If I Stop Being a Pleaser, Will People Still Like Me?

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If I could teach young girls anything, I would teach them to think for themselves and then act on those thoughts.

people-pleaserI am just now, at almost 30 years old, learning to think for myself.  It’s not that thinking for myself wasn’t nurtured by the adults in my life; it’s that I always wanted to please others so much that I didn’t allow my thoughts to be heard with conviction.  It probably stems from a lack of confidence or, in some cases, from feeling less intelligent than the other person with whom I was conversing.  I know that there were times I wouldn’t express my true thoughts because I didn’t want to seem confrontational or cause problems.  I wanted to be likeable.

If I had a nickel for every time I stated my opinion, listened to a rebuttal and then backed down saying, “Yes, I see what you mean, you’re probably right,” I would be rich!  Rich in money, poor in spirit.

Due to my people-pleasing desires, I never allowed myself to develop my own firm thoughts and opinions.  This enabled me to waiver so easily on my stances because I did not have a solid foundation.

The first thing I am trying to work on is really asking myself what I think on a daily basis.  In an ideal situation I would have facts and examples ready to back up my every thought, but I do think that simply feeling in my gut where I stand on something is enough.  I am supporting myself in my thinking.  I am allowing for my mind to wander and explore all possibilities without worrying about how my thoughts will impact someone else’s opinion of me.  What do I really feel and think?

That is the first step, and it is pretty difficult!  That mind shift is tough because it is so deeply embedded into who I am.  Sometimes I wonder if I should give up because I think that deep down I will always be a people pleaser.  This leads me into the next step, which is figuring out how to be firm in expressing my thoughts and opinions without being abrasive toward others.  This is a quality that I see and admire in successful leaders.  I can be confident in myself and still be engaging and kind so that others want to converse with me.

I’m fairly confident that I know how to express myself and still maintain a calm conversational environment.  The one element that I am not so sure of, is if people will still like me if they know that I might not agree with what they have to say.  How others perceive me is out of my control and I keep reminding myself of that fact, but it is difficult to stop caring about it.

I am best at being firm in my thoughts and beliefs when it comes to protecting someone or something else.  For example, if I have to have a difficult conversation with someone but I know that it is in their best interest in the end (I did a lot of this while in social work), I am able to get through the uncomfortable parts.  If it involves the best interest of a child, I am able to have uncomfortable discussions with parents.  If I can do this for others, why can’t I do it for myself?

There is another thing that goes along with the desire to confidently express myself, politely agree-to-disagree with someone else and to not worry what the other person will think of me after – the ability to stand up for myself when I am passive-agressively insulted.  Have you ever had a moment where someone said something to you and you thought, “What the…” but because of they way they smiled and maybe gave a small laugh after you couldn’t decide if it was a joke or a jab?  This type of thing drives me bananas!  Usually I find the perfect response to their comment about 20 minutes later while driving in the car.  I want to be able to call people out on passive-aggressive behaviour.  I want to send a message that I am a kind person, but I will not be walked on.  I think that’s fair.

There is one more scenario I am concerned about and this is the most important one: what happens when I the people I want to please are the people that mean the most to me?  If I suddenly change from an agreeable person to a person with strong opinions, will they still like me and want to hang out with me?  Maybe they like me so much because I am so agreeable.

I feel like this could be seen as a personality shift and I think lots of people like me because of my personality.  I am going to have to find the right balance in the way I approach conversations, especially when I feel a strong conviction to express myself (whether it is the popular or unpopular opinion), because one thing I know for sure is that I must begin to be true to myself in the way I express my thoughts.  I must be my authentic self, expressing my true thoughts and feelings, or my life with be riddled with hypocrisy and dishonesty.  I feel like a baby learning to walk, stumbling along the way, but I have my whole life ahead of me, so I must press on because one day I hope to run.

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