Perhaps this key piece to the happiness puzzle is something you've already got figured out. Good for you! All sarcasm aside, if you've got a handle on this, you've got my deepest respect and admiration. Maybe you're not sure if you're a People Pleaser? Dr. Nicola Davies, a health psychology writer and researcher, shares the following attributes most typical of a People Pleaser. Do any look familiar?
Eager to agree with others
Cannot say "no" or set limits
Inability to make independent decisions
Fear of abandonment
It's not all bad, you know. People Pleasers have some very good qualities. Usually, People Pleasers are reliable, they carry out tasks to the letter, and the end results are always from a person giving their very best effort. What's wrong with that? A lot if the cost to achieve it is your happiness.
I wouldn't be dishing this out if I hadn't eaten the same dose myself. I used to be the President of the People Pleasers Club, but I had to change to save myself from myself. You have to do the same if this is sounding like you. No one else will do this for you. It's human nature for a person to pick a People Pleaser to do the job. Why not? You know the job will get done, and it will get done right. But when person after person comes to you with request after request, your dance card gets filled up pretty quickly. And, who can blame you? Who doesn't like the accolades and atta-girls when your efforts are displayed and people stand in awe, mouths open, as you hear whispers of "How does she do it?" Feels good, right? WRONG! Let go of ego and your happiness meter will rise faster than a snowball melting in Hell.
The Escape Clause
You are not a rubberband. Inflexibility can be a good thing. Stop thinking it would be easier to say "yes" than to say "no". Think of an escape clause. Practice it in the mirror. "Sorry, I would have loved to help out but the month is just too crazy this time around." Practice your escape phrase in the mirror if you have to, just so it comes out as naturally as breathing. I'm not saying you have to be a "No Monster", but perhaps limit your commitments to one per month. Or, for every 2 requests you say "yes" to, be sure to say "no" to the next 3. Do what works for you, but make changes for the betterment of you!
As a People Pleaser, you're also a wonderful problem-solver. So, when you say "no" to a request, you don't have to feel so bad or guilty about it if you offer up a solution or alternative right there on the spot. "Sorry, I would have loved to help out but the month is just too crazy this time around. Perhaps you can call Veronica? She'd be a great person to get that done for you." I know, it's passing the buck, but so what? Your past People Pleasing moments have built up a good enough reputation to allow this response. Besides, requesters better start getting used to it. Are you with me?
I Don't Even Know You Anymore
Not everyone will take the "new you" in stride. In fact, some may even be put off by your new persona. Tough! You've got to get past this idea that your "no" will be hurtful or disappointing to another person. Let's just get this out on the table. It WILL be hurtful and disappointing to the other person, because they won't be used to that response coming from you. The person you said "no" to will be put off, perhaps even feel rejected, by your response. You may even be "accused" of not being a team player. This I know: they will get over it. You may actually be pleasantly surprised as to how quickly life moves on. But this is where the rubber hits the road, this is the moment where you have to decide whether you are going to continue to live your life for others, or live it for yourself. Which is it?
Reward Your New Habit
When you begin to move away from your People Pleasing ways, celebrate your progress! Take the time you would have been working on that new project and relax a little, read a book, take a walk, think and just be. Your transformation won't happen overnight. You'll make huge strides, then fall back into your old ways because it's where you're most comfortable. But it's not where you're most happy. Keep pushing ahead, even when you've fallen behind. When you finally are able to make all of these Happiness Elements work for you in your life, you come to discover the value of happiness. When you have it in your grasp, you never want to let it go. It becomes something so sacred, not even a school fund raising bake sale will persuade you to give it up. Not even pleas from PTA members will allow you to compromise that which you have worked so hard to achieve, happiness. Hold on to it tightly, don't take it for granted, and see how wonderful life can be when you control your schedule and commitments.
This article is the 4th installment to the Series: Elements of Happiness. If you'd like to read previous articles, please click on the titles below.
1. Quack Like a Duck
2. Accept Yourself
3. Take Shelter
Check out next week's posts for the conclusion of this very special feature.