People Pleaser Burn Out? 3 Exercises to Help You Find Your Voice


I’ll admit it. I used to be a semi-professional people pleaser. I didn’t care if things weren’t the way I wanted, as long as you were happy. I lived this way for the majority of my life. Until one day, I realized how stressed I was in my almost fruitless pursuit to please everyone. I wasn’t pleased at all. And that was no longer alright. I was so consumed and busy getting everyone to like me that in the process, I had sacrificed my self-respect.

The stern irony is pleasers are often unhappy. And even though they realize deep down that it’s impossible to please everyone, they try anyway. The other side of this is even murkier. No one respects a pleaser.
Let’s get clear about the difference between being a pleaser and just being a cool human being. It’s always going to be a good idea to do nice things for others. It’s never going to be a good idea if you do these things only because you’re afraid to say no.
Learning that word is like waking up one day and being fluent in French. It changes everything about the way you see yourself. Yesterday, you only spoke English. Today you are bilingual and that’s pretty special. Learning the language of no will delight you beyond the tertiary thrill of having a useful tool. More importantly, you’ll gain self-knowledge and self-respect.
Are you ready to escape the endless pitfalls, stressors, and frustrations trying to please everyone offers? If so, embark on the exercises listed below. Take this one step at a time. No one will ever wake up simply knowing a new language because of an especially good night of sleep. One of the biggest challenges any of us can take on is eliminating or at least diminishing a long held pattern of thinking and behaving.
  1. Choose someone in your life you’re especially invested in pleasing. Now, make a list of all the reasons why it’s so important to you that this specific individual likes you. Next, make a list of all the things about this person that makes them so integral to your life. Finally, identify the reason why you’re willing to do backflips, somersaults, and tripods to impress them. Is it fear? Often it is. But what exactly are you afraid of? Own it, and you free yourself of the stranglehold it has over you. If it’s that this human being will reject you, can you consider that they actually don’t know the real you if you’re not being real with them? Say this friend or lover has asked you to help him move three times in the last two years. Man, that’s a large ask.  Do they not know anyone else who could help? Do they lack the funds to hire the job out? Whatever the scenario, decide the answer you’d love to provide versus the one you actually do. What’s the worst thing that could happen if you said something along the lines of, “You know, moving is a lot of work, and you’ve chosen to do it quite a lot. I’m really not down to help you this time.”? Worst case, they’re a bit miffed at you, and they find someone else to help. Best case, they get it and recognize they’ve pushed the boundaries and asked too much. 
  2. Remove the words ‘I’m sorry’ from your vocabulary.  In his excellent article addressing over-apologizers, Patrick Allen states, “Unnecessary apologies send the message you’d rather be agreeable than be honest.”  The majority of the time we apologize, it’s completely unwarranted. If you’re under the impression it’s polite, you’re correct if you are honestly in the wrong. If you slice someone’s toes with your stiletto heal, you better say you’re sorry. But if it’s a long held habit, and you’re apologizing for the weather, other people’s actions, or taking ownership of someone else’s feelings, the better response is compassion not an inauthentic apology. The words might feel sticky in your throat for a while, but before you offer an insincere apology, try finding other words to convey your feelings or practice silence. 
  3. Befriend the fact that not everyone will like youI’m about to go into severe hypocrite mode, but this advice is so important for all of us to accept. Wanting the impossible will drive us to untrue, detrimental, and totally avoidable thoughts. These thoughts lead to actions that remove how good we feel about ourselves. If you feel entitled to everyone liking you, examine why. What does it say about you if everyone likes you? What does that word ‘like’ even mean to you? The extreme dependence many of us place on the validation of others will always lead us down roads that dead end. Of course, we care what certain people think. We can’t be successful in this world if we go around being a jerk and not giving a damn. But the list of those who’s opinions we hold near and dear needs to not include everyone. If it does, we’ll drive ourselves bananas.
    Think of the people you like, love, admire, and respect the most. Are they pleasers? My guess is no. The next time you get the vibe someone is not digging you, something you said or believe, or a behavior you participate in with glee, practice saying the words, ‘it’s okay’ to yourself. Smile at them, and keep on being the most authentically wonderful and true version of you.

By Lara Falberg

Lara Falberg

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