the disease of people pleasing

Where do I even begin writing about my life changes since meeting up with my dear friend Alexandra Marlene a few months ago?

Alexandra is a true conduit for the Divine Feminine. I have no doubt she is here to lovingly and ferociously shake up humanity in delivering a message the world is ready to hear NOW. She and I initially met on a yoga retreat to India a few years ago, and reconnected last November. Through her presence and friendship, I’ve been able to access deep parts of myself…belief systems so ingrained that I couldn’t see how they were running my life. It has been a profoundly healing and transformative ride.

For one thing, I never really understood how I was a people pleaser, till I took up a recent contract job with my previous employer. The workplace dynamics of hierarchy and subservience that I observed were an assault to my senses. One colleague’s overly servile behaviour particularly irked me. This is pathetic, I thought. We’re still just a bunch of secretaries running around, kowtowing to the (male) powers that be. What the hell am I doing here?!

ppl pleasing

One of Alexandra’s core teachings is as within, so without: everything in our outer world is simply a mirror to what’s happening within. And so it didn’t take long to discover that the people pleasing I perceived triggered me because I was identifying with it.

I’m now seeing my people pleasing tendencies everywhere. In my impulses to stick in smiley faces and exclamation points on work emails, so as to not sound bossy or unpleasant. In the habit of justifying or explaining myself when I think I’m disappointing someone. In my deferential behaviour towards those in ‘authority’. Even on this blog! It’s a habitual way of being, and it’s fascinating to see how it’s permeated my life.

Why do so many women people please? (Because let’s face it, this seems to be a woman thing.) After much inner excavation, I know where my own inclinations come from. And I have compassion for the little girl who desperately wanted to be liked and accepted, and who felt responsible for the well-being of those around her. For her, being ‘nice’ – compromising herself – was the only option. Disapproval = rejection = abandonment. Major fear. Survival.

But what about the woman she is now? Does she need to carry all that around? Is it serving her to pretend? Can she finally stop feeling so responsible for others? Does she get that she never had that kind of power to begin with?

And how ‘nice’ is she really being, if she’s pretending? Does inauthenticity, in any form, serve anyone?

There’s nothing wrong with nice, if it’s coming from an authentic place. It’s a problem when we get that icky feeling within…when we know we’re not acting in integrity with how we truly feel. Some of us have been doing it so long we don’t even know how we truly feel in the first place!

We get used to betraying ourselves. It becomes so normal we don’t even realize it’s happening. And then we wonder why we’re so depleted and resentful.

I judged my co-workers, because what I observed in them activated the severe discomfort of my own self-betrayal. People pleasing now feels like a hazy film that’s coated all my relationships. What could life look like with this film removed? How will I show up?

Will I become selfish, as the ego warns? Probably – but in the most beautiful way. Loving of self…none of my energy bound up in pretending…free to give even more of my real self back to those around me. Not threatened when others are their true selves too. Authentic, self-expressed, clear…yes.

It’s time for the people pleasing to stop. It’s time for self-compassion as we understand what created it. As long as we fear what others think of us, we will always play small and suppress our real power. The energies are here to support a new way of being. I believe we are ready to rise to the occasion.

49 thoughts on “the disease of people pleasing

  1. Pingback: a letter to my friends (speaking my truth part 2) | alohaleya

  2. We deserve and owe it to ourselves to treat ourselves to as much time and effort as we give others – if not more. And we need to stop identifying that as selfish. It’s not. Self-care is smart, and it’s the thing that allows us to give back when needed. Nice post, I liked the tone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Absolutely. Without self-care (whatever that means for each of us) we become depleted and resentful – there’s nothing left to give. What does giving from true self-love look like? I’m eager to discover. 😉 Thank you Jay, for reading and commenting! Aleya

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  3. Love this, Aleya. Took real courage to face the mirror. In people-pleasing, we worship others as well as our fragile ego. I wonder if the loose boundaries in your relationships are in fact the same ones that were too loose to anchor you financially (before it hit the fan and you set out to remedy that). Because you’d begun to heal from the $ devastation as you started to mend your relationships.

    “As long as we fear what others think of us, we will always play small and suppress our real power.”

    Excellent.

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  4. Hi Aleya,
    This is definitely a jewel of a blog post! “There’s nothing wrong with nice, if it’s coming from an authentic place. It’s a problem when we get that icky feeling within…when we know we’re not acting in integrity with how we truly feel. Some of us have been doing it so long we don’t even know how we truly feel in the first place!” It’s true that sometimes we don’t even know what how we truly feel in the first place – or even if we are people pleasing based on what we think we ought to or “should” do based on history/culture/gender norms and… a whole host of other reasons that “shoulds” come up. Sometimes people don’t even have the “demands” we think they may have…
    Thanks for your post,
    Ka

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ka! I stopped using the word ‘should’ a long time ago but it’s taken a bit longer to eliminate it from my consciousness – hah! it really is like waking up from a dream to notice how conditioned we are by cultural, gender etc. norms. I’m questioning what I really want down to the most mundane details…the more I notice it, the more I notice it!! Thank you – have a beautiful Earth Day! Aleya

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  5. Thank you for sharing Aleya. Beautifully honest and beautifully stated. The sentence “As long as we fear what others think of us, we will always play small and suppress our real power.” particularly resonated. Thank you for always providing me with something that provokes thought!

