Escaping the Cycle of People-Pleasing

Escaping the Cycle of People-Pleasing

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I used to be confident at sharing my thoughts until I began developing a “difficult woman” reputation. Speaking out of turn – in their eyes – got me a quick ticket to Ostracised Station. If I know one thing though, it’s that aiming to please only leads to an erosion of self-worth and I’m not prepared to let that happen anymore.

From the dawn of time, women have taken a lot. 

I don’t mean stealing things, like the hearts of eligible bachelors/bachelorettes. 

We’ve endured plenty of moments of the world deciding we don’t deserve equality. Voting, reproductive rights, marriage, employment, mental health, lack of reproductive health consideration, wage disparity, sexual violence. The list goes on. 

We’ve had social constraints imposed on us and we’ve inflicted them on each other. This social conditioning has eroded our worth as individuals with complex thoughts and feelings, until we’re vessels to serve the needs of men and other more dominant women, losing ourselves in the process.     

People-pleasing Makes Us Reluctant to Share Our Wins 

Even in 2021, we’re still limiting ourselves and each other. We still view sharing our accomplishments as boasting. Allow me to repeat. We believe to share our achievements is boasting


Because we’re afraid of being judged as big-headed or unfeminine. Bravado only belongs to men, apparently. That’s an incorrect assumption: we don’t need bravado to share what we’ve done. No one does.

You can be proud of your achievements and still be humble. It’s possible to infuse some humility into your successes. 

How We Can Be Open About Our Successes

We’re so afraid of putting off our pals, that we end up gathering all our overcome obstacles into a box and labelling it “Unworthy of Discussion.” We curl up into a ball, often muttering, ‘It’s fine, it doesn’t matter’ and hoping to change the subject. Then potential employers ask us what we’ve accomplished and we repeat the same – or worse, embarrassed silence. Congratulations, you’ve now been diagnosed with Imposter Syndrome. Here’s your prescription for a life-long, crippling lack of appreciation from others and yourself.  

It’s true that people often mistake your enthusiasm for rubbing it in their faces. Even if they misread your intentions and you’ve explained in earnest that you’re just happy, there may be relatives, friends or colleagues who won’t see it that way. That’s alright. Don’t let their issues overshadow your celebration. 

Once some time has passed, try bringing up their reactions and gauging the ‘why’ behind them. If they’re decent and you have a good rapport, the individual will get the message and try to make an effort. If they brush your explanations aside or fail to engage in crisis talks, you’ve got yourself an Emotional Vampire. Time to decorate yourself with garlic garlands. 

No, they don’t have to behave like they’re at a rave whenever you share good news. However, it’s not demanding for them to cheerlead once in a while, especially if you do the same for them. 

People-pleasing Doesn’t Just Feed Imposter Syndrome 

Hiding our accomplishments isn’t the only form of people-pleasing. At work, we embody the Golden Retriever puppy, disregarding S.M.A.R.T goals to make our superiors happy. Or we don’t want to tip the boat at family gatherings so we let auntie’s snide comment sweep past us. Social media has also exacerbated this problem, with others’ opinions utterly dominating our online activity. It’s a common issue: ‘Will this person approve of what I’ve posted? Will they unfollow if I try to start a discussion on a controversial topic?’ etc. 

Something I’ve struggled with is expressing my (hopefully respectful) opinion on a range of topics for the fear I might be unlikable. The Greek and Roman orators of times gone by are currently weeping at my lack of conviction. I have a voice and beliefs, but my people-pleasing has relegated both to my mind’s deepest corridors. The regrettable thing is: I used to be confident at sharing my thoughts until I began developing a “difficult woman” reputation. Speaking out of turn – in their eyes – got me a quick ticket to Ostracised Station. 

As long as we’re constructive and respectful, we should feel comfortable to voice our thoughts on matters. If we’re voiceless, we remain secondary in status anywhere.   

Reclaim Yourself

Constantly striving to please others gives them the impression that they can expect you to bend to accommodate them in many ways. ‘If I don’t help them with their project, they’re going to end our friendship.’ It also sends the message that you’re willing to ignore your own needs and you don’t value yourself. Of course, you want to help others. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s when your acts of service become your only personality that it’s a problem.

Your self-respect is far more important than coaxing the entire world into liking you. 

You can find ways to do good without being taken advantage of.

Your achievements deserve celebration. You deserve respect. 

About the Author

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