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Are You Caught in the People-Pleasing Trap?

Updated: Jun 19, 2023

Are you trapped in the cycle of people-pleasing? Always saying "yes" to others, fearing disappointment, and neglecting your own needs? It's time to reclaim your authenticity and prioritize your mental health.

The Hidden Struggles of People-Pleasing

In a world that values harmony and approval, it's easy to fall into the people-pleasing trap. But what are the true impacts of this behaviour on our mental well-being and over health?

  • Anxiety and Stress: The constant fear of letting others down or being judged creates chronic stress and heightened anxiety levels.

  • Low Self-Worth: Relying on external validation erodes our sense of self-worth, leading to lower self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy.

  • Emotional Exhaustion: Constantly juggling others' needs while neglecting our own drains us emotionally and leaves us disconnected from our hopes and dreams.

Strategies for Embracing Authenticity and Self-Care: Evidence-Based Approaches to Overcoming People-Pleasing

  • Practice Self-Reflection: Connecting with Your Values and Needs

Taking time for self-reflection is a powerful tool in reclaiming your authenticity. Research suggests that self-reflection enhances self-awareness and helps individuals align their actions with their values (Higgins, E. T., 2018). Start by asking yourself: What truly matters to me? What are my core values and needs? By honouring yourself alongside the expectations of others, you can break free from the grip of people-pleasing.

Prompts to get you started:

Reflect on a time when you compromise your values to please others. What did you learn from that experience, and how can you ensure it doesn't happen again?

Describe a situation where your needs were not met. How did it affect your well-being, and what steps can you take to honour your needs moving forward?

Reflect on a recent situation where you felt a sense of alignment with your values. Describe how it made you feel and why it was important to you.

Describe a time when you felt disconnected from your values. What led to that disconnection, and what can you do differently in the future?

If you find it challenging to express your thoughts, you can use a structured tool like a thought record.

  • Assertive Communication: Expressing Your Thoughts and Feelings

Developing assertive communication skills empowers you to express your thoughts, feelings, and preferences openly and honestly. Studies show that assertive communication is associated with higher self-esteem and improved well-being (Galanti, G. A., 2019). Remember, your voice is valuable, and your opinions deserve to be heard. By practicing assertiveness, you can build healthier relationships and create a supportive environment for your authentic self to thrive.

Examples of assertive responses:

Assertive response in expressing thoughts:

"I appreciate your perspective, but I have a different point of view on this matter. I believe..."

Assertive response in expressing feelings:

"When you canceled our plans without notifying me, I felt disappointed and frustrated. It's important to me that we communicate and respect each other's time."

Assertive response in setting boundaries:

"I totally understand that you could use some help, but at the moment, I have my own commitments to take care of. I'm unable to take on any extra tasks right now. Thanks for your understanding."

Assertive response in declining requests:

"Thank you for considering me for the opportunity, but I have to decline. It doesn't align with my current priorities and goals."

Assertive response in expressing preferences:

"I would really appreciate having some quiet time to recharge after work instead of going out tonight. I hope you understand and respect my need for some alone time."

Assertive response in addressing criticism:

"I appreciate your feedback, but I stand by my decision. I have carefully considered the situation, and I believe it's the best choice for me."

Assertive response in negotiating:

"I understand your perspective, and I'd like to find a solution that works for both of us. Can we explore some alternatives that can meet our needs?"

  • Establish Healthy Boundaries: Protecting Your Well-Being

Setting clear boundaries is essential for self-care and preserving your mental well-being. Research demonstrates that establishing boundaries contributes to greater psychological well-being and reduced stress levels (Lavner, J. A., et al., 2019). Learn to say "no" when necessary and find a balance between giving and receiving. By setting and maintaining healthy boundaries, you can protect your time, energy, and emotional resources from being drained by constant people-pleasing.

Examples of boundary statements:

Personal space and time:

"I need some alone time in the evenings to recharge and take care of myself. I appreciate your understanding and respecting my need for personal space."

Work-life balance:

"I strive to maintain a healthy work-life balance, so I won't be checking emails or taking work-related calls outside of my designated working hours."

Emotional boundaries:

"It's important to me that we both respect each other's emotions. If I need space or time to process something, I'll let you know, and I hope you can offer me that support."

Social commitments:

"I have a lot on my plate right now, so I need to limit my social commitments. I hope you understand if I can't attend every event or gathering."

Financial boundaries:

"I have set a budget for myself, and I need to stick to it. I won't be able to lend money or cover expenses beyond what I can afford."

