By Dr. Friedemann Schaub
Does this sound familiar to you? Your sibling calls you and complains her computer is broken. You know she looks up to you, and you immediately volunteer to buy her a new computer, although you don’t really have money for it.
Or your boss piles more work on your desk right before he leaves for the day. You decide to stay longer in the office to make sure he notices your impeccable work ethic. Maybe you’re meeting friends for lunch, and as usual, you listen and ask questions, but don’t share your own problems because you don’t want to be a downer or appear needy.
Pleasing others while putting our own needs on the back burner isn’t a virtue or a sign of generosity, but more often a long-standing, self-defeating pattern. Usually we establish these patterns during our childhood, when we were highly dependent on others to feed, shelter and accept us. Before the age of ten, our mind is like a dry sponge, soaking up any information from the outside that appears relevant to answering the three basic questions for our survival: “Where do I belong?” “What am I about?” and “What’s for dinner?”
A series of scary or confusing experiences during these early years can shake up our trust and confidence, causing our subconscious mind to develop protective patterns to ensure our safety and survival, such as trying to be perfect, or invisible, or always prepared for the worst – or, of course, trying to please others.
However, while pleasing others as a protective strategy may have at some point in our lives served a vital purpose, taking care of others at our own expense never leads to a sense of inner peace and self-empowerment. As long as we’re looking for others to fulfill our needs to be accepted and approved of instead of learning how to appreciate and value ourselves, we are remaining stuck in the belief of being powerless, unworthy and dependent on others.
As time wears on, the need and emptiness in between those brief moments of feeling accepted become greater and start to consume any residue of our self-worth. The dilemma is similar to a coin. One side of the coin represents the approval, recognition, and acceptance of others, and the other symbolizes their judgment, criticism and pressure. The problem is, we can’t just pick up one side of the coin. It’s impossible to enjoy and cherish praise and acknowledgment without also becoming more susceptible to disapproval and dismissal.
The following steps can help you to put this coin down and overcome being a people pleaser by practicing self-reliance and independence from other people’s approval.
— Take Notice. Notice how often your opinion of yourself depends on what other people are thinking of you. How often are you trying to please others, trying to make them like you, trying to meet their expectations?
— Question the Result. Once you notice you’re trying to please someone else, ask yourself whether doing so increases or diminishes your confidence and self-worth.
— Create Boundaries. Create healthy boundaries as an expression of self-worth and self care instead of overextending yourself. As my wife likes to say, “No is a complete sentence.” Practice saying “no” to somebody else’s expectations and “yes” to taking care of your own needs.
— Change the Dynamic. Change the dynamic of your relationships by adapting the opposite of your habitual pleasing role. Move from being the listener to the one who shares, from the giver to the receiver. Instead of being passive, try the active role. Instead of following others, make a decision.
—Please Yourself. You can please yourself by attending to your own needs. For example, eat something healthy and nourishing, take a bath, book a massage appointment, or go to bed earlier than usual. Do something that makes you feel good about yourself and increases your self-appreciation.
—Ask Yourself. “Is the person or organization I’m trying to please my true source of happiness, self-worth and inner peace? This question serves as a reminder that the power and responsibility to build a solid inner foundation of confidence and self-esteem lies with you.
Being less of a people pleaser and more self-reliant and independent from the approval of other’s doesn’t mean that you become antisocial, ignorant, or closed down. Self-reliance simply means that you become your primary frame of reference for how you choose to relate to yourself. Self-reliance leads to not only greater self-appreciation and confidence, but also greater openness, equality, and fulfillment in your relationships with others.
Friedemann Schaub MD, PhD is the author of “The Fear and Anxiety Solution.” As a physician specializing in cardiology and molecular biologist, Dr. Schaub became increasingly fascinated by the powerful influence of our thoughts, emotions and beliefs on health and disease. He recognized our abundant self-healing abilities can only function effectively when mind, body and spirit are in alignment, and believes the subconscious mind holds the keys to accelerated healing, well-being, and success.
Dr. Schaub created a breakthrough and empowerment program combining his medical expertise with NLP, Time Line Therapy™, clinical hypnotherapy, meditation, and more. For more details about his work, visit www.celluarwisdom.com and www.thefearandanxietysolution.com. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter: @drschaubf.