My name is Michelle and I am a recovering People Pleaser.
As a wife and mother, I have been known to over commit and to have a habit of trying to do it all myself. This habit has almost killed me once, maybe twice. And it came close to killing my marriage several times.
I tend to take everything on, all by myself. I don’t want to ask anyone for help. I don’t want to tell anyone “no.” I have however, over the last few years become wise enough to accept help when it is offered. I never want to inconvenience anyone, yet I will be the first one to offer to help if I see a need. And if anything falls through the cracks, I feel personally, fully responsible.
As I am sure you can image, this can create “issues.” I would get overwhelmed. There really was NEVER enough time in the day. Then, at some point, I would wonder why no one is as concerned as I am if things are getting done. I would also get a little irritated that no one could see that I needed help sometimes too!
It happened at home, when my kids were smaller. But I used to try to keep the house clean, laundry caught up, food in the pantry, all the bellies full, help with homework, bath time, bed time. I would try to be room mother, go on all the field trips and work with the PTA. Some of you know exactly what I am talking about. And then at the end of the day I was done. DONE. Not only was there nothing left for my husband, there was nothing left for me.
It happened with friends. Someone needed a kid picked up because they are late, or maybe they needed something picked up or dropped off because they ended up stuck in traffic. Somebody would have a baby or surgery and I would take dinner, or their kids. Not that there is anything wrong with helping a friend or neighbor, but I didn’t ask for a favor back when I needed it. And I didn’t say “no” when I should have. I would put my family and my life second, to make sure my friend had what they needed. Often times I created impossible situations for myself.
It happened at work. I would stay late to make sure a task was completed. I would think I was going the extra mile, only to realize that my director was throwing junk at me to see if I could figure it out. Testing me if you will, without regard that the time I was giving her was time I was taking from my family.
I remember, several years ago, we owned a real estate company, and I would stay at the office till 10:30 or 11:00 at night, eight months pregnant, trying to be a realtor, and the office manager. Now I realize that I didn’t want to let go of the control, and I didn’t want to disappoint my partners by having to hire an office manager. So I kept saying “Yes.”
And it has happened in volunteer positions. I would be available for one thing, and end up on a list for all things. It was in this area that I saw the 80/20 rule show up for the first time; 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people.
All of these areas can slowly eat away at who you are one small bite at a time. Seriously, I woke up 15 years later, exhausted and depressed. I was exhausted because I had said yes too many times to too many people. And I was depressed because I had ignored what was most important to me.
Finally, I had a revelation, or a breakdown, or a conversation with my therapist, I don’t recall exactly, but I figured out something had to change. I was a People Pleaser and I had to change. So, what did I do?
I accepted that I was a serial People Pleaser.
Psychology Today defines A People Pleaser “is one of the nicest and most helpful people you know. They never say “no.” You can always count on them for a favor. In fact, they spend a great deal of time doing things for other people.” That totally summed up who I had become. And now that I realized it, and how it was affecting me physically and emotionally, I had to make it stop.
I examined my priorities.
I had to think about what I could not live without? It turned out there were only people. And just a few people, and most of them lived right here in my house with me. In this examination, I was able to take a long look at what I had been saying yes to and what I had no time for. It was shocking to say the least.
I started saying no.
I resigned from positions, I put friends on hold, and I gave my kids responsibilities. The positions I had worked so relentlessly to prove myself at replaced me and forgot me. My friends understood and offered to help me when I needed them. And my relationships with my family got better. I was teaching my kids how to grow up and we all loved the time we got to spend together. Being a people pleaser is hard, time consuming work. Saying “no” to things was quite freeing!
I forgave myself and learned from the past.
When I realized that I had spent parts of my kids’ childhood doing for others and not for them, I was literally heartbroken. Both for them and for myself. Thankfully, I came to my senses and I have been able to enjoy some really important time with my family. But I had to let go of past mistakes, learn and always be mindful of how easily just saying yes can lead me in directions I didn’t’ want to go.
Thankfully, God in his divine love for me surprised me with a baby boy. It was seven years after my last child and I really thought we were done. But He gave me this chance and an opportunity to start again. He gave me another chance to get it right. I was shocked and I was thrilled by this new life, but most of all I knew it was an opportunity to be who I needed to be.
I’ll be honest; it is still an everyday challenge between being kind and being over committed just because I am a people pleaser. But being mindful of it keeps my path straight. What are some ways that you deal with your people pleasing habits?