Tisha Berg is an award-winning family lifestyle blogger that has been featured on CBS-TV's "The Talk" and in Maria T. Bailey's book "Power Moms: The New Rules for Engaging Mom Influencers Who Drive Brand Choice." Tisha wants to inspire busy working parents to effectively prioritize the things that matter most in their lives. You can connect with Tisha via Twitter (@TishaBerg) or on her personal blog, Thrifty Travelist
I recently took people-pleasing to a new level…or low. I forgot I had a voice. For reasons of simplification, I won’t go into detail about how that happened or who was involved, but I will talk about why losing your voice is “bad, bad juju.”
It starts out with wanting to be a nice person. Friendly. Likeable. It often ends up with you tying yourself in knots over what a pushover you are and how you feel completely disrespected and taken advantage of. Oy. Somebody pass the Xanax.
When you think about it, does anybody ever dream about being “nice” or “sweet”? No. More likely they fantasize about being the bad-ass rebel, the go-getter…even the person who flips out one day and just tells that office jerk to go stick it where the sun don’t shine.
Let’s face it “nice-ness” never wins any awards, except maybe those volunteer appreciation certificates – and, really, do you know where the last one you got is?
People Want to Please YOU. They Really Do.
Honestly, it makes people feel good to know that they put a smile on your face – unless they realize that they’ll get the same smile by ignoring what you want and suggesting that you meet their needs. That may sound selfish, but it’s basic human nature. We ARE selfish creatures and we endeavor to happiness through the shortest route possible.
I once heard someone say that you show people how to treat you. Although I think that there are some who are just oblivious to any physical and verbal cues (or could care less), I do agree that we have to set the tone for how we’d like to be included in the conversation. That means being unafraid to ask for and accept what it is that we want. Being flexible and easy-going may seem like the easiest response but really thinking about what we want and then offering a genuine response can yield a much fuller and more satisfying experience – and relationship – for all those involved. What’s required, of course, is getting past the initial discomfort that many of us feel when we put ourselves first.
First Doesn’t Mean “Only”
To us people-pleasers, putting ourselves first often feels extremely counter-intuitive and well,…just wrong. Our shortest route to happiness is avoiding the slightest hint of friction, discomfort or (horrors!) conflict. We are more than content to just “go along to get along” and in some cases that works out well for all involved, including us. The problem comes in when our acquiescence begins to get taken for granted by others. And feeling the obligation to “go along”, because it’s what’s expected from us, can leave us feeling less than valued and appreciated.
What to do? Recognize that you’re not doing anyone any favors by not taking how you feel into account. Thinking about your own feelings doesn’t mean that they are the only ones you’ll take into account when making decisions, but it does mean honoring your personal input and preferences about the matter at hand. And the only one responsible for voicing that input is you. You can’t expect others to respect how you feel if you don’t do it first.
We pleasers often default to the knee-jerk reaction of deferring to whatever the consensus is and then we realize later on that we really do feel differently. Then we complain, get annoyed or just bow out of the situation all together. However, if we check in with ourselves and voice our feelings up front, we may not always get our way, but we’ll feel a lot more satisfied that we at least got heard.
In order to get into the practice of honoring your own feelings, start with little things like choosing where to go on a lunch date with a friend or what game to play on family night. Instead of always saying “I don’t care, whatever you want to do”, take a few minutes to really think about whether you have a preference. Beginning this practice in a safe environment will help us to gain the confidence to voice our opinions more readily when it’s a lot harder to do so. Eventually, trusting and honoring your own feelings will get easier. And whether or not you lose fans in the process, you’ll have gained something far more important: your sense of self.