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Things I Learned When I Stopped Trying to Please People

Finding it challenging to decline your boss's request for overtime when your child needs you at home? Feeling like you constantly give in your relationship while your partner only takes? Experiencing the pressure to please everyone at social events, even if it means not being true to yourself? You're not alone. I once faced these same struggles, believing that pleasing others made me a better person. However, I soon realized that by neglecting my own well-being, I was doing more harm than good.
Contrary to popular belief, prioritizing self-care is not selfish. In fact, it is the most selfless act one can do because when we truly love ourselves and prioritize our own happiness, we become the best versions of ourselves. On the other hand, those who constantly put others' needs before their own often experience higher levels of depression, anxiety attacks and stress which ultimately affects those around them negatively.
how to stop pleasing others shadowed man against sky

So how can we break free from this cycle of people-pleasing? What should we know about making this choice? Allow me to share with you nine valuable lessons I learned firsthand when I finally let go of my need for approval:

1. If you don't speak your truth, it will speak THROUGH you


Choosing to withhold your opinion or refrain from asserting that you are right may seem like the best course of action. After all, why subject yourself to the negative reactions of others when you can simply swallow your pride and remain silent? It may even be convenient for you to let things slide and not express how you truly feel. However, maintaining this external peace does not necessarily mean inner peace.

By keeping silent, those around you are unaware of your emotions, which can have detrimental effects on both your emotional well-being and self-perception. Over time, this suppression may lead to depression, anxiety attacks, and even physical symptoms such as stomach aches - common ailments experienced by individuals who keep their voices silenced for too long. It is important to remember that expressing your truth should not be underestimated; it is crucial for cultivating strength within yourself and promoting mental as well as physical health.

2. If you're not sure what you want, ask your body

Even individuals who have a extensive history of satisfying others can still hear the faint whispers resonating within their beings. According to renowned dancer Martha Graham, "The body never lies," and her statement holds true, particularly in this context. It is essential to pay attention to your body in order to discern your genuine desires and recognize when you should cease trying to please others and prioritize what is best for yourself.

When you feel fatigued, make sure to rest; do not consume foods that fail to pique your interest; decline engaging in sexual activities with individuals you are not genuinely interested in or when you lack the desire. Instead, allow your body's instincts guide you when something feels amiss. Simultaneously, embrace dancing whenever the urge strikes, sing whenever it brings joy, and engage passionately in any activity that ignites a fire within your being without fearing the reactions of those around you.

how to stop pleasing others woman dancing in a field

3. If you keep expecting people to read your mind, you'll be dissapointed

When it comes to understanding others and making them comfortable, you may find yourself trying to figure out their preferences and adjusting yourself accordingly. It's natural to assume that they are doing the same for you, attempting to understand your needs and desires. However, this is not always the case. No one has the ability to read minds, including yourself, and not everyone is interested in trying.

Assuming that others will automatically know how to meet your needs assumes a shared understanding of what caring for each other entails. Even if your partner loves you deeply, their way of expressing care may differ from what you expect. There are actually five different love languages, so instead of guessing or assuming, have open conversations about it and learn each other's love language. Simultaneously, communicate your own love language so as to avoid conflicting messages and breakdowns in communication that can harm the relationship.

4. Without self-love, you may become egocentric

Numerous individuals strive to please others due to their low self-esteem. We may attempt to create an identity for ourselves by becoming reliable individuals who offer a listening ear and are even willing to make sacrifices for others. However, unless we also prioritize our own well-being and cultivate our personal interests, we will constantly seek validation from others in order to feel good about ourselves. Consequently, we might persist in trying to please others even when our efforts are no longer necessary or appreciated, thus disregarding the boundaries that they try to establish and impeding their independence while damaging our relationship with them.

Take care of yourself and prioritize self-love, just as you do for others. Seek medical attention when necessary, allocate some alone time for rest and rejuvenation, indulge in small luxuries or a nice meal. Above all, remember that if you choose to assist others, do so without expecting anything in return. Perform acts of kindness because you genuinely want to help, not because you crave validation from them as evidence of your goodness.
how to stop pleasing others hands with flowers

5. It's ok for these changes to feel weird

If these adjustments feel unfamiliar or uncomfortable to implement into your routine, it's perfectly normal - they represent new concepts and behaviors. In a previous recommendation I made regarding expressing your thoughts or discussing love languages with your partner, it's understandable that these ideas may seem unconventional at first. It doesn't mean there is anything inherently wrong with them or that other people don't engage in similar practices; it simply means they are uncharted territory for you personally.
The sense of unease will eventually fade away as you reprogram your mind, which has been conditioned since childhood to act and think in certain ways. Breaking long-standing habits can be a challenging process, requiring time and effort. As you work on this change, it's important to understand that it won't happen overnight. The more you practice new behaviors, the more natural they will become. Instead of viewing any anxiety that arises as a negative sign, see it as confirmation of the fear associated with embarking on a different path. While it may feel intimidating, embrace courage and determination – you have the ability to succeed.

