Are you always trying to make peace? Do you find it hard to say ‘no’ to others? Would you rather stay silent than speak up? Here, physiologist Tahnee Clark shares ways you can start putting your mental health first without feeling guilty about it.
Caring about others is a wonderful characteristic. With World Kindness Day having just passed on November 13, we were reminded of the importance of kindness and how being the giver of kindness can be equally as rewarding as being the receiver.
It’s important to keep in mind though that while you may value pleasing others, like most things in life, it’s best to have balance.
People-pleasing can have good and not so good elements. If pleasing others comes at the cost of your mental health, wellbeing or even your own safety, it may be time to consider exploring this further and increasing your awareness of how people-pleasing is impacting your life.
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Psychologist-approved tips for people-pleasers
1. Practise values exercises
One strategy that can be helpful is a values exercise. You can simply Google values to find an extensive list. Take the time to go through the list and identify the values that represent how you aspire to be. It’s generally most helpful to identify your top five or so.
Then consider which of these values you are actively fulfilling and which ones you are neglecting. You may find that you need to learn ways to adjust your thoughts, feelings or behaviours in order to support all your top values.
For instance, you may aspire to be a loyal person but a person you are being loyal to isn’t loyal back, often puts you down, doesn’t care for your needs or doesn’t appreciate you.
While being loyal may be important to you, other values that are also important to you, such as self-respect or care for self, may be being neglected. Loyalty can be a wonderful value and characteristic. You may decide with greater awareness that you are going to choose to be loyal to those who are also loyal and caring of you.
2. Recognise where kindness is being reciprocated
There are several skills that can help a people-pleaser also look after their mental health.
Itcan be helpful to show kindness and generosity when you really mean it. If you’re feeling resentful or counting the ‘I owe you’ debts, it may not be healthy.
It can also help to focus on building and nurturing relationships where there is fairness and equality. If kindness is not being reciprocated, it may be time to consider the relationships. You may approach it by calmly talking it through with them, practicing to put yourself first sometimes, learning to set boundaries or waiting until they ask for help.
3. Talk to a professional
A therapist or a coach can be a great way to support you through your self-awareness journey. Books, podcasts and resources can be helpful, too.
4. Identify why you’re a people-pleaser
You may find that your people-pleasing has developed as a survival skill or coping strategy that once served you well but is no longer needed or helpful.
For instance, a person may become a people-pleaser because it was a way to be accepted into a group or cared for. Core beliefs or self-talk that can undermine your self-worth can be attached to this circumstance-based learnt coping strategy to have to please others. An example of this is you may think you are not worthy of others care back, or if you ask or except care back you will be abandoned.
Unbeknownst to you, you may have created a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you are always pleasing others and they now expect it and don’t appreciate it, they may be shocked if you suddenly asked for something back in return. This shock may lead to resentment or push back from them, which could only further reinforce to you that you are not worthy and shouldn’t have asked. This can lead to your own resentment.
5. Find relationships that matter
Research shows time and time again that quality relationships is a key factor in achieving positive life satisfaction. Remember, you are precious and worthy of love just as much as anyone else.
Attracting people into your life that value you as much as you value them is key. These types of people will want to look after you and will enjoy celebrating and supporting you through your ups and downs. You will also find that these types of people encourage you to speak up, share your needs and enjoy pleasing you fairly and equally.
Tahnee Clark is Lysn’s COO and Head of Clinical. Lysn is a digital mental health company with world class wellbeing technology which helps people find their best-fit professional psychologist whilst being able to access online tools to improve their mental health.