Today I want to talk about over-pleasing. You know, minimizing your own needs and knocking yourself out to make other people happy.
When I first started thinking more about this subject, I was that it’s more of a woman thing. Since we are typically conditioned to be caretakers, and nice above all else. And, let’s face it, often to sacrifice our own needs for others. But then I started doing a little research and found a quote from Tupac Shakur, the lion of hip-hop, who said, “I gotta stop treating people like I owe them something.” So, yeah, it’s not just women.
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Listener Feedback On Over-Pleasing
I’m tackling this subject this week because when I surveyed listeners, I asked them what they secretly worried made them a bad person. And what they had tried in the past to be a better person that hadn’t worked. Something I heard over and over again about the thing folks are worried about is being selfish.
One reader wrote, “I worry that I disappoint others when I care more about myself.” And a popular thing that people had tried to be a better person that hadn’t worked was trying to please other people.
One reader said it succinctly when she wrote: “I tried making other people happy. BIG mistake.”
The Tired Old Path
It’s certainly something I can relate to. There have been times in my life where I have almost literally knocked myself out to do good work at my job. And especially after I had kids, I felt like I needed to over-do for them in order to be a good mom. It’s also something that’s timely for right now as schools are starting. And it’s so very tempting to devote all your time and attention to what’s happening with your kids.
This was before I learned about something called the tired old path. It’s two extremes that we tend to oscillate between over and over. In this case, there’s a fear of being selfish on one end. And then completely knocking yourself out doing for others on the other side. So let’s say you’re going full out to make sure your kids are getting all the support they need here at the beginning of the school year. And then also staying up late at night to catch up on your work. Pretty soon, you’ll start to get frazzled, maybe even burned out.
Maybe it gets to the point where you decide to prioritize yourself. So then you start locking yourself in your bedroom to get your work done during the day, or you start to let some things slide. And it feels really good at first. But pretty soon, you start to feel bad, like you’re a bad mom, or a slacker at work, or both. So you ramp it up again and try to erase that bad feeling. But because you’re trying to get away from the fear of being selfish, you over do, and go back to the other extreme again.
That flipping from one side to the other keeps happening until you either realize it’s happening, or something comes along to completely knock you off track.
Take The Middle Path and Say No to Over-Pleasing
So let’s make now the time that you get hip to that old tired path. And free yourself both from the fear of being selfish and the desire to over-do.
Because there IS a middle path; one where you take care of yourself and your needs AND you are there for others. They’re not mutually exclusive. AND, we can really only effectively do for others what we can do for ourselves. If you treat others with care but don’t do the same for yourself, you’ll run out of gas, mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. If you give everything to your kids, friends, family, or work, and don’t do for yourself, you’ll start to resent them. And that’s when those fears of being a bad person creep in “Why do I feel like I hate these people or this job that are so important to me?”
When you find that middle way, you know how to find that balance of being there for others and taking good care of yourself. That balance may be a little different for everyone, and change some at different times in your life. But there is a balance point that works for you, and I hope the episodes this week will help you find it.
Getting Over Over-Pleasing Week
Tomorrow we’ll be taking a one-day break from saying “I’m sorry”. Wednesday I’m interviewing the fabulous coach Lisa Cherney from Get Effing Real about how to get over the fear of being selfish. Thursday, I’m sharing the one thing you should remind yourself of whenever you’re tempted to over-do for someone else. And Friday, I’m declaring a new national holiday which should help relieve a lot of guilt. It’s International Unreturned Message Forgiveness Day. So you can stop feeling like a bad person for all those emails, texts, DMs, and voicemails that slipped right through your cracks. I find that relieving guilt is very freeing and can help get you off whatever tired old path you may be on. And sometimes, we have to do something that seems unfathomable to really see how much it’s discomfort it’s causing.