Being Human Part 2: Saying Goodbye To ‘People-Pleasing’

This is a follow up to Loving Pinocchio 

I am currently aged 37, and from the age of 6, I began to ‘people please’. This all began because of my experience with the headmistress (she told me that I had embarrassed the whole school because I did not put my flowers in the correct place in a school production). People pleasing has been a way of life for me, not an easy way of life might I add, a painful way of life and mainly because no matter how many times you try to please people you can’t please everyone and neither should you try.

People pleasing involves seeking the approval of others. Sometimes it’s a generous thing. You may be simply boosting someone’s spirits if they are feeling down. In this sense it is more a social encouragement than the general meaning of ‘people pleasing’. The other type of ‘people pleasing’ erodes the self esteem, until you get to the point where you no longer know who you are, what your own opinions and thoughts genuinely are, and your real self gets hidden behind a mask.

I am at a place in my life where I am taking off the mask of my people-pleasing ways. And one thing I realise is, why I people pleased in the first place – to avoid conflict, to avoid the feelings that can come from the ego when people disagree or argue against your experience of reality. Or even more so, you interpret any criticism to not be a critique of what you say or do, but criticism of who you are as a human being. To a people pleaser, to step outside what people have always seen you as, is not easygoing in the beginning. It takes a period of adjustment where you toughen up, and regardless of whether people agree or do not agree, you are then prepared to face the response of reactions of others to who you really are. And in so doing face your own judgements about yourself and others.

Over a year ago I posted a video on you tube about a topic I felt strongly about. It was extremely scary to post because it went against the popular opinion within spiritual circles about a metaphysical teacher and their teachings. As a result of posting the video I received my first backlash of people disagreeing with me. In total, over 200 people disagreed with me, and some of those actually personally criticising not just what I said, but who I was as a person. This was a tough one for me after spending years of ‘trying’ to please people. I had only come across a few times where conflict like this had happened, because people pleasing can tend to make you invisible because you’re wearing a mask that mostly others relate to, the mask you think they would like to see you in. When you remove that mask and express an opposing view or experience, things do and will change.

Removing The Zip From My Mouth

black woman covering mouth 

This blog has always been about questioning and self expression – as a vehicle for me to share the real me, the inner thoughts, feelings, passionate opinions and experiences and any intuitive writing that comes through me, but now in 2013, I am beginning to step more out of my comfort zone. I am now prepared to be myself. This means sometimes experiencing conflicting views; sometimes difficult and challenging questions; sometimes going against the grain of popular thought and opinion. This is a place where I question and question and reflect. And like television, people can respond, react or switch the channel if they wish, but my responsibility is now to be me.

My good friend and teacher Michael has repeatedly told me that people will either love you, hate you, or be indifferent, and that you cannot please everyone. I had heard this from him over the past 10 years, but it has not begun to sink in until now. After experiencing people disagreeing with me and my self expression on ‘You Tube’, this blog and other places on-line, I now realise that  it’s important that I keep going; it is important I keep sharing; it is important I keep being me, regardless of what anyone thinks or believes about what I say or do.

I was thinking about the way I write, and the way I speak, and yes, I could go back to being more fluffy; more gentle with the way I express myself. I could take into account every reader’s viewpoints or experiences or opinions of what I am saying, BUT I would still not be able to please everyone. I could dress words up in a cookie dough and candy-floss and soft charming language and still one person out there may take offence, so what is a gal to do? Nothing. I must continue being me, and most importantly I must allow myself to be challenged. 

Receiving Criticism or Conflicting Opinions

One of the reasons I was a people pleaser was that I had low self-worth. I was not strong enough at the time to be able to be myself. Because of past programming I believed that who I was was not worthy or good enough, and so I created a sense of myself based on the expectations of all the people around me and what I thought they expected from me. I became a shadow of my real self because of this, and I wondered why I felt invisible. I wondered why no-one took what I had to say seriously. People continuously misunderstood what I was saying, because I was sending out totally conflicting vibes.
Now, as I step out of my comfort zone; as I allow my voice to become stronger; to not be afraid to share my different opinions, beliefs and experiences, I am receiving criticism, and this is a good thing. If everyone agreed, this world would be a very dull place. If people didn’t question or offer a strength of opinion or belief nothing would change in the world.

How To Communicate – What Is The Best Way?

I used to think there was a better way to communicate – calm, peaceful and amicable. And maybe this is the best way, but I now even question this. Surely how we communicate as individuals is the best way, however that is? Who wrote the rules on how we should communicate? If I always tried to communicate like a Zen master, all wise with a grey beard, cross-legged, I would not be communicating Kelly. I would be communicating what I felt was the best way to communicate.
Now, some days I feel Zen-like, peaceful and pleasant and amicable. And some days I feel fiesty, ferocious, strong, confident. And some days I feel insecure, vulnerable, shaky. There is not a one-size-fits-all when communicating.
For example, the character of Phoebe from the hit US series ‘Friends’. Phoebe is Phoebe. When she is happy she communicates happy; when she is angry she communicates that anger, in her own Phoebe way. And because she is being thoroughly authentic, people take her as she is. I am not sure if many people can be that way in life, I am not entirely sure I can. I would like to be, but it just goes to show that there is not one way to communicate who we are. It is utterly unique to our personal experience.
So what is the best way to communicate? The best way is to be you. And this you comes through you as you begin to drop the masks; begin to find your own sense of balance within; when you begin to make peace with your inner world. As you do this, the real you comes out naturally, no need to second guess, or please anyone.
Is this going to be easy? I don’t think so. It has been a long time coming for me.
How do you feel about your own communication?
Have you ever people-pleased?
How do you feel about conflict and disagreement?

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Kelly Martin
Kelly Martin

Kelly Martin, author of ‘When Everyone Shines But You’ is a dedicated writer and blogger who fearlessly explores life’s deepest questions. Faced with a decade of profound anxiety and grief following the loss of her father and her best friend Michael, Kelly embarked on a transformative journey guided by mindfulness, and she hasn’t looked back since. Through her insightful writing, engaging podcasts, and inspiring You Tube channel Kelly empowers others to unearth the hidden treasures within their pain, embracing the profound truth that they are ‘enough’ exactly as they are.

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  1. October 7, 2013 / 9:00 pm

    Well done you 🙂 Am proud of you for starting to speak your truth as I know it's not easy when you've been a people pleaser for too long. In answer to your questions:
    1) I feel my written communication is good but my verbal communication is not so good. I guess I find it intimidating when people don't let me have what I want and I back down too easily.
    2) Yes. More than once.
    3) Difficult subject for me, one that I've avoided probably my entire life. I get easily upset by it and take it personally. I don't like this part of me. It's something I will need to properly face I would imagine 🙂

  2. October 8, 2013 / 9:53 am

    Thanks Andy, I understand it is an ongoing process. Avoiding conflict is a common thing, especialyl if you are not socially confident. Some people adore conflict and heated discussion I find it makes me shaky LOL

  3. October 8, 2013 / 5:00 pm

    Yeah, that is one thing I genuinely do not get. Maybe it's some people's way of getting their emotions off their chest, albeit not in a very productive way.

  4. October 9, 2013 / 5:46 pm

    Yes true. At least we are aware, this is the beginning.

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