Monday, June 6, 2011

Turns out I'm a people pleaser.

I have never considered myself a people pleaser.  I just knew I had low self-esteem, tried very hard to do well (school, jobs etc.), needed other people to confirm that something I said, did or made was good and tried my best not to get noticed.  "Running in Circles" was kind enough to send me a link to an article about people pleasing.  Initially, I didn't think it applied but figured she must have seen something in my post so I read it.  Well, I'll be darned.  Here's how they describe people pleasers and I have crossed out the ones that don't apply:

Very organized; easily liked; placators or appeasers; friendly and gregarious; helpful and supportive; courteous and considerate; always smiling; interested in others’ welfare; cooperative—“team players”; generous with time and energy; ready to volunteer; accept delegation easily; “company men”—very loyal; work hard at pleasing others; talented, skillful, and creative; happy, joyful, full of fun; encouraging and reassuring; readily accommodate others’ requests; “together,” warm, and caring; sought out for friendships—popular socially.

This really surprised me.  For the most part the ones I've crossed off are a direct result of my depression.  So, obviously, I kept reading and the author talks about the price people pleasers pay.  Once again, I quote the list:

Loss of integrity, identity, self-respect and self-esteem; constant self-criticism and self-belittlement; nagging sense of guilt and shame about not really being "good enough" for others; chronic insecurities in personal interactions (for they're feeling okay is so conditional and dependent on others' approval); inability to sustain healthy relationships with healthy boundaries; inability to trust, accept or perceive as heartfelt others' kindness or positive feedback; difficulty or inability to manage, lead or supervise others (for fear of offending--or displeasing--them); inability to effectively control their time, whether at work or at home (mainly because of problems saying no to others' requests); inability to stay with or accomplish personal goals (because they're not a high-enough priority for themselves); inability to make decisions; and--ultimately--burnout, whether at work, home, or both (partly because people-pleasers don't know how to relax--or don't feel they can let themselves relax--and partly because they're forever driven to prove their worth to others, such that not constantly doing something triggers in them anxiety or guilt).

O.K.  so now I'm really interested.  I have to qualify the items I crossed off.  I don't think I have an inability to sustain relationships, I think I just don't really have the energy for friendships.  The fact that I feel sustaining relationships requires a great deal of energy says alot on its own don't you think?  Secondly, I have no problem saying no to other people's requests,  sometimes I say yes when I don't want to but then I just don't do the thing and rarely feel bad about it. Finally,  I am quite capable of doing nothing and do not feel driven to prove my worth.  I can't relax though because I feel like I should be doing something productive, for me that means household chores. 

Another thing that really stuck was the whole loss of identity thing.  I have pretty much always tried to do what was expected of me.  When I became a wife and mom I was supposed to start making some decisions on my own.  What?  I can't do that, what if I make the wrong choice?  I have enough guilt (that'll be post of it's own)  without taking responsibility for decision making.  I spent a good couple of years taking every cheesy and scientific personality test and quiz I could get my hands on.  I kept hoping one of the results would tell me how I'm supposed to behave.  "Be yourself"  never really meant much to me but I am definitely making progress on that front.

Part three of the article talks about how to overcome the whole thing.  This list is requiring a great deal more thought for me so I will post about those as they make sense to me.

Thank you so much  "Running in Circles "  Learning something about myself is always a big step forward in my  struggle and you have absolutely taught me something today.


  1. I'm glad that you might find it useful. I want to help and I want people to help me, but often times I question whether it's my place to say something or not. I'm happy that you took it from a good place rather than a criticism, because it truly was a good intention on my part. Now if you find out something useful about what to do with this information please send it my way =)

  2. Pam K said a great thing....
    I didnt have a nervous breakdown from being weak but from being too strong too long. I think you can sustitute depression in for nervous breakdown. Give that some thought.
    Hope all is well. Hugs, Kim

  3. sorry typo
    substitute , hopefully thats spelled right.

  4. Running: The Psychology Today has all kinds of articles that I can use to make excuses for myself or try to make some changes. Unfortunately it will probably equal parts of the first and the latter but any progress is good progress right?

    Kim: You are so right. My collapse from depression was much like a nervous breakdown. People tell me I'm stronger than I think and I've never really understood what they are talking about. I fell apart didn't I? Well if it's a compliment, I'll take it. Thanks