Communication boundaries:

"I prefer to have open and honest communication, but I need to establish a boundary around receiving phone calls or messages late at night. Let's connect during appropriate hours."

Personal values and beliefs:

"I have strong personal values and beliefs, and it's important to me that they are respected. I'm open to discussing differing opinions but expect mutual respect in our conversations."

  • Cultivate Self-Compassion: Embracing Imperfections and Self-Care

When we extend kindness to ourselves, it's not just a feel-good gesture. It actually contributes to our emotional well-being, helping us navigate life's challenges with greater resilience. It can reduce those nagging levels of anxiety and depression, and even influence our habits in a positive way—like making healthier choices when it comes to our diet and exercise routine. And let's not forget about relationships. Self-compassion has a way of nurturing more fulfilling and compassionate connections with others (Neff, K. D., 2021).

Examples of how to cultivate self-compassion and practicing self-care:

Embracing imperfections:

  • Remind yourself that nobody is perfect and it's okay to make mistakes. Treat mistakes as opportunities for growth and learning rather than beating yourself up over them.

  • Practice self-acceptance by acknowledging and embracing your flaws and imperfections. Celebrate your uniqueness and recognize that it's a part of what makes you who you are.

Treating yourself with kindness:

  • Practice self-care activities that nourish your mind, body, and soul. Engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, whether it's taking a walk in nature, reading a book, or having a bubble bath.

  • Replace self-criticism with self-compassionate self-talk. When faced with self-judgment, consciously shift your inner dialogue to be more understanding, supportive, and kind.

Prioritizing your well-being:

  • Set boundaries to protect your time, energy, and emotional well-being. Learn to say "no" when necessary and prioritize activities that align with your needs and values.

  • Engage in regular self-reflection and check-ins to assess how you're feeling physically, emotionally, and mentally. Adjust your schedule and make time for self-care activities and practices that recharge and rejuvenate you.

Nurturing a compassionate relationship with yourself:

  • Cultivate self-compassion through daily affirmations or positive self-talk. Repeat affirming statements that remind yourself of your worth, such as "I am enough" or "I deserve love and care."

  • Seek Support and Connection: Guided Steps Toward Authenticity

Seeking support from understanding and supportive individuals is crucial on your journey towards authenticity. Consider reaching out to a therapist or counsellor who can provide guidance tailored to your specific needs. Research shows that therapy can be effective in addressing people-pleasing behaviours and promoting self-growth (Egan, S. J., et al., 2014). By seeking professional help, you can gain valuable insights, develop coping strategies, and receive the support necessary to break free from the patterns of people-pleasing.

Examples of seeking support and connection:

Reach out to a therapist or counsellor:

  • Research local therapists or counsellors who specialize in areas such as self-esteem, boundaries, or assertiveness training. Schedule an initial appointment to discuss your concerns and explore how therapy can support your journey towards authenticity.

  • During therapy sessions, openly discuss your people-pleasing behaviours, challenges, and goals. Work collaboratively with your therapist to develop personalized strategies and tools to address these patterns and cultivate authenticity.

Join support groups or communities:

  • Look for local or online support groups focused on personal growth, self-esteem, or assertiveness. Connect with others who are on a similar journey, share experiences, and offer support and encouragement.

  • Engage in online forums, social media groups, or communities dedicated to personal development and authenticity. Participate in discussions, ask questions, and learn from others' experiences and insights.

Cultivate relationships with supportive individuals:

  • Surround yourself with people who value and support your authentic self. Seek out friendships and connections with individuals who understand and respect your boundaries, needs, and values.

  • Have open and honest conversations with trusted friends or family members about your journey towards authenticity. Share your goals, challenges, and aspirations, and seek their support and understanding.

Attend workshops or seminars:

  • Look for workshops, seminars, or retreats focused on personal development, self-acceptance, or authenticity. Participate in these events to gain new insights, learn practical tools, and connect with like-minded individuals who are also committed to living authentically.

Consider online resources:

  • Explore online resources such as blogs, podcasts, or courses that address people-pleasing behaviours and promote authenticity. Engage with the content, take notes, and apply the insights and strategies to your own journey.

You have the power to break free from people-pleasing and live a truly fulfilling life. Embrace your values, needs, and authentic self. Your relationships will become more meaningful, your self-esteem will soar, and you'll navigate challenges with grace. Take the leap and reclaim your authenticity. Your well-being matters. The choice is yours.

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