Ep #181: Dangers of People Pleasing

By: Dr. Sherry Price

Health, Habits, and Epic Living with Dr. Sherry Price | The Dangers of People Pleasing

Do you find yourself more often doing things for others and yet you find it difficult to carve out time for yourself and your health and wellness priorities?

Maybe you skip too many workouts because the kids’ needs come before your own.

Maybe you choose to imbibe or eat foods so not to offend anyone.

Maybe you find yourself walking on eggshells and can’t find a way to communicate what you want for fear of upsetting someone.

These may all be signs of trying to please others at your own expense or the expense of your own happiness.  This is how I define being a people pleaser.

While it’s normal to want to make others feel good, especially those people we care about, it’s important to maintain our own sense of happiness and well-being in the process. 

This week on the podcast, I explore 10 dangers that can come from overly pleasing others and how it can hurt our mental and emotional health and well-being.

Bottom line:  I want you to know that it IS possible to please (most) people while ALSO prioritizing your own wants and desires. Tune in to this episode to learn how.

 

If you want to learn how to eat for fuel and meet your health goals, come join EpicYOU!

 

What You’ll Learn in this Episode:

  • Three steps to bring in more of your wants, needs, and desires if you find yourself leaning more towards people-pleasing.
  • Insights and the dangers that can occur when our goal is to just please others.
  • Ways you can show up for yourself while potentially still meeting the needs of others. 

 

Featured on the Show:

 

 

Welcome to the Health, Habits, and Epic Living podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Sherry Price. The goal of this podcast is to educate and enable empowered women to take the next steps towards achieving their health, wellness, and lifestyle goals. Let’s get started.

Well, hello, my beautiful friend. So before I started recording this podcast episode, I can hear the little feet of my beautiful dog downstairs going, “Are you going to walk me?” So now I feel pressured to hurry up, record this podcast because he really wants a walk.

If you don’t know my beautiful yellow lab dog, Cody, you really have to check him out. I sometimes post him on Instagram. He’s always in our holiday photo card. He’s just so dang cute. Although he thinks he’s a lap dog. When he’s hanging out with us on the couch he will put that 85 pound body right on my lap and give me bruises because he thinks he’s a lap dog, so, so freaking cute.

Alright, so I digress. We are going to talk about people pleasing on this episode. And this came to me because we are going to an epic St. Paddy’s Day party this coming weekend. And we’re super excited about it, great friends and they throw always the greatest parties. And so I want to make sure that we always think about are we doing things to please people or are they events and things that we really want to go to.

And when we really want to go to an event, how do we make sure that we are staying true to ourselves and not falling into doing things and doing behaviors in order to make other people pleased or let’s say, other people happy. And so I want to talk about on this podcast about the dangers of living as a people pleaser because it sounds like it’s such a nice thing. We want to make others happy. We want to please people. And I’m not saying doing some of that is wrong.

I’m just saying when that’s our sole purpose and we really begin to dismiss what it is that we want, our wants, our needs and our desires. So I’m talking about the extreme end of being a people pleaser, when you’re a people pleaser all the time or most of the time because there are some real dangers to that. And some of us can feel, but we’re such a good soul. We’re a martyr. We always look out for others. And we can tell ourselves a narrative that may make us feel good.

But I really want us to unpack that narrative and see if that is a narrative that is really helping us get what we want out of life. It does feel good to please people, absolutely, especially if it’s people you like. Your family members, you want to see them happy, but you don’t want to do it at the exclusion that you turn bitter and resentful. So we’re going to talk about some of those in today’s podcast.

And then how to navigate out of that cycle if you find yourself in that cycle or in that phase of life or maybe you’ve been in that phase of life and just need some help recognizing, am I a people pleaser? Or how much am I a people pleaser? And then what can I do so I can stay true to myself. So I’m going to talk about really 10 different dangers that you can experience if you are a people pleaser.

One of the dangers I see is when we identify as a people pleaser or maybe we’re not even aware if we identify as a people pleaser or not. But we think we can please everyone all of the time. You throw a party or you do this event and you just want to make everyone else happy around you or you want to make somebody happy all of the time. And any time you put in an always or a never, that’s perfectionism. I’m never going to screw up on my diet. I’m never going to overdrink again in my life. I am always going to be going to the gym per the schedule I set out.

These binary, perfectionistic ways of all or nothing thinking or thinking you can control somebody and their level of emotion and their happiness all the time, really sets you up for failure because that’s not even possible. It is impossible to make everyone happy. It’s even impossible to make one person happy all the time. You may be happy with some of the podcasts you listen to and then others you may tune in to the episode and go, “No, I’m not going to listen to the rest of it because it’s not making me happy and it’s not meeting my needs of where I’m at right now.”

