Do you worry about what other people think? Many people do worry about this, probably most of us at some time or other. It’s functional to consider other people’s feelings and views, but only up to a point. If we worry too much, it can limit our potential by stopping us from being brave, from stretching ourselves and most importantly of all it stops us from being authentic.
People often think that it would be terrible to be disliked. They can become ‘people pleasers’, afraid to say ‘No’ even when they really don’t want to participate in something or agree with something. They think: “I try to be who someone wants me to be.” They fear that if they say ‘No’, the ‘other’ will reject them in some way; deep down they may believe they are ‘rejectable’ or some other fear may operate. Their Rules for Living are typically “I must be liked by everyone” and “I must be approved and have approval”. Sometimes this people pleasing bit of the personality only operates in certain circumstances, it isn’t necessarily the case that it is ‘on’ all the time.
People pleasers often have low self-esteem and rely on external praise to keep themselves going. They may be frightened of their feelings. If they keep the rules going, then they get by but they tend not to form really deep meaningful relationships. Here’s why.
Imagine Anabel who has a seemingly large group of friends. When Anabel is with her friend Jane, Anabel colludes with Jane’s world view and opinions and does not assert her own (she may not even be sure what her own are). When Anabel is with her other friend Lisa, the same thing happens, Anabel colludes with Lisa’s world view and opinions – even if she feels mildly annoyed by Lisa sometimes, she will convince herself that she feels fine about it. Jane and Lisa’s worldviews do not match, they are substantially different. Anabel believes that she finds it easier to go along with what other people think/want. If Anabel is agreeing with both friends’ views, then who is Anabel? What does she really stand for?
If Anabel works out that actually she has more in common with Jane than she does Lisa, then she could be more authentic with Lisa. Her fear of losing Lisa’s friendship may indeed come true, but that’s the price we pay for having more meaningful relationships. Her fear at the moment is also based on assumption, it might be that Lisa can understand Anabel’s new position, she might or might not want to continue spending time with Anabel.
If Anabel becomes more assertive and starts saying ‘No’ (this might be ‘No’ to a request or ‘No, I don’t agree’) instead of people pleasing, she will be prioritising her needs which is an important action at least some of the time. In being true to herself, her self-esteem will begin to flourish and she may gain a deeper understanding of her underlying motivation to people please.
Be in touch with your needs. Ask for what you want. Say ‘No’ if you mean ‘No’. Be YOU.