6. It's OK to feel guilty after setting boundaries

Feeling guilty when setting boundaries is normal and understandable, especially if your upbringing involved punishment or neglect for expressing your emotions. Relearning how to establish limits can be difficult but worthwhile endeavor. For some people, establishing boundaries comes easily; however, for others like yourself, it may feel overwhelming at first. Standing up for oneself is a skill that requires practice just like any other newfound ability does.
Once you establish boundaries with others, you may question whether you are being a bad friend, child, colleague, or spouse. However, this is not the case. It is important to train your nervous system to handle these emotions and recognize that the limits you set are crucial for your well-being. Be compassionate towards yourself and allow yourself to take a break from constantly trying to please others
how to stop pleasing others woman with hat in a field

7. Don't give up on setting boundaries, it will keep your friends longer

By maintaining boundaries, you can avoid severing ties that hold importance in your life. Failing to set boundaries can lead to a nervous breakdown and potentially cutting off contact with certain individuals completely. While there are situations where cutting ties may be necessary depending on the person involved, oftentimes the issue lies in not establishing clear boundaries from the start. Conflicts arise in every relationship; it's how we choose to address them that matters - will we run away or confront them head-on?
People who have a tendency to please others often find themselves cutting ties because they lack the necessary communication skills to express their feelings. It is important, instead, to work on improving your communication abilities and developing mental resilience in order to maintain and enhance your relationships. Contrary to common belief, setting boundaries does not create separation; rather, it allows for reconnection.

8. There is no "right feeling" after ending a toxic relationship

There is no specific "right feeling" that one should experience after ending a toxic relationship. Sometimes it becomes necessary to break away from toxic individuals and terminate the relationship altogether. This was my personal experience several years ago when I had to end a toxic friendship with my roommate whom I had known since college. Although we shared many wonderful moments together over the years, our relationship ultimately caused me considerable frustration and negative emotions.

Once I terminated our connection and communicated my disinterest, a mix of emotions flooded over me. I felt a certain sorrow, yet simultaneously experienced a sense of strength. Anger consumed me as I reflected upon the circumstances that led to this decision, but in the same breath, compassion for my former friend emerged. Ultimately, I came to understand that there is no definitive way to feel when ending a toxic relationship.

Relationships are multifaceted entities, therefore our emotional responses towards them are equally complex. It is entirely possible to feel both sadness and joy concurrently; even after making the correct choice, yearnings may still arise. When severing ties with a toxic individual or situation, it's important to embrace all emotions that surface within oneself and acknowledge their validity. Avoid the temptation of selecting only one emotion as "right" - they are all valid.

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9. Sometimes extraversion is just pleasing others 

Extroversion can sometimes manifest as an effort to appease others on a larger scale rather than just being naturally outgoing or sociable in nature
As individuals who have a tendency to seek approval from others, we often disregard our own instincts that are meant to guide us towards personal growth. This is simply because we believe that by doing so, people will like us more. For many of us, this behavior manifests as outward extroversion - putting on a facade and pretending to be someone we're not. In reality, what we truly desire is the ability to spend more time with ourselves in silence and authenticity, without the need to constantly play a role that doesn't align with our true identity. We long for love and acceptance even when we're not entertaining or pleasing others.

During our childhood years, it's possible that love was only bestowed upon us when we selflessly gave ourselves to others - smiling even when we didn't feel like it or giving hugs and kisses despite not wanting to do so. In some cases, if our parents were addicted to substances or suffered from illnesses, it may have fallen upon us as children to take care of them and ensure their well-being by being their source of comfort and support.

In order to gain love and acceptance, you may have developed a belief that you must always display happiness and radiance. You might even feel responsible for the emotions of others. However, this mindset can eventually drain your energy. As you grow older, you will start craving inner peace. It is important to practice being true to yourself and embracing your own desires without relying on making others laugh or entertaining them constantly. Remember, it is perfectly fine for others to manage without your jokes or playful behavior.

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