The Toxic Habit Of People Pleasing

The Toxic Habit Of People Pleasing

Whitney Cummings is a highly successful comedian from Los Angeles. From 2011 to 2013, she produced and starred in her own comedy show called Whitney. During this time, however, she was plagued by the toxic habit of people pleasing.

It was only after therapy for an eating disorder that Whitney fully realized the negative impact of her people-pleasing actions.

One day, while attending a support group for her self-destructive behaviour, Whitney heard someone say, “People pleasing is a form of Assholery.”

She couldn’t help but agree, “because you’re not pleasing anyone. You’re just making them resentful… and you’re also assuming they can’t handle the truth. It’s patronizing.”

It’s hard to disagree with Whitney, but at the same time, people-pleasers are some of the nicest and most helpful people you can meet.

They spend much of their time helping others. They’re great organizers. You can always count on them for favours. And they always make time for their family and friends.

There is a reason for this, however…

That’s the problem. For many, saying yes is a habit, an addiction even, as they always put others before themselves. They want everyone to be happy, often going to extreme lengths to keep it that way.

Why do people-pleasers do this?

Some worry about how others will view them if they do say ‘no’. Others don’t want to be seen as lazy, selfish or uncaring, something which is deeply rooted in a fear of rejection and/or failure.

For many, however, it’s a need to feel needed, driven by a false sense of importance like they’re contributing to someone else’s life. This is highly problematic as their identity is based on the approval of others.

People pleasing might seem harmless, but it can lead to serious health risks — both mental and physical — especially when taken to the extremes.

First, people-pleasers rarely prioritize their own self-care. By putting others first, they spend less time relaxing, exercising, and planning healthy meals, and as a result, are more prone to health problems.

Second, by saying yes to everything, people-pleasers overcommit. With less time to keep everyone happy, this can quickly develop into a vicious cycle of anxiety and stress, especially at work. In extreme circumstances, this can lead to depleted energy levels, and even depression, because they can’t continue with their addictive habit.

Third, because people-pleasers feel like they can never say no, it’s easy for silent anger to build up over time. This often leads to resentment, which can damage even the strongest relationships.

Fourth, by always saying yes, especially to requests for favours, people-pleasers can be taken advantage of. Even worse, exploitive people will see them as easy targets when they realise they can’t say no.

To stop people-pleasing, you must learn how to say ‘no’.

But first, you need to get clear on why it’s important to say ‘no’.

By saying ‘no’ to what’s not important, you’ll have more time for what is, such as relationships, hobbies, and your health. Your ability to deliver, at home and at work, will increase tenfold. With fewer things to think about, your mental wellbeing will dramatically improve. Time is one of your most valuable resources, and you can’t get it back.

Now for how to say ‘no’.

Robin Bernstein, a professor at Harvard University, has spoken about her struggles with saying ‘no’. So much so that she developed five principles and wrote an article about it called The Art of ‘No’.

Tim Ferriss also has a deep interest in this subject, and in his book Tribe of Mentors, he asked 130 of the world’s top performers about how they’ve become better at saying ‘no’.

Leadership expert, Greg McKeown, is another proponent in the power of saying ‘no’. In his book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, he wrote a whole chapter about it.

Based on the combined insights from these experts, here are 9 tactics on how to say ‘no’, and more importantly, how to do it artfully:

Wanting to take care of others is a beautiful thing, and if you’re a people-pleaser, it’s likely that your heart is in the right place.

However, you cannot do this at the expense of yourself. By saying yes to everyone else, you are putting yourself at risk.

To stop this toxic habit, you must learn why and how to say ‘no’.

Why? Because it’s only by saying ‘no’ that you can focus on what’s important in life. This includes your loved ones, your career, and your time.

How? Maybe you explain yourself, maybe you don’t, but you should be grateful, thoughtful, and most of all, make it non-personal.

Saying yes is easy, saying no is hard.

So take a leaf out of Paulo Coelho’s book, and “when you say yes to others, make sure you are not saying no to yourself.”

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The Toxic Habit Of People Pleasing

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