I have a big confession to make. For so many years of my life, I had been a people pleaser. I grew up in a society that conditioned and raised me to please every single person - family, friends, neighbours, acquaintances and even random people. From my childhood, I got into this pattern of pleasing people and I have to say that it severely crippled the way I was living. It took me such a long time to understand this and start training myself to start saying NO to others so I can say YES to myself.
This is pretty powerful stuff and one of the reasons I want to bring this out here in the open and talk about it more is because I find many people in a similar situation. Think about this – How many times have you lied and said yes to doing something when you didn’t want to, but you did it anyway to please the other person? Take a moment, close your eyes and recall the last time you did this? What’s coming up? So, if you are a people pleaser and a really good one at that, then read on.
My friends let me be very clear. I did not wake up one morning, jump of bed, have an Ah-Ha moment, discover I’m a people pleaser and say - that’s enough, thank you very much, no more people pleasing for me! Nope, not that simple! I did not even realise that I was a people pleaser till I started thought and change work. The first thing I learnt or started observing was the lack of boundaries that I had set for myself and for others. So if I didn’t know what my boundaries were and if I didn’t set them, how would people even know they are crossing into my boundaries? Golden Nugget 1 – Learn to set the right Boundaries.
So if you are still here with me, take a moment and think about this – Why do we want to please people? Why is this so important? The answer is simple – the fear of rejection. We are so afraid to say no, because we feel that nobody will like us and we will be rejected or ostracised. For most of us this sense of belonging, the external validation is so important, that we will go to any level to get that. I don’t blame you – rejection is a primitive fear, one that’s existed since the stone ages. We were biologically wired to belong and be part of a group for survival.
But the question to ask yourself now – Is the fear of rejection holding you back from becoming your true authentic self? We are so conditioned to seek approval. If we get the approval from everyone we are on the right path, then great, if not we come to the conclusion that something is wrong! We hold ourselves back from standing out and when we are not getting the approval of others we spend a lot of time getting it. Think about this – How much time do you spend holding yourself back from your goals and dreams, rejecting yourself ahead of time so you don’t have to risk being rejected in the world? This, my friends is a serious issue for anyone who wants to grow, evolve and create. I will give it to you straight and simple – Anytime you create or do something new, you will risk rejection. You can’t escape that. The truth is everybody rejects something, so you can’t live this life to please everyone. You might like cake and 10 other people might like cake but you’ll surely find one person who will reject even the best, yummiest cake. This is life – somebody will reject something. We all do.
Now imagine a life where you aren’t afraid of being rejected, imagine a life where you are pleasing nobody but yourself, imagine a life you are living from a place of values and fulfilment. What would you be doing then that you are not doing now? The interesting thing is that rejection is most often in our minds, something we create out of fear. The answer to rejection is self-confidence. If for a second, you told yourself – Bring it on, bring on the rejection, bring on the fear, I will be who I want to be. What if you told yourself that the only approval you needed for growth was from yourself and nobody else.
I know what I’m asking you to do is really hard. I can only tell you this – once I stopped pleasing others and overcame the fear of rejection, I changed tremendously and finally started living and doing the things that gave me most fulfilment. I quit alcohol 4 years ago, I became a runner, I created my businesses, I told myself that I will change the world and I started saying no to people who are hijacking my time. I’ve failed many times at many things, been rejected countless times and that will continue to happen but I am more happier now saying yes to me and giving myself the permission to be rejected by others.
Pema Chodron is one of my favourite teachers. She’s a Buddhist monk and author. She speaks of this huge desire to be loved and not rejected. In Buddism, it is called “shenpa”.
“Somebody says a mean word to you and then something in you tightens – that’s the shenpa. Then it starts to spiral into low self-esteem, or blaming them, or anger at them, denigrating yourself. And maybe if you have strong addictions, you just go right for your addiction to cover over the bad feeling that arose when that person said that mean word to you. This is a mean word that gets you, hooks you. Another mean word may not affect you but we’re talking about where it touches that sore place – that’s a shenpa.”
If you want to do deep work on finding fulfilment and really living your dreams and life purpose without fear then reach out to a coach or thought work professional who can hold the space and help you towards change.
I'm Poornima Nair, Qualified Life Coach, NLP Practitioner and Founder of Live Authentic Coaching. If you are curious about coaching, interested in being nurtured, inspired and pushed to your edge, to discover and create the relationships, career, lifestyle, finances you are longing for, please reach out to me for a taster of what great coaching does to foster the clarity, mindset, qualities and skills that will allow you to breakthrough.