I had a roommate in college who never learned to drive. As her roommate, it quickly became my responsibility to take her to and from work, drive her to campus and wait around until she was done to bring her home. Sometimes, I would go home, eat dinner, run errands, hang out with friends and go back for her later. In return, she never offered to pay for gas, expected my help at the drop of a hat and rarely thanked me for it.
I’m not exactly sure why I agreed to do this or how I wound up in that position to begin with, but I never complained. I just kept on doing it. Why? Because I wanted her to be my friend. And because I was afraid if I didn’t drive her where she needed to go, no one else would and that would be all my fault.
I was the quintessential people pleaser.
After we graduated, my roommate and I drifted apart. It turned out we weren’t as good of friends as I once thought (surprise, surprise) and frankly I was tired of being her doormat. It was my first step in a long journey toward being comfortable with putting myself first.
I read recently that people pleasers tend to say yes to everything and everyone because they either fear rejection or failure or both. Check off both boxes for me. I’ve learned that being a people pleaser, can bring on stress (check) and depression (check) in a person’s life because we are constantly putting other people’s needs before our own (check, check).
These days, I would describe myself as a recovering people pleaser. There are times when I find myself going back to my old ways, doing everything for everybody until I’m exhausted, get mad at myself and quit cold turkey.
As I get a little older and a lot wiser, I’m learning to put my own goals and dreams first because let’s face it – I’m not getting any younger. That doesn’t mean that I’m not willing to do favors for people or be supportive or show up in a time of need. I’m still that kind of person. I’m just making a little more room in my life for me.
Here is what that looks like right now:
- I’ve started writing again.
- I get in my 10,000 steps a day (more or less)
- I spend more time with my family and friends.
- I volunteer for what I want when I want.
- I make the kids do the dishes 4 times a week and soon they will be doing their own laundry.
- I ask for help instead of trying to be a Superwoman all of the time.
- I’ve learned to say no.
- I’ve set goals for myself that I plan on reaching.
- I’ve allowed myself to dream a little more about what I want to accomplish.
- I’ve given myself permission to dedicate more time to make those goals and dreams a reality.
And the ultimate success of being a recovering people pleaser is that I wake up every day feeling happy about it all, fulfilled and not the least bit guilty.