I’m currently taking a course on boundaries and exploring people pleasing further as these are themes that regularly come up with clients and seem to resonate the most with my community. With this in mind, I’ve recently found myself dwelling on the correlation between people pleasing and low levels of self esteem and confidence…
Let’s start by highlighting the traits of the disease to please:
(P)utting Others First
(L)etting Others Decide
(E)xpecting Everyone to Like You
(A)voiding Your Emotions
Do any of these sound familiar? If yes, let me ask you this: do you often feel misunderstood? Like you regularly have to explain yourself?
The tendency to over explain ourselves stems from a desire to be perceived as right and a need for approval and acceptance of who we are and what we bring to the table. It also stems from a lack of confidence in, and knowing of, who we are. We fear our inadequacy and sometimes care more about external validation than our own integrity, so we go the extra mile to convince rather than feel confident in our conviction. And yet the fact of the matter remains: we don’t need to convince anyone of anything, as long as we believe it ourselves. That goes for our worth, our efforts, our opinions and the way we feel.
I have rergularly found myself trying to explain myself in the past, without anyone even asking me to! You see, I struggled with self esteem and self confidence most of my life, but only recently have I connected it with my need to please. A lack of self esteem (confidence in our worth) and self confidence (belief in our abilities) means that we turn to others to attest to the truth of our value. We often associate our self esteem with how happy we can make others and in so doing try to overcompensate for our perceived unworthiness by taking on too much or giving more of ourselves than we should. We place the needs and opinions of others above our own, unintentionally creating victims of ourselves as we become consumed with resentment for all we do and how little we feel seen and valued.
Low confidence can also make it hard for us to express ourselves emotionally. Many of us shut down when we experience emotional opposition to how we are feeling and either end up resenting the way we feel or apologizing for it. Our fear of being wrong makes us concede as we aim to make happy and avoid conflict. Suppress them long enough and we then struggle to communicate our feelings or even understand them, shutting them off for being a sign of vulnerability and alienating ourselves even further from who we truly are. We become deaf to our self. What we fail to recognize is that feelings can’t be argued. There can be differences of opinions but you can’t discredit how someone feels. And we need to know our feelings in order to know ourselves.
I’ve always described myself as a chameleon when I talk about having moved around so much in my youth and my ability to easily adapt to new environments. I saw this as a positive trait of being a “citizen of the world”. What I didn’t realise was that my chameleon behaviour was tied to people pleasing. By constantly adapting myself to my surroundings, I was regularly abandoning the real me for the sake of fitting in. It’s no surprise that I managed to fit in anywhere, but never felt like I belonged anywhere. And naturally both my self esteem and confidence suffered.
What we do and say needs to be fundamentally rooted in our self confidence and self esteem – in our inner knowing and the acceptance of who we are – otherwise when these are low, we sacrifice ourselves and what we believe in to placate others. Our mindset matters and impacts the realities we create for ourselves. We need to unlearn to return – take the time to uncover all the stories you’ve convinced yourself to be true that cause you to doubt yourself. Where are you not living in integrity with your values? How can you develop trust in yourself again? When we are able to do this, we can transform our lives in ways that support us and the choices we make.
Take inspired action (from a place of love) because life will always rise to meet you where you are at.