Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner. ~ Lao Tzu
The disease to please is very common, especially among women and even more so among those who suffer from low self-esteem. While the need for acceptance or belonging is a normal human need, it is also true that acceptance begins with the acceptance of the self, first.
The need to please everyone or be a “people pleaser” stems from a lack of self-love and self-acceptance that causes us to try to get what we need from other people instead of giving it to ourselves.
But when you spend your life trying to please others, you are essentially giving your power away and making them responsible for your happiness.
When you act like a “people-pleaser”, you give up your own needs, ignore your own inner voice and give up your self-respect and dignity to make others happy.
In doing that you are not doing anyone a favour. Instead, you invite people to treat you with disrespect and to exploit you.
Your unhappiness stems not from the fact that others are taking you for granted or treating you badly, but because, in working to gain their approval, you are treating yourself badly.
It is our own lack of self-worth and self-esteem that causes us to seek approval from sources outside of ourselves. In our efforts to keep everyone else happy, we end up doing too much and catering to everyone’s whims.
We continue to feel unappreciated and our feelings of resentment get stronger and stronger until we can no longer ignore them. When we do things to garner approval from others and don’t get the approval we seek, we end up resentful, burn out physically and emotionally and collapse from exhaustion or depression.
It’s not easy to give up approval seeking behaviour when your self-acceptance and self-esteem are practically non-existent. The cure for this is to focus on building your sense of self-worth and realizing that you are worthy of love and acceptance just for being you.
Your sense of self-worth will then becomes so strong that even another person’s disapproval will not shake the belief that you are deserving of love and affection, for the only reason that you exist.
Take note of your motives when you offer to do something for someone else. Are you doing it because you expect something (love, affection, acceptance) in return, or without any expectations of them reciprocating your caring?
Are you acting from a place of fullness and love or from a place of lack and wanting? If you’ve made people pleasing and caretaking others a habit, it will be hard to change unless you remain ever vigilant of your actions and motives.
You can get out of people-pleasing mode by starting to allow your family and friends to do things for themselves. From folding their own clothes and putting them away to helping out in the kitchen, get your family to chip in and support you in taking care of yourself.
You are not doing your kids and husband a favour by doing everything for them. Instead, you are making them dependent on you, for the wrong reasons.
Allow them to take over their own chores and start taking care of yourself for a change. You can grow your self-esteem and self-worth by doing good things for yourself.
Practice extreme self-care and stop doing everything for others, especially when you realize that you are doing them for unhealthy reasons. When you take loving action on your own behalf, you will have more faith in your ability to do what is right for yourself and your sense of self-esteem will increase.
Take small actions every day to nurture yourself. Cultivate positive self-talk and do not be critical with yourself. Over a period of time your beliefs will change and you will be able to resist the unhealthy lure of approval seeking behavior.
This is an excerpt from the book, “From Doormat to Devi: 10 Steps To Stop Overfunctioning In Relationships And Take Your Life Back” by Priya Florence Shah.
© Priya Florence Shah