Are you a people pleaser?
Hands up ladies, who thinks they’re a people pleaser? Let’s define this shall we? A people pleaser is someone who wants to do things for others to make them happy, sometimes at the expense of their own needs.
I think every one could rate themselves as a people pleaser. We want others to be happy whether that be taking your child to a concert miles away or making your other half his favourite dinner. However, a real people pleaser can spend their life doing these things to the point they don’t consider their own thoughts or feelings and often lose themselves in the process.
I never considered myself a people pleaser, I just wanted to make everyone smile. As a child I was very sensitive and could feel any negativity in any environment. I wanted to cheer people up with a joke or gift or as I got older, a promise to help them find a solution to their problems. I continued this into my adult years and looking back it became a real urge. I became absorbed in other people’s emotions and lost how to cope with my own. As a result, I didn’t know how to connect with my own needs. I stopped pleasing myself because I didn’t know how to. I was lost.
I went through a lot of stress at the age of twenty-six years old, which surmounted in a whirlwind of pain, distress and subsequent mental health issues. At the same time I developed an eating disorder which was used to control my seemingly out of control life. I was living in the real world, trying to be a friend, daughter, girlfriend and sister plus trying to further my career. However, my true reality was sinister and encapsulated in a world of dieting, starvation and exercise.
I learnt about people pleasing in The Priory hospital where I resided in their psychiatric ward on and off for a year. I had been admitted with bipolar disorder and an eating disorder and treatment proved tough. On one of the days I sat in a stark but comfortable day room with cube sofas and big windows looking out onto hedgerow. I was trying to concentrate on what the therapist was saying. We had to fill out multiple choice forms, diagrams and then talk them through with the group. The outcome for me was that I was a people pleaser but I still didn’t understand what that meant. I knew one thing though. I didn’t know the answers to what made me happy, what made me smile and what motivated me in life. I was drawing blanks and I was deeply sad. All I could say was ‘I used’ to like music or ‘I used’ to like writing. Nothing was in the present and I felt disconnected from the world.
I think I became so lost my pleasure became pleasing others. I loved to make cake (but never eat it) and take it round to my friends. I left my phone on at night in case anyone needed a non judgemental friend. I spoilt my niece to be the best Auntie I could be. I lived my life through other people and never faced my own shit.
Therapy was a big eye opener and I was forced to think about things I did to make myself smile. As I ransacked my brain and found nothing I knew something had to change. I started to write poetry to empty my mind of it’s stresses and demons and shared my work with some of the groups, receiving great reviews. I started to feel what it was like to do something I wanted to do and feel appreciation for it.
For the last nine years I have battled my mental health but I tell you one thing. I could never be more aware of the need to do things for myself that lift my mood and make only me feel better, no one else. These things could be anything from making a cup of tea and watching the latest reality TV to changing jobs to follow the career you really want not the one you fell into. The one thing you need to ensure you are looking after yourself is time. Yes, I know we all live very busy lives but we can always make time for ourselves if we try. Sometimes people need to be involved to help us do that (delegate a project at work or get the grandparents to take the kids off your hands for an hour) but it is possible. Our mental health is crucial and just as important as our physical health. If we don’t manage our stress and moods we put ourselves at risk of depression, anxiety and much more.
It is lovely to please other people and I do so every day in whatever capacity I can. However, I have learnt to say no when I’ve said yes too many times and I’m comfortable with doing that. I also always keep in the back of my mind all the things that make me smile and what time I can give myself to do them. It’s been a busy week this week but I’ve still made my favourite dinner of steak and sweet potato fries, watched a film on Netflix I’ve been dying to see, started reading one of Dawn French’s novels (which is bloody good) and bought my favourite bunch of flowers to sit on the windowsill in my bedroom.
Just remember we can please people but we don’t have to be people pleaser’s. Don’t forget to please yourself.
For mental health issues first port of call is speaking to your GP and don’t be afraid to ask for talking therapy. For more information use the following websites – there is lots of support out there I promise!
http://www.youngminds.org.uk/ – For young people with parent helpline.
The Samaritans are a non-judgemental ear where you can talk confidentially about anything
Here is a fantastic carers package if you are supporting someone with mental health problems:
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