Stop People Pleasing

Mar 13, 2023
Stop People Pleasing

The question is: are you a liar?  I don’t mean to be unkind, or to shine a spotlight on you right now, but I too have been a big liar!  For a long time I said the things I knew people wanted to hear, I didn’t speak up for fear of confrontation, I said yes to every occasion, even when the occasions clashed!  I allowed myself to be in a very toxic friendship that caused a huge amount of anxiety, for fear of upsetting my group of friends.  I lent money to people that I didn’t want to lend.  I allowed myself to get into really uncomfortable situations when I was working in TV for fear of being fired, I did things that didn’t align with my values, I allowed people to speak to me terribly without saying a word back, I worked myself to the bone for fear of not being enough, for fear of failure.  It all ended up in an almighty mental health crash when I was signed off work in 2015.  I had no idea that a huge compopntnet of all of this: I needed to stop people pleasing and meet my own needs.


My mind and body was a mess.  I was suffering from many physical & mental health problems which forced me to quit the TV industry.  The truth was, I had been lying to myself for a really long time.  In Dr Martha Beck’s book “The Way of Integrity,” she writes:

“If you don't walk your true path, you don't find your true people. You end up in places you don't like, learning skills that don't fulfil you, adopting values and customs that feel wrong…. In this rush to conform, we often end up ignoring or overruling our genuine feelings - even intense ones, like longing or anguish - to please our cultures. At that point, we're divided against ourselves. We aren't in integrity (one thing) but in duplicity (two things). Or we may try to fit in with a number of different groups, living in multiplicity (multiple things).”


Fear vs Love


It is this duplicity that I call the beauty and the beast - two parts of ourselves that we all have.  To be in integrity is to be in tune with our beauty.  To be out of integrity is to be in the space where the beauty and the beast are in contradiction of one another.  Let me explain this further.  Our beauty is our truth, our integrity, our alignment - a space we all want to be in because it is a space of deeper knowing, deeper love.  Our beast is our fear and our ego - this is the part of us that is concerned with staying safe and in a place of certainty.  Our beauty and our beast end up fighting one another which becomes exhausting, overwhelming, emotional & very confusing.  Once you learn to be aware of these parts of yourself, it becomes easier to bring more attention to our beauty.


stop people pleasing


Let me give you a real life example.  When I moved to Bali it was something I had wanted to do for a really long time.  I had wanted to live abroad for many years but I was afraid of disappointing my family and I was also in a committed relationship with my ex-husband who was tied to the UK with work.  When my marriage broke down, I decided that it would be a great time to experiment with moving abroad and see if it was a life that I would love.  Living abroad for me put me in alignment with many of my values - freedom, adventure, travel, meeting new people, living in nature… it felt like a really exciting and wonderful opportunity - especially at such a tough personal time.


My beauty was the part of me feeling excited and inspired about the move, however every now and then my beast would appear.  Saying things like:

“But you don’t know anyone in Bali”
“What if you feel lonely?"
“When are you going to have a baby? You are almost 34 now."
“What if you hate it there?"
“What if you can’t make money online?"  

You see, your beast likes certainty, your beast hates any kind of change.  Because to change is to take risks, to change is to put yourself in a space of uncertainty, a space that feels vulnerable and scary.


The Excuses We Tell Ourselves 


So often we give in and we stay in the same place… giving ourselves excuses such as “I don’t have time,” “I am too busy”, “I’ll do it another time, just not now”, “I don’t have enough money”… I am sure you can resonate with at least one of these excuses.  Perhaps you haven’t even realised that these are excuses.  Perhaps your beast has got in the way so much so, that you don’t realise that this is the part of you that is running the show.  If this is the case, then you are living out of alignment, out of truth, and instead, in a place of fear.  The goal: to move from a space of fear to a space of love.  How to do this?  Start to listen to your beauty not your beast.


So why are you lying?  When you are a people pleaser, always aiming to keep others happy, you tend to lie without realising that this is causing you a huge amount of pain and suffering.  When you continually people please it’s incredibly dangerous for your mental and physical health.  I don’t say that lightly - Terri Cole calls this “The Disease to Please.”  We lie and people please because the alternative is too scary.  To say no to your best friend and disappoint them = terrifying!  To speak up for yourself when someone puts you down at work = ridiculous idea!  To tell someone that it’s not ok that they cancel on you at the last minute = anxiety provoking!  To tell someone you want more than a casual relationship = but I don’t want to loose them!  Our brain comes up with many ways to keep us safe.  Our survival mechanism kicks in because to speak up, to be in truth, to have the courage to be disliked by others taps into a fundamental fear - what if I am rejected by the group?  Back in the day to be rejected by your tribe was a matter of life and death.  To this day, we still have this instinct.


What we can do is start to become aware of when our survival mechanism is rearing its head.  Become aware of when the beast has come out to keep us safe.  When we realise that it’s simply our beast that is trying to protect us, we can realise that this is coming from fear and not from integrity.  When we start to live with integrity - we reap the benefits.  Don't get me wrong, when we start to live in integrity, when we stop people pleasing it can feel like we are jumping off a building...

 stop people pleasing


Stopping People Pleasing


However, when we stop people pleasing and live in integrity, we no longer get ourselves into relationships that don’t meet our needs, we don’t allow ourselves to settle for less and we raise our standards from a place of knowing and trust.  A place of abundance (rather than fear and scarcity) that realises there are many other people out there who want what you want.  We no longer choose jobs that don’t serve our values - you get to know exactly what your values are and you start to live accordingly.  If you are in a job that causes you to spend 50 hours a week in an office and one of your values is nature, firstly you will not feel happy, and secondly you are giving into what you feel you “should” be doing.  Your beast has gotten in the way.  You get to live life on your own terms, not other people’s.  Your relationships become less complicated, you become less complicated and dramatic, life feels easier, more opportunities come your way & you attract inspiring people into your life - because guess what, stopping being a people pleaser is inspirational in itself.


I am a recovering people pleaser and I can spot people pleasers from a mile off.  I’m afriad to say, I trust them less.  I know that I won’t get a straight answer from a people pleaser and that they will always have a million and one excuses up their sleeve.  When you stop people pleasing you will gain more respect at work and within all your relationships.  I have raised my standards which means that I have less people pleasers in my life - it means I get straight answers, things progress quicker, I have a clearer picture of the truth of my relationships, I feel safe to speak my truth and to be vulnerable, I feel safe to be heard and everything just feels way less complicated!  In the process I take things less personally and my emotions don’t go on such a roller coaster ride like they used to.



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Written By Sophie Dear


In 2015 I was signed off work due to insomnia and anxiety. I was incredibly stressed both physically & mentally and as a result I suffered from numerous health problems. I trained as a yoga teacher & began to heal myself through meditation & movement. However I soon burnt out for a second time 2 years into my teaching journey. Becoming a yoga teacher hadn’t magically transformed me - I realised I needed to do the deeper work!

Want to listen to my full story? Check out some of the podcast episodes I've been featured on.

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