Do you have a tough time telling other people “no” and then feel resentful later when they ask too much of you? You may be people pleasing yourself into an early grave. Sound a bit dramatic? Have you ever read the research on what being overly accommodating can do to your body, mind & spirit? If you do an online search for “people pleaser’s disease” you’ll find enough to keep you busy reading for a few days.
When we have a need to put other people’s desires and happiness ahead of our own we may be doing a disservice to both ourselves and them. We can all agree that being pleasant, considerate and helping others in life is a positive thing. The problem comes when we are giving from a feeling of obligation or a dysfunctional need to be liked or affirmed. We set our own needs aside and this causes major negative consequences. In addition to the stress created from lack of self-care, we put ourselves in danger of being taken of advantage of; we teach the people in our lives that we are willing to serve their needs ahead of our own. This is often followed by resentment when we become depleted or we don’t receive the reaction from others we seek. What’s the cost of that resentment for our personal health and relationships? Here’s what I’ve learned.
Resentment produces stress which in turn moves us into the “fight or flight” syndrome. Once this occurs, cortisol and adrenaline levels increase. Implications for being in this state for extended periods of time impact us on all levels of our being. In the physical body it leads to an increase in heart-rate, can result in adrenal fatigue, lowered immunity and digestive issues. In regards to the mind, we can experience muddled thinking, lowered problem solving abilities and failure to see possible opportunities. Since this state lowers our endorphins that help keep us happy, we may have difficulty accessing the “positive” emotions of love, gratitude & compassion. Our hearts become heavy and the world starts to look dreary as these conditions cloud our view.
And what about the people toward whom we feel this resentment? We often blame them for the way we feel, failing to see that we have the power to choose in each moment what we offer to others. Then, because we are holding them responsible, but are unwilling to communicate, we may become snappish and hateful to the very people we chose to serve. Passive aggression can now rule our interactions. This is not a powerful way to live. What can you do to avoid being in this place?
- Realize that your choices are your own.
Take accountability for your choices and if you’ve been blaming other people, stop.
- Understand that you have a right to say “no”.
This can be extremely uncomfortable. Start small, if necessary. Try turning down an invitation for lunch with a friend when you know it will put you behind on something you need to do or when you need the time to yourself. The discomfort will ease as you learn to value your own self-care. Practice saying “no” without explanation, a simple: “That’s not possible for me right now.” is enough. People may be annoyed for a while if they are accustomed to hearing “yes”. Consider that as you learn to honor your authentic needs, you show them how to honor theirs as well.
- Get clear about your motivation for being helpful.
Ask yourself if you’re operating from a false sense of obligation and also look to see if being helpful fulfills a need you have to be liked or affirmed. Is doing things for other people a coping skill you developed as a child in order to be included or accepted? Is it tied to your beliefs about love and/or worthiness?
So many of us were raised in environments where we were taught to constantly put the needs of others ahead of our own. We may even have been required to perfect our people pleasing skills for survival. It’s up to us to get clear for ourselves about how we’re making choices to be of service so we can live harmonious, joyful lives free from resentment. Listen to this message from Paulo Coelho:
“When you say “yes” to others, make sure you are not saying “no” to yourself.”
Blessings & Light,
You can connect with Sherry through her website at: empoweredjoy.com on Facebook @empoweredjoy or email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org