For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to make other people happy…sometimes to the point of leaving myself feeling quite the opposite — depleted, bummed, or stressed out. For years, I would spread myself thin just to make sure others were content, comfortable, and able to get the exact thing/result/answer they were looking for. (If you’re a people-pleaser, this is probably making a lot of sense to you right now.)
To be quite frank, being that kind of people-pleasing person was exhausting. I would often catch myself wishing I had set better boundaries or said how I really felt about a situation instead of worrying about disappointing someone. Often wishing I had said “no” or “let me get back to you” instead of “yes” or “just say when.”
When I started analyzing my people-pleasing tendencies in my early 30s, I could see how I was getting caught up in a cycle of over-functioning and self-sacrificing. My personal and emotional boundaries were getting blurry. My own needs were not being met.
Back in 2019, I was working a fun (but extremely busy and demanding) 9-5 job in LA’s entertainment industry. It really was my dream job, but it also meant I didn’t have the work/life balance that I have and deeply appreciate now. For many years, my corporate role also involved night and weekend work. I felt like I was running a mile a minute, making sure every request, need, or want from others was being met.
Something needed to change. I needed a better balance, and
I needed to take the reigns.
I can confidently say that becoming a mother in 2019 helped shift things for me the most (like it does in so many other aspects of a mother’s life). It was honestly the reality check I needed in learning how to put myself first and listen to my inner voice.
“I’m a huge people-pleaser, but I want to stop. Where do I start?” Soooo glad you asked.
Here are some things I recommend trying out:
Figure out your likes and dislikes
Your musts and non-negotiables. Is putting your kids to sleep every night a non-negotiable? Do you prefer throwing small get-togethers over huge parties for your toddler? Do you dislike making early weekend plans because you crave some extra rest?
Determine what your personal needs are and make them unbreakable
Take a Resentment Inventory. I got this one from the “Boundary Boss”, psychotherapist and author herself — Terri Cole. If you aren’t familiar with her work on boundaries, I highly recommend checking her out if setting limits in your life feels hard.
Start by answering these questions:
- What’s bugging you right now?
- Who are you upset with?
- What feels frustrating?
- Is there anything you’re feeling resentful about?
- Where do you feel unseen, unheard, or hurt?
Decide when you’ll start and end work each day
If you are a working mom it is time to decide when you’ll start and end each workday. Of course, things pop up with any kind of job or boss, but can you stay true to your new time limits (ex. log on at 9 and log off at 5 — and the rest is tomorrow’s problem)? Give it a try!
Get clear and be vocal about your needs/wants/preferences
To everyone including your family, friends, and colleagues. It’s okay to have opinions. If you refrain from sharing your opinions loudly because you don’t want to cause waves with anyone, start small, and break your pattern with one person. It may be easier to just agree with people at the moment, but how does that feel after when you wish you would have expressed yourself differently?
Give space to your calendar
This one’s big for me and it works wonders! Does your calendar tend to fill up fast? SAME. Block specific days and/or times just for you and/or your own family time. Ideally, we love to keep one weekend day just for us four so we can reconnect, go out and do fun stuff with the kids and just chill. If you have to say no to other plans that day, then so be it.
You Got This. At the end of the day, we all want the same things out of life: “connection, truth, honesty, mutuality, and respect.” (Terri Cole) But before any of that, it all starts within. Moving away from people-pleasing takes discipline, practice, and some confidence. It won’t be easy, it won’t happen overnight, but you can do it. Heck, if I can….you can!
So, here’s to ditching the people-pleasing. To communicate our needs more clearly. To listen to our gut and allow ourselves to rest when we need it most. To speak clearly and loudly. To not worry about what others think. To putting ourselves first.