Have you ever wondered if you are a chronic people pleaser? The words may have a negative connotation, but what if it simply means you have trouble identifying and expressing your needs? Perhaps you feel deprived and wish others intuitively understood your needs. When feeling overwhelmed and stressed, do you rarely think to ask for help?
If any of this rings true, you are not alone. Some people, typically women, need others’ approval in order to feel good about themselves. In fact, our culture reinforces this care taking role. Nothing is wrong with helping others; it’s part of what we do for the people we care about. What’s important is the degree of care taking and how it affects you. There’s a delicate balance to how much and how often we attend to others’ needs before our own.
Even parents need to make self-care a priority in order to have the inner resources available to them when facing the responsibilities of parenthood. We’ve all heard the ‘oxygen on the airplane’ analogy. In order to help your child survive, you have to first give yourself oxygen.
If you have a pattern of people pleasing behavior, it’s probably old behavior that was rewarded once upon a time. Try to reflect back to the source of the behavior. Have people come to expect this behavior? Do friends and family often turn to you for help when there’s a problem?
To further explore this concept, start to pay attention to the following;
How much time and energy do you spend on other people’s problems or requests for your time?
Do you feel compelled to people please much of the time, even people you barely know?
Are you pleased with people’s responses to your efforts, or secretly long to be acknowledged for all of the helpful things you do? Do you feel angry, exhausted, or drained because of constant pressure to keep this up?
Do you worry people will be disappointed if you change this behavior? Are you afraid people won’t like and appreciate you unless you are doing something useful for them?
Are you neglecting your needs? Do you feel it’s selfish to take care of yourself?
Guide to Self-Care
Taking time to restore, or simply slowing down to enjoy life is not indulgent. Caring for ourselves is restorative and makes us more available to connect with our loved ones. If you are giving beyond your capacity, in order to get back on track, consider what your needs are. What you would be doing with your time if you weren’t stretched so thin helping others? Make sure you are saying ‘yes’ to people for the right reasons. Consciously think about why you are helping someone, or using your energy, before you automatically say ‘yes’.
It’s ok to ask for help when you need it. People who thrive know how to balance giving and receiving, and are part of a support network. We aren’t wired to handle life’s challenges alone. Prioritize! This means choosing the people who matter the most to you. A top priority for most people belongs to a small group of family and close friends.
Learn to cope with people’s negative responses and dissatisfaction. So often others’ negative reactions have nothing to do with us, and reflects what’s going on in their own lives. We must learn that we can’t please all people all of the time.
Learn to say ‘no’. Most people benefit from the gentle reminder that the world doesn’t fall apart when we take time for ourselves. In fact, when we feel rested and content, we have more to give.
Take time to develop creative outlets, relax with friends, exercise, get outside in nature, listen to music. Create a quiet space in your home for peaceful reflection and rest. Learn how to meditate, do yoga, and practice deep breathing.
When you truly value yourself and offer your time and energy when it feels right, you will know how to help others in a way that honors and respects everyone.