I am a people pleaser.
There, I said it. Out loud. Because it’s true and I’m tired of dodging my people-pleasing nature like its some strange disease that needs to be eradicated. Why has the desire for people to generally like and accept us become a sign of weakness? Isn’t the complete lack of care for what others think about us actually worse? If you had to err on one side or the other, I kind of feel like it’d be a no brainer.
Just the other day, I was scrolling through Facebook and I counted at least 3 posts by ‘friends’ that encouraged me to completely ignore my people-pleasing tendencies. Well, ok, not me specifically (though my paranoid side wondered if it was pointed at me, but that’s another post). This, for instance:
However, here’s the kicker, even as I type these words, even on top of my soapbox all riled up against the bad rap of the people-pleasing community, small shreds of shame and doubt slowly ooze their way in. And I wonder …
Maybe I’m alone in my Penelope people-pleasing ways.
Maybe I’m too new to being a Penelope contributor to be this upfront with a deep, personal struggle.
Maybe … I should stop writing and re-evaluate my topic of choice.
In its most boiled-down form, the real problem with constantly wanting to please someone else is that it leaves so little room for us to do things that actually please or care for ourselves. And the ultimate effect of that played out a million times over is bitterness. And, man, I do not want to be bitter.
So then, how do I accept my people-pleasing tendencies (because they aren’t going away fully, not for me, not in this lifetime) and avoid becoming that bitter woman whose gripped by fear of rejection?
I use permission slips. Kind of like the ones we got in grade school. Yep, that’s my trick and, for the most part, its working for me.
Instead of desiring to please everyone, everywhere, all the time, I’ve hand-selected those people whose voices are meaningful in my life and whose relationships are vitally important to my core. These are the people that I’m invested in and who, likewise, are invested in me. They are a small few who fill my life with unconditional love, support, acceptance, encouragement.
And when I’m wrestling with choice, or action, or doubt, I ask them for help.
Here’s my permission slip process in action:
It may seem like a simple little exchange but, for me, it’s powerful. It stops me in my people-pleasing tracks and allows me to focus on what I really want or need in the moment. In the exact minute where I’m most tempted to give in, I find strength. And often, that’s all it takes for me to step back and re-evaluate with a little more emotional space.
Here’s what you can do to try this strategy:
- Identify the people in your life who you trust and who’s voice you can hear when the voices in your head are loud.
- Tell those people about the Permission Slip Process. Let them know you’ll be leaning on them for this.
- Decide that, the very next time you’re struggling with saying yes to something that you know will sap your time, energy or strength, you will text or call one of those trusted people and ask for a Permission Slip to say no.
- Then do it. Follow through with a polite “no” to the request and then see how you feel afterwards. With practice, it’ll get easier. And you’ll feel stronger.
If you’ve stayed with me to this far, I am going to go out on a limb and say you may also be a bit of a People Pleasing Penelope. And, to be honest, I am SO relieved that you are. We’re in this struggle together girl, and don’t you worry, I’ve got my notepad and pen at the ready … Permission Slip Granted.