Sunday, February 10, 2013

Saying goodbye to people pleasing

Some blog visitors asked me to write about how I have overcome or deal with my people pleasing tendencies. 

The first thing I want to say is that it has not been easy and I am "in recovery", not "recovered." I also wanted to add that I do seek professional help when I need. No shame on that. 

My people pleasing is tightly attached to my perfectionism. Although it is a good thing to strive for excellence, it is exhausting to strive for perfection. And as we all know, it is a lost battle.

Here is a list, albeit not complete, of behavioral changes I have adopted to deal with my people pleasing tendencies:
  • You are not as important as you think: this is not intended to put you down, but it is a compelling argument. We feel the world's eyes are on us. Truth is people are very busy with their own problems to be paying attention to everything you do.
  • People are more forgiving than you think: have you ever been in a situation where someone said something stupid, made a mistake, had stage fright while public speaking? how did you react? Most of the time, we are very kind to others' shortcomings. Most people are like that towards you too.
Little project I am working on
  • There is always someone somewhere who will hate your guts no matter what: No matter how hard you try, how nice you are, how accommodating you may be towards someone else's needs, or how polite, there is someone somewhere who will not like you. And you know what?? It is ok. I am sure, you have someone in your life who likes you. Someone who matters, such as your family and your true friends. Focus your energy on those people.
  • Fake it until you make it: this one, although it may sound disingenuous, works more often than not. As a species, we are gregarious and respond to the way the community responds to us. Saying no, holding your body and head up may feel uncomfortable at first, but as you see people reacting to you differently, it will become easier. People may not like you, but they will respect you.
  • It takes as much energy to make yourself miserable as it does to make yourself happy: Do you have that voice criticizing you for a little mistake you made at work, for saying something you rather not have said, or replaying a scene in your head for not having had a comeback to someone who said something rude to you? I think we all have had those moments to one degree or another. But some of us will beat ourselves for a pulp for days. If your brain can repeat over and over again that you are stupid for making a mistake, or make you feel less than sharp for not having the perfect comeback, then your brain can also say kind things to yourself. Your brain can say that  you tried your best, or that you learned from a mistake you made. Sure you will say "easier said than done" and I completely agree with you. I am the queen of negative self talk. But I use some techniques that are effective to me, such as playing music that makes me feel happy and light, talking back to that voice in my head and tell it to shut the hell up (I swear I am not certifiable ;-), or I just put the noise in the background, until I don't hear it anymore.
  • Say no: practice in front of the mirror until it rolls off your tongue. Or simply reply "I need to check my schedule." Do not over explain. Those who respect you will respect your limits.
  • Put things into perspective: you will die. I am not trying to be morbid, but no matter what you do, how hard you try, how good or bad you are, you will die. There is no statement more absolute than the reality of our deaths. When you realize you have this one life to live, some of these issues start to look less important. 

Life is too short for a long story- Mary Wortley Montagu


Kristin said...

I sometimes struggle with this as well, but for the most part I can let it slide.

But as for what you shared about being the "queen of negative self talk".... that is so me. Goodness, is that me! Overcoming it isn't easy, but I'm trying.

Pretty art, by the way.


Plowing Through Life (Martha) said...

A beautiful post, Ana! And wonderful things to live by. I think we should make a printed list of these fine points, frame them, hang them near our bed and read them every morning when we wake up. Yes, we will all die, and when we understand that --- truly understand it --- we discover that many of the things we waste energy on are not worth wasting energy on. Live each day fully. And be grateful for every one of them. You never know when there won't be another tomorrow.

Jane said...

Incredible post, Ana. A very hearty "Yes" to each and everyone of your points. In particular, I have finally learned to accept (& even find the humour in) the fact that not everyone will like me - they should ;p - but some won't and that's their loss! Your final point is the perfect reality check - we'd best just enjoy ourselves and not worry so much.

Fundy Blue said...

Beautiful post, Ana! "You are not as important as you think!," this is what my roommate in university tried to drum into my head. Love your bird paintings too! Have a good week!

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Very wise and helpful advice! I think most women struggle with this issue to some extent. After all, we are trained since girlhood to try to please others as a main source of our sense of self-worth.

Robin Larkspur said...

You have laid down some excellent points. I wish I had had this list back when my kids were young, and all the committees, meetings, school and little league stuff...all those volunteer issues; I never said no and did everything, and it all had to be perfect, etc etc, & blah blah blah!!
Nowadays, things are much easier for me because I figured out what is truly real, and truly important. I love this post, Ana.,

Sulky Kitten said...

Totally agree with all of these points, Ana.It's too easy to get bogged down in over-thinking incidents and conversations.I just give myself a shake and say "Move on".

Creatively yours Fi said...

oooooooooohhh fabulous :) I wish I could share this post on facebook. I needed to read it! A lot of friends need to read it.!!! At the moment I really want to follow my creative calling and I know this displeases my mother. I should be working as hard as her! (She thinks...) She can't stand to see me with time on my hands to create and this bugs me that she is not pleased with me. It's a mighty battle at the moment for me. Thanks Ana x

Lorraine said...

Super advice totally agree, strangely enough, I never cared what people thought, I was never shy, nor bothered if people insulted how did I fall so hard? I was told your worked like a small toyota on fast race track with race cars, and you held up your own until your motor exploded. How strange that I live my life so much against everything I was and am no more. But I'm regaining ground slowly and surely.
You give good advice!

Anonymous said...

Well said. Now that I am 67 and retired, I intend to enjoy the rest of my life, doing what I enjoy doing and avoiding negative people. Yes, death is just around the corner.

NatashaMay said...

I love reading your posts. :)You are so brave to share your thoughts. Thank you!

Arkansas Patti said...

Those should be part of grade school curriculum so the changes could be made more easily before habits are formed. Well done.

