Being friendly and approachable is a very necessary skill because we need people and people need us. Aside from the emotional support offered by friendships, they lead to connections that can take us very far in life. However, people pleasing should not be the basis of your friendships. I’m sure you have met someone, or maybe you are the person who aims to please every single person. It’s good to be there for people mentally and physically, but when you do it even though you don’t want to, life can come crumbling down at you really fast.
Over my four years at university, I made a lot of friends. This can partly be attributed to the fact that we didn’t have specific classmates, and so every semester was an opportunity to bond with a new set of people. I also consider myself to be partly extroverted, and maybe that’s why I was able to socialize with all these people. It sounds like a positive thing, and it was. Until one day I walked into a class where I knew about half the people, and I started feeling anxious immediately. Saying hi to all these people was overwhelming and I felt like I couldn’t attend to all of them adequately. When I got in, three people were quick to say that they had booked a seat for me, and someone had to be disappointed. It was all so overbearing that I ended up sitting by myself in the front-row seat. That was the best way that I saw to handle the situation.
Another instance where I found myself in a mess was when I kept on making double plans. Every time someone asked me if I wanted to hang out I would be quick to say yes, and then I’d end up having so many plans and unable to decide which one to go for. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone by just saying no. Whenever this happened, I would end up staying home and going for none.
That’s what people pleasing can do to you. You end up missing out on opportunities, or forcefully taming down your character to make other people happy. It’s pointless because life should be lived authentically and fearlessly. People pleasing can make you forget yourself and start focusing on other people, and this is most definitely not good for self-development.
Eventually, I was able to grow out of this situation. Here are a few ways in which you can stop being a people pleaser.
- Learn how to say no
People pleasing is a bad habit because it can be psychologically draining. It is impossible to please everyone. You don’t need to breed a sense of likeability amongst all groups, and yet that’s what being a people pleaser is based on. Learn how to say no to the things that you don’t want to do.
Understand that you don’t owe anyone an explanation for trivial things. For example in the case I’ve explained above, I could have chosen to sit with one friend, and not explained to the rest why I chose that one friend. If anyone had inquired later on, I wouldn’t have had to explain why I made that decision. The problem with being a people-pleaser is that the people around you pick up on it really fast, and can use it to manipulate you. Just learn how to say no politely. Losing a few friends here and there is part of life.
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- Validate yourself
The way I see it, people-pleasers seek external validation. Their sense of approval is drawn from other people liking them. As I’ve said, there’s nothing as bad as wanting to be liked by everyone because you will never reach this point in life. Learn how to validate yourself, and you will not need the approval of others. Then and only then will you be able to reach a point where you stop being a people-pleaser.
Self-validation can come from a lot of things. For starters, you have to love yourself. This can be done by constantly reaffirming and reassuring yourself. Spend a lot more time in solitude, and you will learn to love yourself more and more. Treat yourself and have gratitude. By doing these things, you will stop seeking the approval and the validation of others and start to feel more secure in yourself.
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- Get your priorities right
There’s no doubt that people-pleasing means that you are not prioritizing your life. Most times, when you agree to do certain things for people even when you are not in the capacity to do so, it means you are certainly compensating for something else. Learn how to prioritize and it will be easier to say no.
People pleasers will spend a lot of time procrastinating and doing things for other people that they end up forgetting themselves. Learn to be an effective planner. Organize your life in such a way that there is no room for being coerced into doing things you have no time for.
When someone asks you to do something for them, learn to say that you will think about it first before agreeing. This will give you enough time to think through it without just saying yes. By doing so, you will also learn how to turn them down politely.
Another thing that I do not advocate for is giving excuses. In order to stop being a people-pleaser you must set boundaries. That means a simple no should suffice. Don’t be so accessible to people or you will end up losing out. Therefore take time to actually think about what is being asked of you by this person, and then make your decision.
- Consider whether you are being manipulated
As I’ve said, people who are people-pleasers are very likely to be manipulated. I had a friend who would bring me a sweet to class every week, and I was always very thankful. From the bottom of my heart. One day, I was really craving crisps and so I went with another friend to a nearby shop to buy a pack, and when I came back she was angry that I didn’t buy some for her. She said something along the lines of me being unappreciative and yet she bought me sweets every week. The thing is, she knew I was going to the shop and if she wanted some she should have asked.
This is emotional manipulation because all along I thought the sweets were out of the goodness of her heart and not a sort of tactic to get repayment. I had never once asked her for these sweets. When I heard this, I actually walked back all the way to that shop and got her a pack of crisps. Do you now see what people pleasing does to you? I didn’t even have the nerve to tell her what I actually felt.
What I’m trying to say is, to consider whether you are being manipulated before accepting to do something for someone. Sometimes people will start by complimenting you. “You’re so good at cooking. Why don’t you come over during the weekend to cook for my guest?” This is a classic illustration of manipulation. Don’t be trapped into doing things you don’t want to do just so you can remain in someone’s good books.
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