“I finally know the difference between pleasing and loving, obeying and respecting. It has taken me so many years to be okay with being different, and with being this alive, this intense. (xxvi)”
Eve Ensler (Author, I Am An Emotional Creature)
“Your need for acceptance can make you invisible in this world. Don’t let anything stand in the way of the light that shines through this form. Risk being seen in all of your glory.”
Jim Carrey (Actor, The Truman Show)
“In trying to please all, he had pleased none.”
Aesop (Ancient Greek Fabulist, Aesop’s Fables)
I have a secret.
I like to make other people happy.
I enjoy the validation.
(I know — you’re like, who is this? Isaiah is the opposite of a people-pleaser. His whole platform is based on NOT pleasing other people. Right?)
Despite my best efforts, I will always get a dopamine rush when other people tell me “good job”.
I will always feel good when I do what someone else wants me to do.
At least, at first.
Me, you, everyone — we are all biologically wired to not only follow other people, but to feel good when we follow them.
We are hard-wired to do what other people tell us to do AND to get a “high” from doing what we are told.
You can’t fight biology.
You can’t rip out the neurons in your brain that control this.
But you can manage your biology.
You can train yourself to ask questions first, before accepting someone else’s validation.
You can ask questions before doing what someone else wants you to do, just because they want you to do it.
This is what I learned to do (eventually).
My first reaction is still to please other people.
My first reaction is still to get the positive attention that comes with being agreeable and doing what other people want me to do.
But I’ve learned to let these feelings pass through me before taking action.
I let my biology react, then I ask questions internally. Is this really what I want? Am I going to regret this? Will I lose part of myself? Am I doing this for the right reasons? Then, I take action.
Why Pleasing Other People Only Makes You Miserable
Do you want to live a miserable life?
Here’s how: try to please everyone.
Put other people’s happiness in front of your own.
Do this for a few weeks or a few months and I guarantee you one thing: you will be miserable.
Your life will be a crushing defeat in every way.
Not only will you not feel satisfied… everyone you’re trying to please won’t feel satisfied either.
You’ll set a pattern that says you’ll do anything to make them happy.
You’ll sacrifice your own needs for theirs.
Praise? Pats on the head? Treats from the candy jar?
Pleasing everyone makes you easily used, taken for granted, and weak.
So, why do you do this?
Why is it so easy to be a people-pleaser?
You like to be liked and not have conflict.
As a result, sometimes you either hold back what you really think, or placate others by going out of your way to be extra agreeable.
This coping mechanism has backlash of its own however: contributing to anxiety and mental stress, as well as increasing the risk of poor decision-making, buckling under social pressures, and relationship issues.
The same journal reported in a study that social conformity was a way for people to feel included in social connections, and that acceptance is often sought for overall positive affect.
The problem is that the lengths many people will go to in order to avoid rejection or controversy have become extreme.
Because “selfish” and “greedy” are labels most want to avoid, people will often sacrifice their own needs for others.
In a study from the Proceedings from the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, researchers found that people would sacrifice for another in what they called “hyperaltruism”.
Yep — hyperaltruism.
A word that essentially means you give everything to others, even if they walk all over you and treat you like crap.
You give everything, even if you know you’re being used as a crutch and your giving is actually hurting the other person.
Hyperaltruism, or being a people-pleaser, is a lose-lose scenario.
How To Stop Being A People-Pleaser
You feel good when other people are happy with you.
You don’t like it when they are unhappy with you.
If you don’t learn how to manage it, you will be destroyed by it.
Eventually, the people you run around trying to make happy will stop patting your head and stroking your ego and just feel entitled to it, and to you.
This is how you end up disrespected and devalued — in their eyes, but even worse… in your own eyes.
Whose job is it to please you?
Whose job is it to applaud your efforts?
It is nobody else’s job to make you happy.
It’s your job, and your job alone.
But the reverse is also true: it’s not your job to keep anyone else happy.
Here’s the key: as long as you put pleasing others over pleasing yourself, you won’t ever be happy.
Do you really want to come to the end of your life feeling used by others and without having reached any of your personal goals?
What about your legacy?
What about what matters to you?
Asking these questions isn’t selfish.
These questions are a necessary component of living a full and happy life.
If you’re a mess mentally and physically, if you’re unfulfilled and miserable, you can’t make anyone else’s life better.
The only way to avoid living a miserable life is to put yourself first, grow as much as possible, and then give back to others.
In that exact order.
