Breaking Free from the Chains of People Pleasing

Once upon a time, my life was a stage, and the script was written to please. For a good forty years, I excelled in the art of people-pleasing, a performance driven by a fear stronger than the call of my own beliefs and opinions. Yes, I donned the mask of the “super nice” and danced to the tune of others’ desires, all while a storm of rebellion raged quietly within me. This was my world – a world where confrontation was the villain, and agreement was the hero.

Let’s take a moment, shall we, to peel back the layers of my younger self, the youngest sibling accustomed to yielding, the personality type steeped in harmony. But as we dissect these reasons, let’s not lose sight of the truth – that my penchant for pleasing was less about altruism and more about the terror of letting someone down.

Now, if you’ve ever encountered those who challenge, speak out, and stand firm, you’ve likely observed the magnetic pull they exert. They are the Davids to our Goliaths of compliance, the brave hearts in a world of nodding heads.

Consider the life of a seasoned people-pleaser through a microscope, and you’ll find a dread of being misunderstood, a fear so paralyzing that it demands a defense of every action, a justification for every decision. Thus, the dreaded overexplaining becomes our shield, our defense against the potential onslaught of disapproval.

Let me paint you a picture of my life as a new mother, teetering on the edge of returning to work. Confronted with inquiries about my choices, I’d launch into an exhaustive monologue, detailing my intricate plans for work-life balance, all to avoid the slightest hint of disapproval. What I longed to say was a simple, “I’m going back to work because that’s what I want,” but my people-pleasing persona could never muster such directness.

As the years have passed, I’ve learned the toll this behavior takes. It’s a relentless expenditure of mental energy, a constant suppression of one’s true self. It’s a life of artificial head nods, forced smiles, and stifled opinions, all hidden behind a veneer of emojis and exclamation points.

And let’s not forget the toll on women, particularly in the South, where from childhood we’re groomed to be peacekeepers, to appease and minimize our very beings to avoid ruffling feathers.

Yet, true kindness isn’t about perpetual agreement. It’s not about fake smiles or silent complicity. It’s about love, while people-pleasing is a product of fear and self-preservation.

The journey to becoming direct and setting boundaries has taken years, and perhaps it’s the wisdom of age or the sheer lack of time that’s reshaped my perspective. The people-pleasing script has lost its luster, and I’ve grown to value the authenticity of a clear “yes” and a firm “no,” without the burden of false guilt demanding explanations.

Of course, the shadows of old habits linger. Every now and then, the fear of disappointment or being misunderstood grips me, and I am reminded of the weight of that old yoke.

But no more. I’ve had my fill of it. The curtain has fallen on my people-pleasing performance, and I step into the light of genuine kindness and truth.

It’s a new day, and I breathe freely, liberated from the chains of pleasing others at the expense of my own voice.