Are you a people pleaser? Do you crave attention and affirmation from others? Are you too sensitive to criticism and rejection? Does the fear of what other people will think stop you from doing what you love, ask for what you need, or say “No!” when you don’t want to do something?
It’s natural to want to be liked, and being polite and cooperative can help you in many ways (“you catch more bees with honey” as the saying goes). But the problem starts when this need for affirmation actually holds you back—and makes you resentful, insecure, and emotionally dependent on others. Here’s how to end affirmation addiction.
Look at patterns
People pleasers often become so sensitive to what other people feel, that they tune out what they feel. This pattern is often set in childhood. Maybe parents were emotionally detached and aloof, and they felt neglected or ignored. Or (because of cultural reasons) they were taught to put others first. This very often happens to women, who are told to be “nurturers” or saw their own mothers stand in the shadows of their fathers.
If this is what happened to you, write a letter to your inner child. Tell him or her that “It’s okay to feel what you feel” and address the hurts of being ignored. Tell him or her everything you did not hear then—and then let go. “It’s over now. You can change your life. We can break the pattern.”
Be attuned to your feelings
After a lifetime of ignoring your feelings, or distracting yourself from them, it can be hard to recognize resentment, frustration, discomfort. That’s why many people pleasers have problems saying no—they don’t realize that they don’t want something until it’s too late to back out. Try to become more attuned to your needs and reactions. Keep a diary. And when you start worrying about what others think, consciously start asking yourself what you think…and what you feel. “Why does this matter so much to me?” or “What am I afraid of?” or “Why does this person have this effect on me?”
Practice saying no
It’s one of the simplest, but also the hardest words to say. Say it aloud when you’re alone. Verbalize it to yourself in simple and non-threatening situations. “No, I don’t want to eat that.” Or, “No, I don’t feel like wearing that dress today.” Then work your way up to bigger choices—and saying No to other people. “No, I can’t attend your party this weekend.” Or, “No, I can’t take the assignment.”
Stop before saying yes
Consciously delay agreeing to a request, or accepting a task. Give yourself time to think things over. You can say, “Can I check my schedule? I’ll get back to you.” Or, “Let me think that over. Give me till the end of the day.” Even if you do plan to say yes, the key is to teach yourself (and others!) to respect your time, needs and priorities. You may be interested…but you don’t always have to commit right away.
Do something for yourself
Give yourself small treats. A good book, a favorite perfume, a good movie—these are all inexpensive ways to de-stress and reward yourself for all that you do. The key is to stop depending on other people to make you feel good. You don’t need their approval, or their permission, to enjoy something that makes you happy.
Photo from blogs.adelaidecitycouncil.com