One of the most important lessons that I learned about myself during my cancer journey was that I had become a people-pleaser. I hadn’t always been that way. But, over the course of my adult life, I had taken on the responsibility of making sure everyone around me was happy.
I had become a Chief People-Pleaser!
But, to my defense, helping others meant I was a good person, right? Weren’t we taught to help others first? Isn’t it better to give than receive?
Yes, all these things are true, but where I broke down was in the level of giving. I had gone overboard. I had sacrificed my own wellbeing for the happiness of others. If they were happy, I was happy. If they weren’t, it was my self-imposed responsibility to figure out why and remedy the situation.
That was a recipe for failure. I had become a people-pleaser to the detriment of my own wellbeing, and it was time to say No.
Don’t get me wrong. Making other people happy isn’t a bad thing.
People-pleasers have great hearts, and often focus first on nourishing other people, but the breakdown occurs when they don’t nourish themselves. Remember what the flight attendant tells you every time you board a plane, “put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others.” They know what they’re talking about, we need our own oxygen first. When we try to help others without being supportive of ourselves, we all end up running out of oxygen.
Now, as I recovered from cancer, it became crystal clear that I needed to stop being a people-pleaser. I had to recognize that I was not responsible for the emotions of others. They were in charge of their own emotions, and I was in charge of mine. Only mine.
In some ways, coming to this realization was very freeing for me. It wasn’t easy, but it was freeing. I felt a load lifted from my shoulders that I did not have to carry this heavy burden any longer. I was only responsible for my feelings and my happiness.
As women, we have a strong tendency toward pleasing others. It is how we are wired. But, for the good of our own wellbeing, both emotionally and physically, we must always check the temperature on our “people-pleasing gauge” and make sure it is within a reasonable range.
So, from this day forward, ask yourself two important questions:
- “What do I need?”
- “What do I want?”
For example, you ask yourself, "What do I want?", and you realize you are craving to do some stretching and yoga. But the kids are around, and they want you to spend time with them. So, you all do yoga in the living room. That is a great example of not sacrificing your needs, but still meeting the needs of others.
Raising self-awareness is the beginning of all growth.
Breaking the habit of people-pleasing can be difficult because the mindset is so convenient. Going along with others avoids conflict, decreases the risk of rejection, and we don’t have to spend the time and energy to advocate for ourselves and what we want. We never rock the boat, and there is an illusion that everything is in perfect harmony.
Perfect harmony is just an illusion. It’s a mirage that doesn’t really exist.
So, I hope you will learn from my mistakes. Check the temperature on your “people-pleasing gauge” on a daily basis and make sure you are focusing on yourself first. It’s for your own good and for the good of those you love.
Kindness is only kindness if you are also kind to yourself.
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