Many of us who are gifted with the ability to hustle and conquer goal after goal, are always on the hunt to be more, do more, and get more. We look for ways to take advantage of everything life has to offer, while getting excited about what is to still come. All of this is magical and absolutely OK; but what if all your hard work still leaves you dissatisfied? You suddenly realize you have lost sight of what makes you happy because you are so busy trying to make others happy. What if one day you wake up to find you are so much of a people pleaser that you no longer feel fulfilled and do not know how to enjoy the life you are building?
For many years I never felt “settled.” In my twenty-year marriage, I was partnered with someone who was never happy with our life status. As a go-getter, I would immediately go find a new house or whatever thing it was that I thought would make him happy for the moment. As a result, I never let myself enjoy the homes we had in the beautiful mountains of Colorado. (I have since learned this is called taking the geographic cure – treating the symptom instead of the problem.) Do not get me wrong, this was not his fault. It was my compulsion to make others feel wanted, needed, happy, and loved at the expense of my own needs.
I am not totally sure where the need to please entered my life. Perhaps it was when my parents hit hard times, constantly fighting over bills, and soon discovered the differences between their own individual definitions of happiness? Maybe it was during the time when alcoholism briefly visited my mom’s life? Thank God she was brave and loved us enough to overcome this moment of weakness, but it stayed long enough for undesirable memories to develop. Perhaps that was when I slapped the title, “People Pleaser” right on my forehead. Why? Because I wanted to keep my parents happy, in love, and maintain peace in our home. If I was as perfect as I could be for them, we would have a better chance of keeping the love and peace we had always known within the four walls of my childhood home.
Being a people pleaser meant that my own needs were not just overlooked, they were never defined. When I finally started to identify them it was a blessing, but it also created a lot of inner turmoil. I suddenly recognized the validity of my own needs and grew less inclined to coddle other people’s more superficial wishes. Once my healthy mindset was no longer consumed with the unhealthy impulse to constantly put myself last, I was able to have a more reasonable dialogue that could be understood and accepted. The next big challenge was learning how to translate the right dialogue, emotions, and feelings into action without being burdened by guilt.
When I looked back at my beautiful childhood that, like everyone else’s in the world, had some challenges, I realized I had made myself the CEO of People Pleasing. More recently than you may expect, I made the decision to fire myself from that not-so-esteemed position. I no longer wanted to be the CEO of People Pleasing. I no longer wanted to keep giving in to the happiness of others when it meant denying my own needs. Although I never experienced being terminated from a job, the moment I fired myself became the most liberating experience of my life.
What about you? In what areas of your life are you restricting your own happiness? Are you a people pleaser? If so, you know how exhausting it can be. Let me tell you, the people closest to you will continue to use this to their advantage – often without even realizing it. They will take, and take, and take until you won’t even be able to remember the last time you actually received without giving. Please understand that you must be willing to receive, or you will become too empty to give. It is my hope you will never lose the gift of giving and you will always be more of a giver than a taker. But I pray you will also hold on to yourself, your happiness, your calling and your passion in the process. It is my hope that if you have given yourself the title of “People Pleaser,” you will terminate that position and give yourself an immediate promotion.