One of the most common problems I have witnessed for people pleasers is that they don’t see themselves equally with the people around them. Thus ending up in a cycle of needing to prove themselves to another, and after time they lose a sense of self due to the continual waiting for a response from the other person to validate their actions. A total life sucker.
This is something we have all done throughout life, it starts in early childhood. However, depending on the development of the child they will either keep this behavioural pattern close and on hand or release it and only revert back when required. Think about when you were a small child 4-5 years old, your parents were your caretakers – they were the ones that provided you security in life – home, food, and love. Relying on them to nurture your needs, they were our all mighty big people. In this scenario, we were a small child and they were a big adult.
During these years we created responses to their actions/needs in order to see the smile on their face, be rewarded with a hug or get a treat. This is the beginning of our need to please. As we grow-up, there are those that spread their wings with a sense of freedom and those that continue to seek out a response of what we are doing is right.
When I was in my mid-twenties I had a job as a chef at a luxury retreat house, I was head of the kitchen and of myself. Until one day, one of the other staff became the new person to report to, they came with enthusiasm and an endless list of suggestions. She nurtured me, helped with tasks, and one day all of a sudden I felt like I was no longer in charge, she had come in and played a role of authority in my space and immediately I abided by what she said instead of trusting my gut on some of the situations.
The relationship strained, it wasn’t until I had an EFT session with a fellow colleague that we worked out that I saw her as someone greater than me. I responded by becoming small in the scenario, I was not her equal, I felt helpless, stuck and not heard. We were both grown women, yes there were several years in between us. But I reverted back to being a child. Which meant in my world – to abide by the rules, don’t upset people, and avoid conflict.
These scenarios are all too common for people-pleasers, so why does this happen?
BEING SMALL (ROLE OF A CHILD)
When you are feeling small you are more often than not reverting back to the role of a child.
This is where complete vulnerability lies, often guarded and controlled, as a people pleaser you can’t often show displays of emotion to everyone. Thus keeping emotions inside because you see them as inferior to those that you are in the company with. Or you may display emotional outbursts on the odd occasion and passive-aggressive behaviours to get attention.
In the diagram below is what we perceive ourselves to be – in the childlike state when we don’t see others as equal to us, We deem them far greater than ourselves, they can be – parents, partners, colleagues, bosses, teachers, friends or any authority figure.
This response to play the role of a child was created by you to protect yourself, your feelings and emotions or to get what you want. Usually a disruption to development alters the persons capability to learning new responses as they grow in maturity, instead they are set back a few years. Trauma can cause a role in this – though I believe that trauma is caused by a disruption to one’s understanding of one’s life.
However at times, these kinds of relationships can benefit a person – for example, children, a serious illness occurs, navigating grief, trauma or even a common cold for a few days. It’s safe to revert back to the childlike role to be nurtured when it is called for but not a role to play in everyday situations that keep us feeling inferior to others.
Seeing ourselves as Equal (Role of an Adult)
In order to see yourself as an equal, you need to strip away the fact you have been playing the role of a child and that you too are an adult and that the other person is an adult too. It’s a tough bullet to bite to admit you may have been acting like a child but we all do it.
There comes a time through childhood – adolescence – maturity where we learn to communicate with people in our own way. Often a disruption in development causes a person to lean more into playing the role of the child. Yet those that are nurtured to maturity to be able to think, express, and communicate their needs are more self-assured, which is not a bad thing. Though one may have judgments about those that know what they want, when in fact these people can ask for what they want you may tend to label them as lucky because nothing is holding them back.
Approaching others with the knowledge that the other person is the same, a human, with emotions, feelings, reactions, and responses that they too created while growing up, with problems that aren’t always visible on the surface – should not equate to changing who we are.
PRACTICAL TIPS TO STANDING AS AN EQUAL
1. See the other person as Equal: Yes it sounds simple but approach everyone you talk to as another human, yes they might have a great title or not but treat them with kindness like you would want to be treated.
2. Don’t feed people your BS: Showing up as an equal, an adult is demonstrating to the other person your real feelings & thoughts is a task that requires courage. It can be far easier to play down what is really going on for you and not speak up, lie or avoid a situation.
3. Smile & say hello: Every one of us here on earth wants to be acknowledged, start by simply smiling and saying hello to people in our everyday life. It’s a small gesture of kindness but it opens up the energy between people. And I will give you bonus points if you ask them how they are going.
4. Evaluate your relationships: Ask yourself why you treat certain people the way you do instead of others. Tackle a different person each time to establish an equal relationship with them, ask yourself where you can be honest to yourself without the need to change who you are to be around them.
I love hearing from you, what are your thoughts on this? Leave me a comment below.