I also experienced this when I was first beginning my practice in my business and I was posting about how I dabbled in drinking. I was an over-drinker and here I’m drinking on the weekend. And I would get a lot of hate posts about, “Oh, my gosh, you’re just a fraud. You’re not supposed to drink at all. If you have a problem with alcohol you have to give it up all the time.” And so I would get a lot of negative posts. And quite honestly, they would destroy me in the beginning.

I felt so misunderstood. I felt like people didn’t really understand what I was about. I felt I was being categorized into a 12 step program, which is not what my messaging was about. Somebody even asked me one time about how many days I haven’t been drinking. And I’ve been very open that that’s not a measure that I want to walk in my life, counting days. And so when you realize that you want to live as your full authentic self, that there are going to be times, people aren’t happy with you.

And instead of taking it so personally like I used to, now I just realize, well, they’re in a different space and they may have a different story. And maybe my story doesn’t match their story and that’s okay. Maybe the way I am doing life doesn’t work for their way of doing life and that’s okay. Because oftentimes what comes out of people’s mouths is really what’s going on for them and not so much what’s being going on about us. And we tend to take things very personal when they’re really not about us, it’s really about them.

And so living as an ultimate people pleaser or somebody that really values their sense of self-worth on people pleasing, realizing that it’s impossible, really impossible to please everyone all the time or anyone all of the time. I mean, just think back to your days, your weeks, are you happy all of the time? I would think most of us would say, “No, I’m not happy all of the time.”

Okay, moving on to number two. This is a big one. I actually think this is one of the biggest dangers. And when you are a people pleaser, you lose your self-identity and you could see that. If you are so wrapped up in maybe your kids’ happiness or your spouse’s happiness or a partner’s happiness or your boss’s happiness about your behaviors, or maybe just about their happiness for them. That’s all you get consumed with, their happiness and you lose your sense of self.

You lose what makes you happy, what lights you up and what’s important to you and to your life. Because you are spending so much time helping others get what they want or managing others’ emotions that you really neglect and push aside your own wants, desires and needs. And I will tell you, this is where I find a lot of women starting to self-soothe with alcohol or emotional eating. Because they’re really not giving themselves the time that they need to cultivate what makes them happy, what brings them joy, dedicating time to what’s important for their life and their values.

And it’s so easy to do, especially when we get so wrapped up into our kids and wanting them to excel in school and then all the afterschool activities that they get involved in and want to be involved in. And then we see them doing so well with it. And while that gives us a sense of joy and pride, if we do that to the exclusion of what we need as a human that’s growing and evolving and learning, we can lose ourselves in that.

And I’ve coached women in those times of transition, particularly when their kids move out of the house and they’re an empty nester and it can feel very lonely. And oh, my gosh, I’m now not out running like a taxi cab at night. Now I’ve just got all this extra time. Now what do I do? Who am I? And so there is that loss of identity because their identity has been so wrapped up in other people. And I’m not saying that this is bad. It’s just something to look for. And if you want to be spending this much time with your kids, great, but what are you doing for you?

And just keeping a pulse on that, just not letting it go for a decade or more and then wondering how did I get here? Just keeping a pulse on okay, am I really living the life that I want to be living?

Number three, another danger is when we get so wrapped up in other people, we have a difficult time saying no to things. It’s almost instinctively or reflexively when somebody asks us to do something. It could be our kids, it could be, “Hey, can you wash this for me, mom”, or whatever. Or you get invited to an event and you don’t really fully think it through. You’re instantly just automatically saying, “Yes, let me do that, I can do that.”

And while saying yes to one or two things may not be a problem, but if you keep saying yes without fully thinking it through. I see how women can end up in overwhelm and overcommitting to things and all of a sudden they said yes to too many things on a weekend and they’re just trying to make it all work and get to everything and balance it all. Or we have working moms comparing themselves to stay at home moms and stay at home moms comparing themselves to women who work. And trying to think that the working moms do everything that the stay at home mom does.

Or comparing yourself to your best friend and how does she get it all done? And so we think we have all this unlimited time, all this unlimited energy and we just say yes to things because in the moment they sound great. In the moment, they sound wonderful. But then we go to plan them out and carry them out, maybe things that are really important to maybe our family culture, start to get pushed aside because we become so overwhelmed and so busy.

And so saying yes is something we really want to maybe take a pause. Maybe say, “I’ll think about that. That sounds like a great idea. Let me get back to you. I just need to check my schedule.” And look, I’m not saying say no all the time or put the pause on all the time. If we know instantly we have the time, we want to make that commitment, we can go ahead and say that. But it’s not just saying yes all the time and then regretting it later on. So it’s really about understanding your priorities and setting boundaries around that.

