How I Went From Being a People-Pleaser To Living Life On My Own Terms

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“There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”

– Aristotle

The Moment I Knew I Had To Change

I had lived most my life by the book, exhausting myself with efforts to be “perfect,” just to avoid upsetting anyone. I always felt like a show horse, being watched 24 hours a day; I had to be constantly groomed, maintain my posture at all times, and always have everything perfectly aligned. However, I wasn’t living by my own rules, but rather by the strict family rules that had been clearly written out for me. This left me no room for errors, regrets, or confrontation. As a result, there was no room for growth, accomplishment, or excitement either. When my need to please others started ruining my chances of being happy, I realized I had to make a change and start living life on my own terms.

Living life as a people-pleaser, I had constant migraines; back, neck, and shoulder pain; and major bouts of anxiety. This resulted from me giving up my happiness for other people. At the time, I wasn’t even aware I was doing it. It took my body blasting me with pain for me to finally try to figure out what was going on with me. I embarked on a journey to educate myself, through therapy and meditation, learning to live life on my own terms. Through that process, I finally became able to start being true to myself.

What I Was Avoiding …

Recently, someone I know judged me for decisions I’ve made in my life and put me in an awkward position; this reminded me of why my decision to stop people pleasing was so important. As I was being yelled at in the middle of a crowded place, I thought the worst has happened. Confrontation, something I had worked so hard to avoid, was staring me in the face. I had unexpectedly upset someone, and I was being judged for it. It took me a long time to get the strength to live my truth; so when a war was declared over the way I’ve decided to live my life, I did the only thing I knew how to do: I walked away. I didn’t retaliate, because I finally got it: I don’t have to justify my life to anyone. Once you learn how to be happy with yourself, you’ll no longer accept being around people who make you feel less than that. People who turn you into a showpiece before offering their love and acceptance won’t ever be capable of truly appreciating your worth anyway.

If you’ve struggled your entire life with trying to feel worthy and accepted by the people around you, you need to start being enough for yourself and realize your value. I’ve finally arrived at being happy with who I am and the choices I’ve made—and I want the same for you. I know how hard it can be to get stuck in the cycle of trying to please others. What used to be my worst nightmare—someone disapproving of my choices and letting me know about it, loudly and clearly—came true. Of course, it hurt; but it didn’t break me like it would have in the past.

People pleasing works in some ways by making certain parts of life “easier.” For instance, I didn’t get yelled at as much. In fact, I was always praised for constantly being there for other people. However, even though people pleasing may feel like a great way to avoid being uncomfortable in the present moment, research shows that it leads to negative consequences in the future like depression, anxiety, sadness, headache, muscle pain, and other physical ailments.

Other People May Not Understand Your Journey

“You’ve got enemies? Good. That means you actually stood up for something in your life.”

-Eminem

The moment you first try living your own life will be a definitive one for your future. However, don’t be surprised if you find people waiting in line to tear you down because of it. I know that sounds dramatic; but, unfortunately, it’s true. While people may not consciously or intentionally try to harm you, they’ll try everything to get you back in a position where you’ll be available to please them. This is because your people-pleasing nature may have attracted the wrong type of people into your life. When you people please, you place your life in other people’s hands. They aren’t going to take the time to try understanding you and appreciating the good parts of you because they’ll be too concerned with what you can do for them. Chances are the people who need the most pleasing from you are not very concerned with your feelings at all. They need someone from the outside to massage their sensitive egos. They need the pleasing you’re giving because they don’t offer it to themselves. And guess what? If they aren’t offering it to themselves, they won’t be offering it to you either.

Once you stop trying to please others and start doing things for yourself, you’ll feel the strong pull from people who resist and resent your changes because they’re not being served by them.
That’s what happened to me when I first starting building boundaries and living my own life. The confrontation I found myself in recently wasn’t the first time I was criticized for living my truth. At that moment, I could have easily reverted back to my old patterns, but I didn’t. That’s because I’ve come to realize that anything worth having in this life comes at a price. It isn’t easy to change; that’s why so many people don’t do it. Mostly, it’s hard to change when people you care about don’t support you.

Living Life On Your Own Terms

“This is my life…my story…my book. I will no longer let anyone else write it; nor will I apologize for the edits I make.”

– Steve Marboli

Thinking about the life I’ve built for myself, I feel good about it for the first time in a while. Sometimes you forget how far you’ve come until you’re faced with a new challenge. If the price I have to pay is pissing people off now and again, it’s worth it to me. I know I can’t live to always please others, and it’s impossible to make perfect decisions that satisfy everyone. All I can do is make my very best effort.

I was wrong earlier when I said I’m happy with all the choices I’ve made. The biggest mistake I’ve made is trying to do the right thing for so many people, only to end up neglecting myself in the process. Over time, I’ve discovered within myself a woman and a life that I didn’t even know existed. So when I found myself being ridiculed for my life choices, it didn’t feel right. My journey has taught me how to take my negative experiences and turn them into valuable lessons. What I learned that night was that I really have changed. What changed me from being a people pleaser to allowing myself to live on my own terms is that I finally realized it’s okay to piss people off if you do it while being true to who you are.

That Awkward Moment When Someone Yells At You And You Feel Okay About It

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

-Mahatma Gandhi

Without even trying to be, I’m a positive person. And I recognize that in being that way, I somehow unintentionally offend some people. But the truth is, the people who really know you and understand your true intentions will never berate you in public, because they know what’s real in your heart. I’m no longer a prisoner of other people’s ideas about me. I feel like I was released from prison after serving 30 years for a crime I didn’t commit. It makes me want to break out into my happy dance. I wish the very same for you! I wish you the courage to live on your own terms and piss some people off in the process.

Here are some behaviors to be aware of during your transition:

People-Pleasing Behaviors To Be Aware Of

1. You’re an emotional caretaker for most of your family members.
2. You’re overly considerate of how other people feel about a situation rather than how you feel about it.
3. You don’t want to let people down.
4. You feel the urge to be perceived as nice and be nice all the time.
5. You’re constantly apologizing.
6. You care a lot about what other people think of you.
7. You want everyone to like you.
8. You try to make the “perfect” decisions.
9. It’s almost impossible for you to say no.

Talk soon,

Dr. Ilene

Article edited by Dr. Denise Fournier

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