This was one of those moments when I knew I still had a lot of work to do as a recovering people pleaser. If you are someone that always puts others needs before your own, you might recognise the following story.
I had gone into town to get a few bits and pieces. I had made a list and knew I had plenty of time.
On my list included looking for a new top for myself, a long sleeved one that would be long enough to cover my bottom when wearing leggings, but not something that would look just like a tent. It needed to be floaty, not baggy. I wasn’t at all sure that I would find anything suitable.
As I walked into town I thought how I really wanted some English apples too, the kind you can’t normally get from your local supermarket. Spartans, Egremont Russets or Worcester Pearmains. There is a real greengrocer in town and I was hopeful they might stock some gorgeous unusual apples.
Then I began to talk myself out of going to the greengrocers. I don’t need apples, we have some fruit at home. I would save time if I didn’t go to the greengrocers. I would save myself disappointment if they don’t have any of the lovely apples I am looking for.
Then I caught myself. Hang on, if I was going into town and my partner or my neighbour asked me to stop by the greengrocer for English apples, I would have said ‘Of course!’ and go to the greengrocer without a second thought. I would happily go for someone else, but not for myself... oh. As I realised this, my enthusiasm for the whole expedition waned, but I knew I had to change my behaviour and make myself just as important as anyone else.
So I went to the greengrocer. They didn’t have any exciting English apples on this occasion, although I know they sometimes do.
A bit deflated, I contemplated the rest of my shopping list. Of course I needed to get the toiletries and food, but did I really need to look for that new top?
I stopped. I was doing it again! I questioned myself whether if this was a search for a top for someone else, would I have hesitated? No. Wow, I managed to almost do the same thing after almost doing it only five minutes ago. What is it in my brain that trips that switch?
I felt annoyed with myself for almost falling into a familiar pattern again, but pleased that I have at least a new level of awareness so that sometimes I can pick myself up on it and adjust accordingly.
I thought about how I would feel if I went home without having looked either for the apples or the new top. I realised I would actually feel really sad. Terrible, actually. Although I would probably ignore that feeling and try to make myself feel better by declaring I had saved time and money on the shopping trip.
Time to create a new story.
I was determined to find a top. I braced myself for a long search and then promptly found three beautiful possibilities in the sales in the first shop I went into. I went with the flow and got all three. I like to think that the universe was rewarding me for a change in my behaviour.
I know what it’s like to struggle to change the script and consider your own needs as well as those of others. Coaching helps clients change those scripts, opening up new ways of being so they can have more fulfilling lives and relationships. I haven’t got it all figured out, but I am some way on my journey and can say I have more peace, better relationships and stand in my power so much more than ever before.
I am running support groups in London and Surrey for women who want to live free of the tyranny of people pleasing. See https://www.meetup.com/London-Recovering-People-Pleasers-Meetup-women-only/ and https://www.meetup.com/Surrey-Recovering-People-Pleasers-Meetup-women-only/ for more details.
I also run a Facebook group for recovering people pleasers: https://m.facebook.com/groups/2306796212899957
An edited version of this article was first published on the Life Coach Directory
Thanks for reading. If you have any challenges around changing old patterns or people pleasing that you would like some support with, let’s have a chat about how I can help. I offer a free, no obligation, introductory session where you can experience my coaching firsthand.