The fourth danger I see in being a people pleaser or having that need for validation outside of us is that we learn to suppress our own true emotions. So maybe internally we feel one way, but we put on a mask on the outside, that we’re happy or that we’re okay or yes, this doesn’t bother us. But deep down inside, we have other feelings about it. And so we’re not staying true to our own emotions. We’re not expressing our own emotions.

Another danger is people pleasers, they really avoid conflict and they avoid difficult conversations. And it makes sense. They don’t want to put other people down. They don’t want to feel uncomfortable or have somebody else have uncomfortable feelings while they’re discussing something that really troubles them or bothers them. I mean, it’s to the point where people pleasers will really say, “I detest conflict. I avoid it at all costs. It makes me feel uncomfortable. I don’t know how to do it well. I feel like I’m disappointing the other person.”

And so they just avoid it, because that sense of disagreement or they’re not pleasing somebody else, really they take it to heart and they feel like they’re letting somebody else down. They’re really afraid of someone not liking them and particularly if it’s somebody close to them or somebody that they admire or that they want to be held in high regard in their eyes.

And here’s what I find when I work with women who identify as people pleasing and they say, “I don’t like conflict”, is that they often find themselves letting those small things that bother them, they really don’t bring it up. And over time, those small things begin to fester, they begin to grow.

It begins to bother them more and more and maybe they said something and it came across kind of nice. I’m kind of pointing this out and I’m kind of pointing it out in a way that really doesn’t show how much it bothers me, but inside, it really bothers me. But I’m afraid to express that. And if they’re not willing to express, when they’re festering, guess what? They express it when they can’t take it anymore, and it often will come out as a big brawl or blowout that ultimately can lead to finality in that relationship.

And what I want to advocate for is, looking at the small things before they begin to fester, because that festering phase can last months. I’ve seen it last years for some of my clients. I’ve seen it tear apart relationships, sex drives, emotional connection. I’ve seen it deteriorate spiritual connection. And I’ve really seen it eat at peoples’ soul. The rest of their life can look so good from the outside, but they feel soulless on the inside. It’s been rotting at their soul for so long that it becomes the biggest pain in their life, that they can’t even see other joys around themselves.

And I really get that. Paper cuts are small, but they hurt so big. We could get a splinter from touching wood or working with wood and then all of a sudden that splinter is just throbbing in our finger. And all your mind can focus on is this splinter or this paper cut. Or maybe it’s a pimple by your nose or on your upper lip. It just really hurts in those areas. And these are these small things that fester, and they just take your attention and they really can rot you from the inside out.

Number six, a danger of living as a people pleaser is that your self-worth can be linked to another person’s happiness. And think about that. Your self-worth is not linked to anyone else’s happiness. But when we’re people pleasing, we think our self-worth comes from needing that external validation, comes from needing other people to be happy with us.

And if your self-esteem is dependent on how others perceive you then you’re putting yourself at risk of being on an emotional roller-coaster, not knowing when the ups and the downs are coming. Not knowing when the next high or the next low is coming. And oftentimes, if your self-worth is linked to how your kids treat you, how your spouse treats you, how others treat you, you can feel completely worthless unless you’re getting that external validation.

And here’s the thing. I find that people wind up putting more effort into this person or these people and then they try to control them. They try to control their behaviors. They try to control their emotions. They make sure they’re happy all the time. They give into things, even when giving into things, goes against their value system. Because they think if they’re happy, then I’m happy and then that raises my self-worth. And I’m not saying that all external validation is bad, it’s just noticing do we live for that external validation?

Do we feel our self-esteem and our sense of self-worth is tied to needing it consistently and constantly from outside of us rather than our self-worth just being inherent. We just have it because we are alive and we are here and we are human.

Another danger I see with people who are people pleasers is that they put themselves last. They spend all their time focusing on making sure everybody else is happy, everything is copacetic. All the I’s are dotted, all the T’s are crossed, they are a cruise director, they’re running the show. They’re making sure this one’s happy. They got the meal that they wanted. They’re sitting in a nice chair that they like, all the things.

We do this at Christmas, I see this at Thanksgiving. Everybody wants to make sure that they have a dish for grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle, who likes what, who’s got the allergies. And we can focus so much on pleasing others and maybe on holidays that’s fair. But if we do that all the time throughout the year, notice that it leaves no time for what matters most to you, so you put yourself last. The kids come first, the job comes second, the dog comes next, the spouse is somewhere in there. Everybody’s on the list but you’re not.