Here’s how you can stop being a people-pleaser…
1. Stop letting others determine your priorities.
Look — you know what’s important to you.
(Stop shaking your head — deep down, you know what’s important.)
But what’s important to you is not important to everyone else.
This is fine and normal, except that some people will try to downplay your priorities.
They will try to make you put their priorities in front of your own.
They will try to make you a spectator in your own life.
They will try to make you second-class.
And if you don’t do this — watch out.
They will try and play on your sense of obligation so you’ll keep serving them.
They might even say they neeeeeeeeeed you.
Or at least walk away from people who have dramatically different priorities than you.
Priorities so radically different that they can’t coexist without one eating the other alive.
Get clear on what matters to you.
Protect where your energy goes and protect your focus.
Take everything inside of you that used to blindly go out into the world trying to please others and reverse it.
But when you do this — be ready for backlash.
Be ready for others to fight you.
Others will feel irritated and threatened when you no longer serve them.
When you set boundaries and say “No”, they will get offended.
Don’t let this backlash stop you.
Cut off anyone who refuses to let you put your own priorities first.
Stop surrounding yourself with people who refuse to support what’s important to you.
Instead, start spending time with like-minded people who will support you, your priorities, and your goals.
Structure your life so you’re protecting your time and energy in the places that matter most to YOU.
And let others do the same.
2. Quit being overly cautious of other people’s feelings.
Be okay with upsetting people.
Be okay with others being disappointed, angry, or resentful.
Stop avoiding conflict and avoiding owning your own life by tiptoeing around other people.
What if I offend them? What if they don’t like me? What if they reject me forever?
Whose life are you living, anyway?
How far ahead are you getting, living for others?
You’re spinning your wheels because you forgot you were the most important person in your life.
So get your head on right.
Not everyone is going to like you all the time.
When you stop trying to please everyone and start setting boundaries, it ticks people off.
It means they can’t use you anymore.
But all of this is okay.
People being displeased by you is not the end of the world… it’s not the end of your world.
Yes, some people might dislike you.
Some may grow to hate you.
Some may even actively try to hold you back from your goals.
Bring it on.
You can’t please everyone, so don’t even try.
Stick to what you know is important.
If other people, including your friends and family members, are actually worth having in your life, they will understand.
Better yet, they’ll support you aggressively chasing after your goals.
If they don’t, they’re only holding you back.
Let them find new lackies to do their bidding (oh, and they will).
Your job is to learn how to be self-reliant and unapologetically confident and go after what you decide is important for your life.
3. Stop letting secondhand validation decide your actions.
You don’t need other people’s approval to follow your dreams.
You don’t need others to validate your decisions.
You can approve of yourself.
You can validate your own decisions.
It’s your life — you get to choose the values you live by.
You get to choose the goals you will chase.
You get to decide how you want to live each day, how you want to treat others, what you need to be happy.
All of these decisions are yours to make.
So stop pawning them off on others.
Stop letting secondhand validation decide your actions.
Realize that other people will affirm your life if it makes sense for them, not you.
Even if their intentions are good, they will tell you to do what makes sense for them, even if it doesn’t make sense to you.
Others can only give you advice based on their experiences.
They can never give you advice based on your own experiences because they aren’t you.
They’ve never been you.
They’ve never lived a day in your life.
You know what’s best for your life better than anyone else.
You know what ignites you, what fuels you, what fills you up and excites you.
No one deserves the power to influence the direction of your life.
That power is yours.
So stop being weak and miserable.
Start being bold, self-directed, and confident.
This means putting yourself first.
This means being secure in your own judgment and capable of making your own decisions.
Even when no one gets it.
Especially when no one gets you.
People-pleasing is a cheap ticket to a miserable life. Having people happy with you feels good at first, but over time it weakens you and depletes your ability to live a confident life. Pleasing others tells people their priorities and goals are more important than yours. The only way out is to start putting yourself first. Get clear on your priorities and protect them fiercely. Accept that this will upset people whom you’ve trained to expect so much from you. Be okay with that. Stop seeking approval from others on choices you need to make for your own life. Walk away from people who hold you back from your goals and don’t support what’s important to you. Build your own confidence and be self-directed and aggressively chase the goals that will make you happy to ensure you don’t live a miserable life.
To learn more about how to stop being a people pleaser and avoid a miserable life, and to get instant access to exclusive training videos, case studies, insider documents, and my private online network, get on the Escape Plan wait list.