Breaking Free From People–Pleasing

Choosing the Art of Authentic Connection

Photo by Aditya Saxena on Unsplash

At face value, people–pleasing may not sound like a problem.

There are times we may choose to do something nice for someone out of genuine appreciation or love.

Not a problem.

But sometimes we do it in order to gain something in return and that is a problem.

People pleasing goes deeper than just wanting to be loving and supportive towards someone else. The line gets crossed when we focus on another person’s wants and needs because we’re hoping to get back something in return, usually a sense of belonging, validation, stability, or even lovability.

Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work like that.

The truth is that no one can give us something that we are unable to give ourselves. If we lack the inherent belief that we’re worthy of love, acceptance, or belonging then those feelings will never stick, no matter how often someone else tries to provide them for us.

The results we create when we’re stuck in a people-pleasing loop are:

  • We relinquish control of our feelings to someone else (“If I can make them happy then I’ll feel better about myself”)
  • Our motives in the relationship become disingenuous
  • We have to become chameleons, constantly changing who we are to ‘fit’ someone else’s mood, temperament, or personality
  • We will never get to know who we are, or who we can become

What is Connection?

I think of having a connection with someone as “finding their humanness”, or a common ground. 

It’s appreciating them for who they are, and the story of their life that brought them to where they are today, just as our story has brought us here.

It’s seeing ourselves and them as individuals, each with our own set of thoughts, wants, and feelings based on life experiences, then comparing and contrasting them. It’s an equal give and take where both people benefit from the relationship, vs people–pleasing where we’re just trying to fit into some mold of who we think we need to be in order for someone else to like us.

Focusing on creating a connection with someone, instead of trying to please them, also takes away our pressure to perform. We no longer have to change who we are with every social interaction, we get to take control of our own feelings, INDEPENDENT of how another person acts, or what they say or do.

But People–Pleasing Is All I Know

Here’s the biggest reason a lot of us are afraid to stop people–pleasing: 

It means letting go of familiar behavior patterns and facing our feelings of insecurity and not–enoughness. 

When we present our people–pleasing self to someone, and we don’t get the reaction we were hoping for, it’s not like they’re rejecting us personally because we’re not showing them the real us. The real us gets to hide behind a persona. The pretend us will simply pivot and figure out a different way to please.

So just like finding a connection with someone else means getting to understand their humanness and life story, we also need to get curious (with compassion) about understanding OUR life story, who we are, and how we got here.

We all have a past that has shaped who we are now, but that doesn’t mean we’re incapable of change, or that our past has to define us.

If you’re like me you might feel like you have no idea who you are because you’ve spent most of your life trying to become who you need to be for others…including parents, bosses, partners, even kids. You’ve probably spent almost no time discovering who you are.

It’s why we feel so lost and panicked when our kids grow up and move out, or when we lose a loved one. 

We don’t know what we want.

We don’t know how to act.

We don’t know who to be.

And, sadly, some people never figure out how to – well – figure it out.

They never learn how to help themselves.

In order to discover who we are we need to learn how to be with ourselves.

It means being alone with our thoughts, our feelings, and our emotions.

You Are Here

In case no one has given you permission before, let me be the first: It’s okay to feel alone. It’s okay to feel scared. It’s okay to feel confused. It’s not only okay it’s downright human.

What’s NOT okay is for us to beat ourselves up for feeling any of these things.

We can never move forward until we consciously decide to stop shaming ourselves for feeling ANY emotion.

We’re humans, we’re wired to feel emotions. 

Feeling our emotions, the good and bad, is the only way to have an amazing life!

The fact is that all the feelings you’re trying to avoid, you’ve probably already felt before at some point in your life. 

And you’ve survived.

You will feel these emotions again, and you will survive them.

Emotions are simply vibrations we feel in our bodies, they cannot hurt us.

Only our reactions to them can.

Constantly trying to obtain what we need from other people, instead of providing it for ourselves, deprives us of the opportunity to connect to ourselves. To understand what we need, what we like, what we don’t like, and who we are

We owe it to ourselves to find out.

And we owe the other people in our life the opportunity to get to know – and enjoy – who we really are, instead of trying to be the person we think they want us to be.

So take the time.

Make the effort.

Get to know yourself so you can begin to truly connect to others, instead of people–pleasing


Discover What’s Possible.

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