And let me tell you, this can lead to some very serious health consequences and well-being consequences when you never find time for yourself. I worked with a woman once where she said, “Yeah, I give myself some time, I have 5 to 10 minutes with my morning cup of coffee. I journal and that’s my self-dedicated time.” I’m like, “Where else in the day do you spend time focusing on things that you want or you desire or that you want to prioritize?” She goes, “Oh, I don’t.”

And then it just turns into, “I’ve got to get on email. I’ve got to answer some emails. Then I’ve got to get the kids ready. I’ve got to get them off to school. And then when I come home, it’s about dinner and making sure dinner is on the table for the husband and everybody else. And then it’s the bedtime routine and the bathtime routine. And then by the time my kids go down, I’m exhausted. And then my husband still wants to watch TV. So I go down and I watch TV with him. And for me to enjoy it I have a glass of wine.”

And I’m like, “Wow. Do you even enjoy watching TV with your husband?” “No. And that’s why I have a glass of wine and sometimes I’ll make popcorn because it gets boring and I can’t just sit there. And I want to scroll on Instagram or I want to look at my email and I’m just go, go, go, go.” Except for that 5 or 10 minutes in the morning that she gave herself. That was it, prioritizing everyone else’s needs, but not her own.

Which leads to number eight, the danger, where you feel mentally exhausted. You’re always scanning, always looking, always looking outside of you, who needs what. What do my kids need? What does this need? What does my job need? What does email need? What’s on Instagram? And you’re always in this heightened alert state and thinking and processing. And being at the beck and call of somebody else can feel really mentally and emotionally exhausting.

I’ve even worked with women who will tell me by six or seven o’clock, they are just spent, they have nothing left to give. And all they want to do is go right to bed. And the reason they could stay up, the only way they could stay up is if they’re throwing food in their mouth or they’re having alcohol because they get a little bit of that dopamine hit. It feels a little good. It gets them a little wired and they don’t feel so drowsy and that’s the only way they can make it till nine o’clock.

Or on the flipside, if people aren’t using food or alcohol to stay up, I’ve worked with some women who said, six, six-thirty, seven o’clock, I called it, I’m in bed. And I’ve been doing this for a week or two or months now because I just don’t enjoy my life. It’s exhausting. I’m mentally wiped.” And I’ll hear, “I want to just drink to self-soothe, it takes the edge off because I just feel mentally exhausted at the end of my day. I’m giving, giving, giving, giving.”

And when we’re people pleasing and always having to put out fires and be the one that’s the go-to and we’re not taking time for ourselves to rest and recover and do the things that matter most to us. We lead to danger number nine, which is we become resentful. We can look like we have it all together on the outside. Yeah, we’re just going to appear happy. We’re going to put on the business clothes, the business smile, wave to all the neighbors, pull out of our driveway with our nice car.

But secretly on the inside, we’re like, “Oh, do I have to do another day?” And so this seething on the inside is a form of repressed anger. And this is when I see people saying they just resent some facets of their life.

And then finally, one of the last dangers about always people pleasing is that you really feel anxious and on edge. This kind of ties into all of them in a way where we’re like, “Okay, when is the shoe going to drop? Everybody seems content and happy now, but what’s coming my way?” And I’ve actually heard women talk about that, “When is the shoe going to drop?” So it’s this anxious feeling, feeling on edge.

And that could come from fearing that you won’t live up to others’ expectations of you. And it could come from feeling like you have to control the environment so much because you don’t want anybody mad. You don’t want anybody upset. Your kid starts crying and it just puts you in a tizzy. And so having to control everything to make it copacetic, happy, pleasant, that toxic perfectionism just ramps up and we feel on edge.

Some of my clients experience it as anxiety. They feel like they’re walking on eggshells, even in their own homes. They’re feeling like they can’t relax and that’s why they turn to alcohol or food or some other activity to help them to be able to relax because they’re so on edge. And sure, there could be other reasons outside of people pleasing. But these are the real 10 nuggets that I have seen when I’ve worked with people who are trying to control others, trying to control other people’s emotions. Really giving all of themselves to others and neglecting their own needs, wants and desires.

And so I just want to spend a few minutes talking about, well, how can we change? And I feel the antidote isn’t the direct opposite by just saying, “Well, stop people pleasing.” I don’t feel that’s very helpful. And I don’t feel like people want to stop people pleasing. I think people want to be liked. They just don’t want it to interfere so much with how they show up for themselves. And while some people may say, “Just stop people pleasing”, I’m not sure that that’s the best advice or the best antidote.