Sherri B. said...

Ana, you always speak to me deeply...I know I say it often, but once again your words resonate. I have also struggled with people pleasing/perfectionism, and it's a very hard battle to overcome. And yes, I have cussed out the voice in my head many times! It actually works for me. Our negative self-talk can be brutal and some times it needs a good tongue lashing back! :)

Your birds are beautiful...

denthe said...

Very interesting and wise post! I might print it out and hang it above my computerscreen!

Optimistic Existentialist said...

I echo Patti's sentiment!! They most definitely should be something every child should learn and internalize.

Anonymous said...

I think it shows that you are not selfish. That is an endearing quality. As long as no one takes advantage of you for being a people pleaser but it appears to cause you discomfort so no, there is no shame in seeking advice of professionals, that's what they are there for. xo

Japolina said...

"You are not as important as you think: this is not intended to put you down, but it is a compelling argument. We feel the world's eyes are on us. Truth is people are very busy with their own problems to be paying attention on everything you do."

This is so true. I am always telling my friends this!

Cristiane Marino said...

Nossa Ana, vocĂȘ arrasou neste post!
Uma verdadeira terapia intensiva para os perfeccionistas...
Adorei seu texto e as pinturas.
Bjs e continue assim!

ArtSings1946 said...

Love love love your birds Ana. It was so enlightening and comforting to read your post and all the comments ... we are indeed NOT alone. I went to an excellent counselor for a time and she put me on the road to positive affirmations and thinking. I read every morning from "The Language Of Letting Go", but Melody Beattie. It has helped me tremendously but I still struggle each and every day. Now I am more aware and catch those negative thoughts and try to turn them around.

Love and Light,

Gloria in CA said...

Nice birds. Well done. The way I see it, I have to please myself and that is what is important to me.

Em said...

I agree with everyone that this is an amazing list.

I think, for myself, I have the lovely combination of people pleasing and wanting to rescue. Ack. Neither of these is particularly fabulous.

This is a great post.

Kyra Wilson said...

I think the hardest part of letting go of being a people pleaser is letting other people hate you. It's a really uncomfortable place to be, but in the end the people you would have "pleased" weren't all that keen on you anyway. Still bugs the ever living feathers out of me though!

Francie M said...

Wow! Some of those I have heard, some not - but the last one just about blew me away. It really puts things into the proper light doesn't it? I'll be thinking about that all day! Thanks Ana!

CraveCute said...

Great advice Ana! I love the way you have elaborated on some of these points and I agree with you whole-hardheartedly! We spend way too much time trying to make others happy!

lissa said...

lovely bird art. & good advices, although I probably will forget them later when I need them the most. I think people pleasing starts in childhood & that's why it's hard to shake off but it's always good to try.

thanks for stopping by & have a sweet day.

aimee said...

beautifully said, as always!

Tammie Lee said...


your art is lovely to see.
i enjoyed reading your thoughts which do seem true to my experience.

i remember once practicing saying 'no' with a friend. She is my mothers age. We had a blast dancing around her house, singing, saying, shouting, basically practicing so that 'yes' was not the first response out of our mouth.

it went something like:
in your dreams
yea right
give me a couple days to consider and get back to you
i don't think so
no way

It worked so well for both of us
we learned that people did not care, they turned somewhere else for their needs. it was no big deal. what a surprise!

we still love remembering that night, the beginning of new responses.

thanks for this wonderful post.

Ileana said...

Beautiful post and I want to just add that for me, feeling taken advantage of made me realize it's not worth going out of my way, bending over backwards, to please people when they in turn just take and move on without even paying it forward. Seeing this time and time again from all kinds of people will wake someone up and cure them of people pleasing. We are too imporant and we matter...and no one should take advantage of another human being, ever.

Magic Love Crow said...

Thank you for such a great post! You really touched home base with me!

Riot Kitty said...

This really was compelling and timely - thank you!

Anonymous said...

This is a great post, I think I'm getting better at it. I still have to work a lot.
Love your beautiful birds. They are gorgeous!!!

Have a great day!

The Purple Assassin. said...

You are just so amazing at it.
I'm a fan! :D

Karen said...

Very nice to find your comment on my blogspot ;). Ofcourse i paid a visit to yours and i like what i see. As a primaryschool teacher i always say to myself i'm not as important as i think... children don't need me every minute of the day. And it works, i'm starting to believe myself ;)

Atelier Mama Bee said...

Well said. You have a very nice blog and I wish you all the best with this issue. Only you can change (your) world.


Annette said...

well my young and talented friend again you have written with knowlege way beyond your years and I say yea for Ana. Love your art of course and i agree no matter how hard you try someone out there hates you. It is just how it is. Keep up the wonderful writings. xoxoxo
annette in texas

alteredstatesstudio said...

thanks for this post! these strategies make sense and need to be put to use- and i would agree....sometimes easier said than done; but, these are good solid concepts and i appreciate it! thanks- happy valentine's day!!

Ariel said...

Overexplaining is a big issue for me.All your points are valid. I especially have to remember the last one. I don't want to waste my life stressing over meaningless stuff.
Thank you for this great post Ana.

Jillian said...

I visited your blog a few days ago and enjoyed the paintings, but didn't have time to read the words. I'm glad I came back to visit it again. I think its good to be reminded of all the the things you wrote about. It is true: we're not as important as we think - but we're still special and people are not as unforgiving as we might imagine - we're all human. Thank you for the lovely words.

AntiquityTravelers said...

Fantastic post and advice. People pleasing is such a hard habit to break!

Buttons said...

Oh Ana I loved this you "hit the nail on the head" as they say.
I too am a people pleaser but I am not going to die a people pleaser if you know what I mean. You have a great gift of insight Ana.