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  6. “Oh I need to get accepted, oh I need to be appreciated, oh I so badly need to be loved, oh I so so badly need to say Yes or else I’ll be shunned and disliked, no, no, I cannot not say yes, otherwise I’ll be left alone” – this was me and still am in certain situations. And I’m a male so its definitely not just a woman thing. OK yes in this patriarchal world, woman might be compelled to do it more but that’s because men are morons 😜 (see I put a smiley as not to come across as blunt)

    Lovely honest post BTW x x

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    • Hah I love the bluntness! Yeah I have the sense that it’s not just women doing this, but it seems a lot less obvious in men. I’m really glad that some men have the self-awareness to voice this and acknowledge the patriarchy operating here – we all need to step up to create a new way of being where we’re more authentic and empowered. Or maybe this is more about remembering. 😉 Thanks so much for commenting, Aleya

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  7. Great self-observation work Aleya. In “Writing Down the Bones” a writing text by Natalie Goldberg, she says that women put qualifiers in their writing, second guessing themselves and not being definitive. After reading that I started to catch it in my writing all the time when I did I would rephrase it into a statement with commitment or I just didn’t say it. No perhaps, maybe, probably……

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  8. I love the line, “Not threatened when others are their true selves too.” Very insightful.
    I have been going through a lot with needing to put myself first lately and not making every decision based on how it would work best for others or make others happy. It’s not easy to let go of those, I think, considerate thoughts because being considerate is so imperative. But, when who you are being considerate of could absolutely care less about your needs and by thinking of theirs you go against your own – then that needs to stop. I’m trying to find that balance.
    Thanks for the post. : )

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    • I agree it’s not easy to let go of being considerate. I want to be mindful of and kind to others. But it gets so tangled up in the people pleasing…it’s period of transition now, where we’re picking it all apart and feeling what is most appropriate for us. And others will adjust, because they have to! 😉 These ways of compromising ourselves go back generations and generations, we need to take all the time we need to find that balance. Much love to you and thank you so much for commenting. ❤ Aleya

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  9. Another touching post Aleya. I’m definitely a people pleaser and I can see how it isn’t a good thing but yet have no idea how to stop. Some behaviours are so deeply ingrained it’s hard to imagine life without them.

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    • I totally get it Marguerite. I feel the same way – ‘who am I to change the game now?’ I think just being aware of the people pleasing tendency within ourselves, and watching it play out in our lives, is very transformative in itself. I feel it’s like waking up from a dream. You are such a lovely person and I miss you! Thanks for reading. ❤ Aleya

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  10. That’s funny… I always have my smiley face and exclamation marks with a heart not a dot even!

    But that’s just how I am. I am more than always smiling (or spaced out lol) and I have a very hyper personality. So I really never thought of it as pleasing anyone… Now you’re making me think lol!

    Miss you =)
    xo

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    • Haha…I know!! That’s the thing, I do love me hearts and smiley faces! I plan to keep those, it’s just in certain situations they will be used more sparingly. 🙂 Thanks for commenting, I hope to be back more regularly but who knows…I can’t predict anything these days… ❤ xo

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      • Trying to be here more has become stressful for me haha – trying to put words from the haze. I feel the hamster is spinning in another wheel. And I’ve been exhausted lately doing more practices than I ever had. In the city even! So that’s two hours of driving back and forth. I know… it seems crazy. People have said so… but we don’t do what we do to please them right? My heart is happy nursing my tired body haha! xoxo

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  11. Thank you for sharing this. I am definitely guilty of people pleasing still -maybe not so much in the bigger ways but in small subtle ways that are just as dishonoring. One more way patriarchy has taught women to compress themselves into smallness–and all the more reason to stop. Your words are a call to action I definitely needed to hear to day so thank you, Aleya.

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    • You’re very welcome, Diahann. My image of the people pleaser was one who couldn’t say ‘no’ to anything – a problem I didn’t think I had. Now I see how systemic people pleasing is and how it crawls into so many spaces of my life. It triggers so much fear, and this is what’s so paralyzing – or has been. For me it’s seeing every interaction with brand new eyes and not forcing myself to act differently – but just noticing what’s going on. Thank you so much for commenting. ❤ Aleya

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    • Thanks Lew. I was hoping to get some male perspective on this one as I know some men can relate too. This is really about hearing, trusting, and finding our inner guidance in the midst of all those other voices out there. Aleya

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  12. Great post! Yes, these things must be looked at. Sometimes ego can come as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Grat discernment is needed to find out whether a behavior is based on love or on fear.

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    • Yup the ego is certainly slippery. For me the people pleasing shows up in the most mundane circumstances, and fast. It’s such a conditioned way of being for so many of us. I think that only through reconnecting with our own inner guidance will its grip lessen. Not that the ego’s going anywhere, but maybe it makes its appearance less often. 😉 Thank you Karin! Aleya

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  13. “How long will you waver daughter? For the LORD has created a new thing on the earth: a woman protects (compasses) a man” Jeremiah 31:22
    Happy Resurrection Day! 🙂 (added the ! and 🙂 for you; not to please you but please me! 🙂 )

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  14. High five sister! I’ve been working with this one a while and have got better and better at speaking my truth (although it’s still difficult and not putting over people’s feelings before my own – that’s major)- The world being a mirror, that’s right up there for me at the moment – ouch! uncomfortable but useful knowledge to have 🙂 glad to read your words again xxxx lots of love xxx

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    • Sophie! How are you? Great to hear from you. Yes, what you describe is major because we’re transforming an ancient way of being – not an easy task but I know we’re up for it. 😉 Looking forward to catching up with your words…xo Aleya

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