And when I’m working with clients, one of the first things I like to recommend and start the process of is really finding themselves. We spend so much time looking outward, so much time worried about what so and so wants, what so and so needs, what so and so likes. Let’s now go inward, let’s explore what you like again, what brings you joy, what lights you up. Because when women come to me and they say, “The wheels of my life just feel like they fell off. I don’t know. I’m just not happy anymore. I’m just going through the motions. I’m kind of despondent. I’m a little apathetic.” And they look really resigned.

And then this makes more sense when you hear how they spend their days, how they fill their days and how they fill up themselves with extra food or extra drinks to make themselves feel better. And now they’re annoyed because now they have this extra 10 or 20 pounds to lose because they’ve been neglecting what they want and what they need. Or they tell me they have poor sleep because their mind is racing all the time. Or they tell me they have really apathetic or really wild mood swings.

And look, I’m not saying life is perfect and we will never enter these phases. But if we are in these phases, it really warrants us to slow down and start peeling back the layers. What is it that I’m leaving behind or that I’m not carving out time for me about? Yes, I can still serve other people, but I also deserve to serve myself. And so as I mentioned, I love questions like what brings you joy? What brings a smile to your face? What’s important to you, that maybe you have been neglecting, that you want to stop neglecting? Because that’s going to connect them back to themselves.

And oftentimes when we’re people pleasing and looking outward all the time, we are not connected to ourselves. We are actually disconnected to ourselves, because we’re so connected to what’s going on outside of us. So this is a place I often like to start with clients is walking them through finding themselves again. And building in and bringing in that happiness, not another chore, not another task. But let’s start with bringing in joy and happiness, because that’s going to feel good.

And another area that we may need to work on first, but generally it comes second, it just depends on the individual, everything I do is based on what the individual needs. But I find when we are so into people pleasing or so revved up and anxious and on edge, we might need to work on calming the brain. That might be step number one or it might be in tandem to step number one or it might be step number two.

So really calming down the nervous system, really calming down the brain. Because if we’re operating out of anxiety and fear and overwhelm and stress all the time, our nervous system is going to be revved up, that cortisol is going to be revved up. We’re going to get weight gain even if we’re not eating, the weight is just going to be there because of the high cortisol. And calming the brain is going to have not only great effects on the mood, but great effects on our bodies. It’s also going to affect how peaceful we can rest and sleep at night.

So I work with a bunch of different modalities to help calm the brain, to reduce that anxiety and to reduce that fear because nobody feels good living on edge all the time. That hypervigilant state, we’re not meant to be in that 18 hours out of the day. And so as we navigate step one and step two or step one and two combined. Then we can move into step number three, which is really how we start to repattern our brain and that is by bringing in and developing self-compassion, self-awareness and ultimately self-mastery.

Where you prioritize yourself through compassion, not beating yourself up for the way you’ve been or what you’ve neglected but bringing in that self-compassion piece. And as you’re bringing that in, also increasing your self-awareness because what I find with people pleasers, they are very aware of what everybody else wants but very unaware of self. And if they are aware of self, guess what they’re aware of, of the self? All the negative aspects.

They’re not aware of all the positive aspects and all the aspects that they want to be nourishing and thriving and inviting into their life. So that’s where we need to pick up the awareness. And once we’ve gotten that part, then we move into self-mastery. How can I get what I want in my life and help others get what they want? It’s not one or the other, it could be both. And that’s what a lot of people want, they want both. They want to work in collaboration with those they love. They want to work in collaboration with their boss and their work.

They want to work in collaboration with their kids. And as we work with setting up the right tools, they can find that they can get that. And so my friend, if you find that you are more on the people pleasing side and you are still wanting to please people but also prioritize yourself, consider which of these dangers most affect you. And also consider these steps to help to bring in more of your wants, bring in more of your needs, bring in more of your desires, because ultimately this is your life.

No one is going to care about you as much as you can care about you. And that is about taking responsibility for yourself, taking responsibility of your health and taking responsibility of your habits, because that’s what your soul desires. That’s what our spirit wants, it loves harmony. And that’s where we find peace and calmness. We have to learn to cultivate that for ourselves because we know the world won’t always give that to us.

Alright, my beautiful friend, I hope you found this podcast helpful, if you have, I’d love for you to leave a review. And I look forward to seeing you next week.

Thanks for listening to the Health, Habits, and Epic Living podcast. If you are ready to take the next step to improve your health, wellness, and lifestyle goals, head over to www.epicyou.com to check out my programs and to sign up for my free newsletter. Again that’s E-P-I-C-Y-O-U.com.

Please note that the information in this podcast is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice.

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