People Pleasing

What’s wrong with not wanting to make waves? More than you think.

When I was in my early 20s, I moved to Washington, DC to work for a boutique law firm. While there, my direct supervisors were from New York City. A farm girl from Iowa was quite the novelty in my little office and I was often chided for my “Mid-west Nice” attitude. After that excursion, my next legal job took me to national law firm in the Midwest. There my supervisor was another New Yorker and once again my Midwest Nice was met with ire. At first their criticism of my midwestern attitude bothered me–after all, I was just being polite and what was wrong with that?! Over time, I realized that what they were criticizing wasn’t midwestern civility. What they saw instead was an insecure young attorney who was afraid to make waves: who was afraid to be honest for fear of upsetting others. What they saw was people-pleasing disguised as good manners.

People pleasing tendencies. We’ve all got them. It may seem like simple Midwest Nice but at it’s core, people-pleasing is rooted in deception. When we put the needs and feelings of others before our own, we relegate our truth. We relegate our voices and we implicitly acknowledge that we are less important that those we are desperately trying to please.

My own lady lawyer coach recently blew my mind.

She said, “Frustration is often a sign of an unfulfilled intention.”

Whenever we are feeling frustrated it’s usually because we have stifled our truths and we aren’t showing up authentically or in the ways that we truly want to show up. We are frustrated because, for whatever reason, we feel like we are being inhibited in our ability to be honest.

For instance, when we are frustrated that we have more work than we want, at it’s core is frustration with ourselves for not protecting our capacity and being honest — because we really wanted to say, Absolutely not, I cannot do that project, I have more work than I need right now. We ignore our genuine intention of standing up for ourselves and being honest and that drives our frustration.

When we are frustrated with the people in our lives, the reason that frustration flourishes is because we aren’t taking authentic action to overcome it — instead of having a real conversation with the source of our frustration, we just rant and rave. We ignore our intention to have open, honest relationships with the people in our lives. When we stifle that true intention, if fuels the fires of frustration.

When we are frustrated after conversations with our supervisors, it’s often because there are things we wanted to say but didn’t. Truths we left hidden because we were afraid to bare them.

When we get frustrated with our parents, it’s easy to spin in anger over years of unspoken exasperations from the past. All the things we have wanted to say, all the hurts we wanted to address but never did. All those intentions left unanswered.

Frustration is often a sign that we are people pleasing: that we are not living in alignment with our intentions. It’s uncomfortable to be open and honest and give air to our true intentions.

But it’s also uncomfortable to live inauthentically — to live in frustration. It’s exhausting!

Besides, the truth always makes itself known.

When we people please, we trade our truths for immediate but temporary gratification. That frustrated, unlived intention will fester below the surface and eventually make itself known–except usually by that point the frustration has evolved from a rumble to a cataclysmic event. Enter the rage quit/breakup/meltdown/epic battle where all those past hurts and unspoken intentions come tumbling out.

In order to have real, lasting relationships we must invest in authenticity and allow those around us to know the real us.

If you are frustrated with your job, your career, or your relationships, or if you are challenged to overcome your own people-pleasing tendencies, you are not alone! I would love the opportunity to support you in the same way I support my clients. Schedule a free consultation today.

When you feel yourself being tempted to please others in a manner that is not consistent with your truth, choose instead to have your own back. To honor your deepest intentions.

Choose instead to have real, authentic relationships with everyone in your life. Like everything else, relationships are yin and yang — the other person can’t always have all the power, it will shift. Relationships can’t always be calm waters. When we people please to try and avoid the 50/50 of life, we only delay the inevitable. In doing so we diminish our own value and degrade our own truths.

Real relationships will require you to use your voice and have your own back when it comes to your own wants and needs. Anything else is a just a pretty dictatorship and you are playing the court jester.

Photo by Brett Jordan

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