Patience may be a virtue, and politeness may win people over. But, falling into the trap of people pleasing can leave even the most caring and considerate mom exhausted and fed up. People pleasing is going out of your way to appease your friends and family, and put yourself on the back burner. Sometimes it is with the intention to gain affection, fondness or future favors. People pleasing can also come from a genuine place where you sincerely want your loved ones to be happy and better off. The problem is, the negative results of people pleasing are generally the same no matter the intention.
So how can you continue to care for your family and friends without falling victim to people pleasing?
Put your needs first
Putting your needs first is not being selfish. It ensures you are healthy enough to care for your family. After all, you wouldn’t want a nurse with the flu going into work, would you? When you are healthy, your family will be healthy. And if you are sick, your family will suffer. So take care of yourself so you can care for them.
Focus on true needs
Helping your family care for their needs is very different from catering to their wants and desires. You don’t have to buy your spouse’s or child’s affection with gifts and favors. This creates a transactional relationship, where unhealthy scorekeeping, expectations and tit-for-tat comes into play. This may leave you feeling used, and your family feeling entitled. Give because you love your family, not to earn points toward future prepayment.
Keep your sense of self
Make sure not to lose yourself in another’s drama. Be sure to keep your sense of self and your own personality and identity as well. As much as you would like to be a superhero, you cannot fix another person’s problems. You cannot drive out another person’s demons. But you sure can drive yourself crazy trying. Know your limits, and offer support and perspective. But in order to stay healthy, don’t take on other’s issues as your own.
Help through empowerment
Always doing for your friends and family can make you feel needed and special. But it also can keep him or her from learning to stand on his own, and accomplish his goals. Taking over another’s lessons can take his power away, and actually leave him feeling dependent and helpless. Guide and teach your loved ones how to achieve their goals. And cheer them on as they do.
I have a personal vendetta against people pleasing. I enjoy helping my friends and family, and love that they appreciate my support and assistance. But, unlike some of my now former-friends, I no longer feel exhausted, annoyed or taken advantage of by people who can’t or don’t want to do for themselves and expect me to do for them. Nor do I feel sucked into drama by people who don’t take responsibility for their behavior, and expect me to take on this responsibility; or at the very least feel sorry for them.
Finding your way out of people pleasing can be an arduous task once you have enabled that kind of transactional or advantageous relationship. Your family and friends may have become accustomed to relying on you to conquer their burdens and do their bidding. But you can ease your way into empowering and supportive relationships once you understand how beneficial caring for your own and your family’s needs will be without the need to please.