Crazy People Pleaser

The day my first baby was born, my mother visited us in the hospital. She brought cigarettes. I had stopped smoking for nine months, and I hadn’t intended to start again. But Mom was being thoughtful by bringing me cigarettes, so in order not to hurt her feelings, I lit up.

Sounds crazy. I risked my health and the health of my children so as not to say no to my mother. Her approval meant a lot and I knew how easily she could take it away. I had to be very careful to never displease her, even if it meant doing something that my brain told me was a bad idea.

I didn’t quite trust my own mind back then. There was suspicion buried deep in my heart that I wasn’t very smart. Or good. The only way anybody was ever going to love stupid bad me was if I did everything I could to make them happy. And also, if I did everything I could to make others happy, I would at least be good, if not smart.

Then time went on and I realized I was pretty smart in some ways. Didn’t that cum laude on the college diploma say so? Didn’t the second degree, earned at night while teaching all day, reinforce I was good at something? Still…giving myself a break was always a challenge, because I believed that pleasing others was the way to be good. If you thought about yourself first, well, that was selfish.

This crazy-ass philosophy of life stopped making sense to me at some point. Or so I thought. Then I took an inventory a few months ago that to my surprise revealed I was still had a tendency to say yes when I yearned to say no. I still had some assumptions about self-care that needed tending. Like the one that goes “I will honor my commitments.”

I have a very hard time letting other people down. I’d rather suck it up and do the job I signed up for, even if the circumstances around it had changed and doing the job would cause me serious grief. Maybe because in some way following through on every commitment, even those that had run out of gas and just weren’t good for me anymore, still made me feel better about myself. If I quit, people would boo me. If I stayed, people would admire me and say “Isn’t she fabulous? How could we ever do it without her?”

Except. Wanting admiration from others more than tending to self-care is like smoking a cigarette you don’t want just to impress somebody else.


  1. Oh I think I might be e people pleaser too. I always do what I am supposed to, I bust my butt to keep everyone in my family happy, without taking care of myself. But what do we do? How do you change that unhealthy need to keep people around you happy?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “I Should” is a red flag. If someone requests something you’d rather not do, learn to say “no” ~ if that’s too difficult, say “I’d love to help but I can’t this time.” If that’s still too difficult, say “Let me check something and I’ll get back to you” Then give yourself a pep talk and call the requester back with “Sorry I can’t this time” Don’t give reasons. The reason “You can’t” is because you need that time for yourself. Also stop thinking “selfish” is a bad thing. It’s more about self care.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I don’t think I have ever said ‘no’ to anyone my entire life, and I realise now just how soul destroying that can be. Most of the time I love that I am the one people come to when they need something, but where is the person I can go to?
    Is it too late to change things?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just turned 62 and I’m still learning so no, I don’t think it’s too late for you Jaye. Next time someone comes to you with a request, think about your core values, what is most important to you. Writing is in my top five–so if the request involves taking time away from writing I say no. I say it in a nice way. “Oh wow. I’m so sorry. I’m working then.” I admit that if my grandsons lived in the area and their moms called me for emergency babysitting, I would say yes, because these relationships are a higher priority to me than writing. But let’s say I got called for emergency babysitting and I was dealing with a health issue…then I’d be honest and say “You know, I just took migraine meds so I better not.” If you keep your values in mind, you can see when you need to say yes and when to say no. Health comes before family and family comes before writing. Think about what is really most important to you. xo

      Liked by 1 person

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