with the people pleasing impulse, then know that you are not alone and that with awareness and a willingness to change, it is very possible to achieve the self-appreciation and self-validation you deserve.

Feeling good will then become an inside job!

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