Are you a people pleaser? Have you ever said those words in reference to yourself during an interview? Like most women, I was taught as a child to do as I was told, to act in a way that would please others and to always think of others' feelings first. What if I told you that all of that leads to a lifetime of people-pleasing that led me to make some of the worst decisions of my life. Not sure if you are a pleaser or a giver? Keep reading and I'll do my best to explain why pleasing is a path to unhappiness and how I found my way back to giving.
It's 5:45 pm and I'm due to leave at 6 when the call comes in. A client wants to bring her pet in to be euthanized. I agree to wait and keep myself busy until the dog shows up ten minutes later. When the dog comes trotting back to the scale without her owner I'm instantly annoyed. The dog in question is a chubby, happy, friendly yellow lab. She's eating treats on the scale and does not look like there is anything wrong with her. I am annoyed that I'm staying late to consult on a dog for euthanasia that is far from dying. While euthanasias tend to be fairly curt affairs I can already tell this is not going to be brief. Not only that but I am about to be asked to do something that I know I will have an ethical issue with. I walk into the room in a cloud of frustration, judgment, and annoyance. The only reason I'm walking into that room is to please the client that has come to see me.
It's 5:45 pm and I'm due to leave at 6 when the call comes in. A client wants to bring her pet in to be euthanized. I agree to wait and keep myself busy until the dog shows up ten minutes later. The dog is a thin, geriatric yellow lab that is having serious trouble walking. Her owners are ashen-faced as they carry her into the exam room. I immediately jump into action and rush into the room ready to deliver a humane end to a dog that has clearly seen better days. The only reason I'm walking into that room is to give to the client that has come to see me.
This, my friend, is the difference between pleasing and giving. From the outside (anyone not in your head) the action looks the same. In the end, I got up and walked into the exam room. But from the inside, the energy and feelings BEHIND the action are COMPLETELY different. Why is this important? It is important because the boomerang emotion to pleasing is resentment. Let that sink in. The boomerang emotion to pleasing is resentment.
That resentment is like a fungus that will take hold and spread to everything near you. The interaction with the first dog ends badly with the owner yelling at you and leaving without paying. Immediately you resent her for being unreasonable. You resent this job for keeping you here late. You resent your manager when you get called into the office to explain the complaint on his desk. You resent yourself for even agreeing to see the dog in the first place. See how that works?
None of this happens with the second dog. You still stay late but the owners were so appreciative and thankful that you felt pretty good about staying to have helped them. There is no resentment here. There is no resentment here because you went into that room to serve and give and the boomerang emotion here is contentment.
So how do you know if you are pleasing or giving? You check in with your emotions. In their book Ask and it is Given Esther Hicks and Abraham explain something called the emotional guidance scale. The left side of the scale (the upward spiral) has all good or positive emotions. The right side (the downward spiral) has all bad or negative emotions. If you are feeling an emotion on the upward spiral then you are giving. If you are feeling an emotion on the downward spiral then you are pleasing. If you have figured out that you are pleasing then you need to look at the situation and your internal chatter and figure out a way to get yourself back on the upward spiral before proceeding.
A good way to do this is to start with dropping the judgment. I know it's hard to do but judgment is the ladder that leads to the downward spiral. I like to think of it as a ladder to a big spiral slide. Once I get to the top I can look down on all the little people. However, the only way to get off the ladder is to slide down the downward spiral. No good feelings come from judgment. Without judgment about this person, her motives or her choices a lot of the negative feelings go away.
Second, acknowledge your feelings of annoyance and frustration. Realize that they are on the downward spiral and then take a deep breath and let them pass you like a wave. Don't stay in them and stew. Use them for what they were intended for. To help you realize that you were about to step into a big pile of pleasing. But instead, you listened to your emotions and let them guide you back to the upward spiral where you can get up and walk into that first room with wonder, an open mind, and an open heart that is ready to give.
I know that this is all a tall order but once you know it, you can't un-know it. And once you live it, you will see how easy it can be. I believe that we all have the power inside of us to do this. Stop pleasing. Start giving.
This is important work we do.
You got this.