Wednesday, 25 March 2015

People Pleasing: Bad for Your Health

People pleasers are the nicest people you will meet. They just can't say 'no' to anyone. They are always there to help or do whatever is asked of them. They avoid getting angry because they don't want to 'rock the boat'. People pleasers are not confrontational and will go out of their way to avoid it at all costs. They spend a tremendous amount of time doing things for other people.

These sound like wonderful qualities to have … right? Well NO … not really!!

People pleasers have a deep underlying fear of rejection, being provided with only 'conditional' love, in which they may have been rejected or abandoned, or threatened with such if they didn't succumb to following through on some request. If severely punished or criticised for even the most trivial mistakes, a fear of failure will also develop.

Tendencies toward becoming a people pleaser are constructed over time. Experiences we have in our early formative years imprint us with our personalities or character traits. Parents or caregivers were most likely overly critical and emotionally unavailable. Unfavorable criticism and punishment can lead to significant anxiety upon attempting tasks.

I'm not suggesting one stop helping people altogether. Wanting to help and care for others isn't all bad, your heart is in the right place, but there has to be a healthy balance.

People pleasers tend to neglect themselves and their own needs; suffer from stress and depression; and become a 'door mat' for others. They are usually passive aggressive and become resentful of people, rarely enjoying most activities.

The universe will continually bring situations or contrasting personalities (people who take advantage of others) into our awareness until we finally get it! Each time it will be more pronounced ... louder and louder until it's screaming at us to wake up and listen!

Personally, I know it's difficult to change or let go of certain defining parts of our persona. I would consider myself to have been one of the utmost of people pleasers! It wasn't that long ago that I finally woke up to this and took a good long look at my history of what it meant to be 'nice'. I was the type of person that hated to think the worst of people, and unendingly kept getting pulled into scenarios where I felt I was being manipulated.

I had a family member move in a couple of blocks from me. He had called me one evening, asking what I was doing on such and such an evening. I responded with, "I don't have anything planned, what's up (thinking he was going to invite me to do get together with him and his wife)?" He then asked if I would mind babysitting. Of course my enthusiasm dropped like a rock. The second time he calls, I fall for it again. In both instances, I had already confirmed that I didn't have plans, so I felt obligated to do something that I didn't really want to do. Previous to this, it would be unusual to hear from him. It's usually a good sign that if someone starts calling you asking for a favour, it will be the same thereafter. So the third time, I was prepared and when asked what I was doing on a particular evening, I responded with, "I have plans and won't be available that night." Eventually he stopped calling.

Similar instances would occur at work as well. When my work was completed, I would offer to take on work from others that were extremely busy. Eventually these extra tasks would become my sole responsibility. Now, you can watch the ego mind at play here, at first feeling flattered and appreciated. But as more tasks came my way, I found I was working extra hours in the evening, and on the weekends just to keep up. Working late, six or seven days a week eventually became the norm so that by the time I got home, I would have just enough time to eat, take a shower and go to bed to get up the next morning. The job was consuming me and my life. I was becoming depressed and stressed. My passive-aggressive self did not handle things very well, and I eventually left the job.

Another family member, for over a period of two years, had been sending emails almost daily stating that they were having a difficult time with this, a hard time with that. I would offer suggestions but they would go unheeded and peter out into the great abyss. So then I had the brilliant idea to sell my house and move closer to 'help out'. Approximately three months after the move, it became evident that I was no longer needed. Here I was unemployed and seemingly in the middle of nowhere, so I made the decision to move back from whence I came. It would be a couple of months before I could get all my ducks in a row, and in the meantime I began a ritual of self-abasement. I was eventually enveloped in an overwhelming depression, which caused me to become quite ill.

Now the universe is screaming at me, and I'm finally starting to listen.

By the time I was moved back to the city, my health was deteriorating by the day. My hair was falling out by the handfuls, excessive sweating, extreme weight loss despite my appetite, extreme muscle weakness, and increased heart rate. After a couple of visits to emergency, I was diagnosed with Graves Disease, which can be triggered due to stress. Despite being prescribed medication, my health continued to decline until I weighed a mere 94 lbs (5'7"). Again, in the midst of a thyroid storm (a severe and life-threatening complication of the thyroid condition), I was back in the  emergency room.

It would be a couple of days later that the 'light switch' finally went on. I am a student of A Course in Miracles, which is a spiritual self-study curriculum of self-transformation and forgiveness. Temporarily shunning the course, it was in this instant that I realized or remembered that 'I' am accountable for what occurs in my outer world, by what is held within: beliefs, thoughts, and perceptions. In order to heal one must have a change of mind, a reversal of thought. No one was at fault for how 'I' chose to perceive my circumstances and the decisions I chose to make. We ultimately teach people how to treat us. You may also be interested in reading my post on Miracle of Forgiveness for the transformation in healing.

I'm not advocating that we should stop being nice, but rather to work at 'balancing' things out. There are many ways one can be helpful without destroying your life or health. By not giving our power away, we always had and have a choice to do what 'feels' right for us.

A few situations where 'nice' doesn't feel akin to being taken advantage of, is travelling on the transit and being comfortably seated while there is standing room only left (because who really likes to stand up on a moving vehicle) and giving my seat up to someone who is on crutches, a woman that is visibly pregnant, an elderly person, or a visually impaired person; or if I'm a few feet away and I happen to see a delivery person or someone trying to get a door open while struggling with an arm load of parcels or groceries, I will go back and assist them.

Related post: Love Yourself First - Your Most Important Relationship.

I was always the go to person, only because I constantly gave of myself. But our number one priority is self-love. We can't give what we don't possess.

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