You feel it hanging over you like a heavy weight. The worry. The stress. You have guilt over decisions that should be simple, or you constantly second-guess each interaction you have. What if you said the wrong thing? It’s like there’s a constant, people-pleasing radar in your head, trying to figure out what everyone else thinks about you.
It’s the lot of highly sensitive, empathetic people everywhere; we desperately want to make everyone happy. We’re plagued by the worries of every single thing we could’ve said wrong. How do we let go of the weight of these supposed expectations?
Well, here’s some truth: Some of these expectations are real, and some aren’t. Some of the stress we feel isn’t even necessary! They’re things our wild imaginations have dreamed up due to stress, overwhelm, or just misunderstanding people. But there ARE real expectations. Expectations of how you’re supposed to act, or how others want you to respond in certain situations. There are those people who think you’re supposed to drop everything to wait on them hand and foot (aka: TODDLERS. 😂).
The problem with real (or false) expectations is that we’re stressing out over the unknown, not the actual problem. I don’t worry about actually saying “no” to someone… I worry about hurting or upsetting them. The truth is: I want to make EVERYONE happy.
So, how can we stop people pleasing?
To be perfectly honest, I’m still trying to figure this out. I struggle every day with people-pleasing. To make life perfect for my family. When I feel like I’ve failed, I want to curl up and become a professional couch potato. I’e spent days contemplating what I said or did wrong (for days!), or what I could’ve possibly done to get a different outcome.
I have found that there are a few things that help me stay focused on the truth as I try to combat my tendency to people-please.
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize:
No matter what someone else may (or may not!) expect from you, their ideals for life are different from yours, Do you know what your dream life would look like? If other people have their goals lined up for their life, it’s up to them to make it happen. Not You. Keep your eyes on your own ideal of living well, because that’s what your goal is.
Remember the Season You’re in:
Life has ebbs and flows. Sometimes it’s busy, sometimes it’s restful. Other times, it’s downright stressful. Don’t allow someone else’s season of life to make you feel guilty or less-than because you’re in a different stage right now. If you’re taking time to rest, and they’re asking you to add more commitments, it’s okay to say No.
Realize That Everyone is Different:
If you’re a “feeler” surrounded by friends and family who are “thinkers,” you’re going to have some major differences. It’s no fault of theirs, that just base their decisions on logic instead of feelings! They may logically ask you to do something, without realizing that you’re looking at the situation from a totally different (emotional) angle.
Have you ever taken the Meyer’s Briggs personality test? Click Here to find our if you’re a thinker or a feeler! (You’ll see a T or an F in your answer!)
Don’t OWN everyone else’s expectations:
Just because someone expects something from you doesn’t mean that you have to do it. Their ideas and goals are probably different from yours! If their expectations don’t match your to-do list, it’s not your job to fit it in. Your job isn’t to make everyone happy; it’s to chase down the dreams that God has tucked away inside your heart.
It IS possible to stop People-Pleasing:
Lastly, know that it IS possible to find a balance between loving on people you care about, and knowing when to say “No”. It’s also possible to say no and not second-guess that decision! For me, it takes a lot of journaling, wisdom from those who know me best, pep-talks, and a LOT of prayer… but it IS possible to live guilt-free! It’s a daily process.
I hope you know, dear friend, that you are not alone. It is a HUGE blessing to be an empath, because we can tune in to emotions and feelings in an incredible way. It’s also really hard for those of us who struggle with people-pleasing. We have to learn how to put up boundaries & make definitive decisions. It’s something that takes a lot of time and experience to learn!