When I was younger, I had these friends who had a proclivity for making me the center of their harsh jokes.
The teasing was light at first, but one day it escalated. It was bad – like real bad. They did things that humiliated me, embarrassed me, made me feel small, and scarred me for a long time.
I wish I could say I stopped hanging out with them. But, I kept attending sleep overs, trusting them with private information, and letting them into my heart. They kept breaking it.
It was confusing.
Sometimes things would be great. We’d have fun, talk about dating, listen to music, play basketball, and enjoy our youth.
But, there were times that were just…heavy. Times where I should have walked away.
I didn’t have a lot of friends during those years. I was called a loser. I was the annoying kid. The teacher’s pet. The fat kid. The one of three Black kids in my grade at any given time. I was an outsider. It felt like a privilege to be part of something, even at the expense of my self-worth and dignity.
I think I held onto toxic relationships because I felt like I didn’t deserve better. I felt like better wasn’t coming. I took what I could get.
So many of us settle, compromise our values, and struggle to set healthy boundaries.
When was the last time you took on extra work just avoid confrontation?
When was the last time you agreed to meet up with someone, even though you knew you wanted to stay in bed and rest?
When was the last time you suppressed your beliefs and values, because you didn’t want to upset anyone?
Lock that moment in for a sec.
Did you like who you were in those moments? What were you protecting? What did it feel like afterwards?
It makes sense that we let somethings go. We learn to pick our battles. But, that’s not what I’m saying to you today. Today is about the danger letting things slide a little too much. The danger is us losing ourselves in someone else’s insecurity, myopia, or indifference.
It’s about our propensity to put ourselves last. It’s about looking at the mirror, and telling the person we see: “You don’t matter enough. You don’t deserve more.” OR “Give them whatever they want. Stay safe.”
My friend, you do matter. You deserve more. You get to take breaks, say NO to things, turn down invitations, speak up for yourself, break up, move away, move on.
But, it’s not always easy. Sometimes we’re in complicated situations.
Sometimes we feel like our jobs are on the line. Sometimes we’re worried we’ll lose friends, family members, and significant others if we choose ourselves. Sometimes it’s much worse and layered than that.
Your fears are valid. No one can judge your circumstances.
We have to do what makes sense for us. My hope is that we can move through our lives with the understanding that we have worth and we have value.
I’ll say that again.
You have worth and you have value.
- No one gets to walk all over you.
- No one gets to use you.
- No one gets to pile all their responsibilities onto you.
But, sometimes, it really feels like others get a free pass to do all these things.
A lot of us are out here struggling.
I reached out on Twitter and asked folks to share personal stories of people-pleasing. As you’ll see, our experiences are varied, but still connected. I wanted to show you that you’re not alone in this battle, by highlighting others who are figuring their way through life as well.
Here’s what was shared.
“[For me it’s] saying sorry to everything for absolutely no reason. It’s predominantly workplace related for me…because of my role as an Executive Assistant. Being the lowest man on the totem pole means you take a lot of the blame, so it’s almost become second nature to just apologize for things even though it may have nothing to do with me. Also, deep down, my teenage self wants to come out and cuss everyone out, but that will obviously not fly in a work environment, so I go in the complete opposite direction to ensure I stay in everyone’s good graces, which equates to job security.
“One of the hardest things for me when it comes to my need to please people/have people like me is getting over the fear of disappointment if I don’t live up to their expectations. I find myself saying “yes” to everything and putting others’ needs before my own until I’m worn thin and reach a breaking point. It’s an issue I’m aware of, but definitely struggling to work through.”
– Liz K. from St. Louis
“I struggle daily to find my voice because I don’t like confrontation. I’m not good at standing up for myself or making a good argument for what I believe in. I feel like everyone is smarter than me and I can’t find my words. I have BA and Master’s degrees. I’m just not equipped in being self advocating. Fear of looking foolish cripples me.”
“When I think of any form of people pleasing I can trace back the behavior, thinking pattern or emotions down to this core issues of mine. The first being abandonment which most often presents its self in a form of worry or fear for me. For others I’m sure its very individual and personal to them just as it is to me but it is “NOT” unique. Countless people before us and countless after us will experience many if not most of the things that come from our decisions to ‘people please’.”
– Kim D
“Twenty-nine years ago I joined 12-step recovery for a drug and alcohol problem. At the same time I attended meetings of CODA (Codependents Anonymous) because it was so clear that relationships were the heart of my issue. I know a lot of people call it “people pleasing,” but I don’t, because my biggest and most life-changing observation is that no one ever seems to end up genuinely pleased. The other thing I learned is that I really wanted to love and care for myself. But, somehow blocked inside from doing that, I loved and cared for others to an extreme degree, hoping they would return the same. But it was not unconditional love, and I think that shone through. I’m not for a moment suggesting I have completely conquered the issue, but I do care for myself directly, which means I can usually be giving to others without any strings or expectations. And that’s a great start.”
– Catherine Ryan Hyde
“People pleasing always comes back to self seeking behavior. If I’m always saying yes, it’s not just about me having the inability to say how I really feel. But, it comes down to me wanting this person to think I’m a ‘good guy’ or at my job they’ll think i’m the best employee. Like, it’s self centered because if I can’t say no I’m saying yes In hopes of people putting me on a pedestal. Most of the time it’s subconsciously too. It’s taken real dissecting of thoughts and behavior to see that the majority of the time. Deep down I don’t want to do what I’m saying yes to- when I’m people pleasing.”
– Taylor G.
We can find ourselves saying yes to everything, because we fear the consequences of saying no. Let’s not forget that we get to set boundaries, and if someone doesn’t respect that, they’re not healthy for us.
We can really spend our entire lives waiting for the approval of people who might never give us the “Good job!” or the “Well done!” we want from them. Let’s not forget the people who already love and accept us without having to do anything spectacular.
We can spend our time giving all of ourselves to people who don’t deserve us. Let’s not forget that we get to enjoy life too, and it’s okay to be selfish and practice self-care.
I want you to know that this is a journey. I still struggle to speak up at times, distance myself from toxic relationships, and turn down things I know I don’t want to do. But, I’m learning and growing. So are you.
If you identify with anything in today’s message, there’s no shame in that. You know your story. You know what you have to deal with everyday.
I hope you get to reclaim some of your time, peace, and life.
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