You might think you are good at pleasing people and keeping the peace, but I am here to tell you that I am the queen of that kingdom. I have spent years priding myself on how my life was low drama and how I am friends with everyone. Until very recently I had only yelled at someone once in my life. I was deeply proud of this practice and had honed these skills my entire life.
As the foremost authority, I want to tell you that there are some major drawbacks to choosing this path. I feel it only fair that you should be made aware of these drawbacks before your self-concept gets locked in too tightly with this character trait.
You can easily lose touch with your desires.
It starts simple, you genuinely don’t care where you go for dinner or what movie you both go to see. But after years of saying you don’t care about this or that, people can find that they have lost touch with what makes them truly happy. If you spend the bulk of your energy making other people happy and lose touch with what makes you light up guess what you have a hard time conjuring up anymore? Happiness. Over time having no opinion about something evolves into not caring, and not caring evolves into apathy. Apathy is where emotions like love, peace and happiness go to die.
People can’t reach you.
My favorite thing on Earth as a people-pleaser is buying someone a gift that is just PERFECT. When different aspects of what I love about a person and multiple things that they love combine in one little object and I can wrap it up and surprise them with it. Oh man. Watching someone light up is THE BEST FEELING. You know the feeling I’m talking about? Sure you do, you’re a people-pleaser too. But think about this, If you water down your opinions in favor of others, or express no favoritism at all relative to anything, you block them from ever feeling the joy of watching you really light up. Man, they are really missing out. Having someone really know you and what really makes you so happy just means they get to actually make you really happy. Worse than not being able to make you happy, they miss out on being able to truly connect with YOU simply because YOU aren’t there.
You lose awareness of your boundaries.
Usually when I talk about this people see it as, “It’s easier to get taken advantage of.” Yes, that indeed is true. Advantage-takers can smell people-pleasers a mile away. But the deeper reality involved in losing boundaries is that the more invested you become in creating the happiness of others, the blurrier the lines get between who you are and who they are. A boundary defines where I end and you begin, like fences between properties. If you knock those boundaries down, eventually you can’t distinguish who you are and who they have created you to be. Dis-satisfaction, anger, frustration are often alarms that someone is stepping over our boundaries. That makes us uncomfortable. Saying, “I am angry that you lied” is just about the opposite of what we people pleasers like to do. We find it hard to “hurt” people we love even if it’s in honesty. So instead of hurting someone with the truth we swallow the hurt or maybe numb it. After some time numbing those yucky feelings we stop feeling them altogether and have no idea when people are crossing a line. Imagine your yard without fences, or your house without walls. People just come and go as they please and take whatever is lying around. What would that feel like? For me it would feel VERY unsafe, very insecure and I would probably never sleep again. The absence of psychological boundaries creates the same chaos in your heart and mind.
People might just lose respect for you.
This one feels like an oxymoron to us. I give other people what they like, want and ask for because then eventually they will associate being with me with being a source of happiness! Yes, perhaps…briefly. But there is a principle at work that people can only love and respect us in as far as we have grown to love and respect ourselves. Putting yourself on the back burner so much teaches them how to do the same. Putting yourself on the front burner, being willing to ask people to be there for you and help you when you need it, and putting boundaries around the people who treat you poorly all work together to shape your personal community. When you use all those ingredients your community looks like people who care about you, are there for you and allow you to be there for them. Sounds dreamy.
It’s not easy out here living among people. We are all dented and bruised in different ways and we are all just trying to make it. Not to mention that we all have different ideas on what it means to make it. It can seem so daunting to approach relationships in the right way simply because there is no one right way. This is what I know about you, dear people-pleaser. You have a good heart. You have a patient spirit. You’re good at giving. And you deserve good relationships.
If you are a people pleaser and want to talk about what it would look like for you to start setting better boundaries (and you live in the greater CSRA) click here to start the journey.