To a certain degree, we all struggle with the desire to please others who are in our life. While usually our eagerness to please aligns more closely with achieving an advantageous compromise that benefits both the other party and ourselves, there are times we may find that, in the choices we make, the benefits to the other party far outweigh our own.
When this happens on a consistent basis, we may be struggling with a common syndrome known as “people pleasing.” “Who me?”, we might catch ourselves thinking…or saying…when the subject arises. Yet while it can be painful to discover that we have been engaged in a habitual focus on others’ wants and needs to the exclusion of our own, what is more important is that we develop that awareness so we can make a different choice going forward.
If you have ever caught yourself worrying about what to wear, how to act, what someone is thinking about you or how you can change what someone is thinking about you, you have a taste of what people pleasing feels like.
Let’s take a common example – you have just come home from work and you are looking forward to your one free evening of the week to rest, relax, and just take good care of yourself for a change. But when you get home, your daughter asks if her friend can please stay the night. Then your spouse informs you that he is no longer able to take your son to baseball practice because he has scheduled a guys’ night – and he knows you will understand even though this is the first you have heard of it. Your daughter is begging….your husband is looking at you with expectation that you will graciously pick up the ball he dropped.
Appalled at yourself even as the words come out of your mouth, all you hear yourself saying is, “Yes, of course – no problem. I’ll take care of it. Have a good evening, honey!”
This is people-pleasing at its finest. And it probably doesn’t feel very good either while it is happening or after it has occurred.
In Internal Family Systems (IFS), we would call this the “People Pleaser Pattern.” IFS is a unique and powerful therapeutic model that assigns these different aspects or parts of our being different names and encourages the IFS therapist and student to work together to discern the roles each of these parts play in our lives and how we can work with instead of against them.
So in IFS therapy, we might look at the People Pleaser within and start trying to discern how it works in our lives by asking ourselves, “Does this happen all the time, with everybody, or just with a certain person or just a few folks?” “Or does it perhaps happen only in certain situations under certain conditions?” “What is triggering my desire to say ‘yes’ when I want to say ‘no’, from agreeing when I really disagree?” As we begin to seek and hear our own answers to these questions we are already on our way to understanding and then transforming our people pleasing behaviors into something more self-respectful.
Using the IFS therapy model, you will work to first understand your specific behavior, and then identify the motivation(s) you have for encouraging or at least allowing that behavior to continue. Next, you will begin to trace the behavior backwards to possible origins. Where did you learn that it was not safe to say “no”? Who rejected you because you stood up for yourself or expressed disagreement with their opinion? Did you lose a valuable opportunity because you were too vocal in a team-based setting about an important group decision? Rejection always hurts….and it will continue to hurt until you recognize it, acknowledge it, and begin to heal from it. IFS gives you this chance to identify and heal from past wounds that are still driving current choices and behaviors.
Next you will begin to learn how to work with your People Pleaser part so that you can understand how it is trying to protect you. The People Pleaser is not out to get you – it is simply looking out for what it has come to believe are your best interests. The more you can allay the fears that part of you carries within it and reassure it that whatever the outcome, together you can find another way to deal with life without having to people-please, the less that part will be inclined to go rogue when it feels you are in danger.
Finally, having established a more collaborative relationship with the People Pleaser part, you can begin to finally regain the power of decision in your own life. IFS offers you a powerful way to hear and respect what each part of you is trying to do to help you while still reminding them that in the end, the buck stops not with any one of them, but with YOU.
At Southlake Counseling, we understand that discovering and befriending all of the various parts of yourself can feel like a handful – when attempted alone. We want you to know you are not alone – we are here and we can help. Our caring, experienced and professional staff has more than two decades of experience in guiding individuals in their exciting journey to self-transformation. If you want to learn to say “no” to allowing past pain to overshadow current gain and say “YES” to all the fantastic possibilities that are yet ahead of you, contact us today at www.southlakecounseling.com.