Have you recently…
Vocally disagreed with someone or something?
Cancelled any plans because you just didn’t feel like it?
Made a decision without running it past ‘everyone’ ?
If so - congratulations!
You are either a walking badass or a recovering people pleaser!
I don’t mind… Whatever you think… What does everyone else say?
All the type of statements made by chronic people pleasers, the incredibly laid back, or serial fence-sitters.
Personally, I’m a mixture - definitely a recovering people pleaser with the natural switch that reaching 40 brings with it, but also, sometimes I really just don’t have an opinion. I’m easy going when it comes to venues, food, entertainment and similar. I am however, fiercely protective of my time NOT spent wrangling traffic, entitled timewasters, waiting unnecessarily or spending money on things that simply don’t suit me or the family. Luckily for me, I am an internet fence sitter. Do I have an opinion?, heck yes, do I want to spend an hour arguing with Brenda on a facebook group about her more than questionable views on politics? - hard no. This isn’t people pleasing , it’s Kellie pleasing. Note - I will also defend to the death anyone or anything I feel is at risk of total injustice.
Not making a decision, is making a decision.
The likelihood is, after the past couple of years, your outlook has changed. You’ll be naturally more protective of your personal or family time, and the constraints on your mental health and your purse. You possibly didn’t decide to do this consciously, but the fact is, we all now know where we prefer to spend our time and energy. Working from home has helped too. We need to converse with our colleagues, ask for collaboration and make collective decisions, but we are not doing this needlessly - this has not only made us more productive (debatable am sure) but technically gives us more autonomy. You’ve been flexing those decisive muscles without even realising it. Calorie deficit? (possibly not)
So here’s the thing. If you are a chronic people pleaser, the good news is, you’ve improved without even realising it. If finances preclude you from being more ‘social’ than before - no regrets! If laptopping at home means you are relying less on others for career validation or feeling ‘less than' in pointless meetings - hurray! If you are truly valuing your time more than you did pre pandemic, because you’ve lived it and have felt the benefit - the drinks are on me!
So you’ve started your recovery - what’s next?
Speaking up and expressing a preference every day. Maybe you’ve realised that actually, you do fancy something different for dinner, it’s your choice for Netflix tonight, or telling someone to do something they are perfectly capable of and would help you hugely is the next step. I’m not creating a tribe of tyrants here - nobody said being assertive meant rude or unfriendly. Okay - the legacy of patriarchy did, but we’re smashing that, one box set choice at a time.
The next step is probably the hardest. Voicing actual, felt displeasure. Did they hurt your feelings? Is someone else's decision going to impact you in a way that you really don’t like? Tell them. Again - it’s not about rudeness or aggression. It’s about taking control of your own life, and mental health. It’s terrifying at first, and feels out of character, but truly it’s brave and courageous - your future self will thank you for it. Some of us are naturally more resilient than others, but resilience is a muscle that can be built. Often it’s life experience that occurs unexpectedly and greatly that flings us into the realms of ‘no choice’ but to deal with. Let's say you are a lucky soul who hasn’t yet experienced the worst of life's kick in the shin moments. You are still entitled to live the life you want on your own terms. It's about you and yours, and the practice of assertiveness soon becomes perfect, and a natural way of being.
You’ve come a long way, there’s no looking back now. Identify the gaps and flex. See how it looks on you and what it means for your peace of mind.
Spoiler alert - sometimes it's good to do things we don’t want to do. Compassion and empathy are hugely important human traits, and for some, these require practice too. Supporting family, friends, and co-workers when necessary means stepping out of our comfort zone and spending time or money on things we normally wouldn’t. We don’t think twice about sitting in a draughty school hall practically weekly listening to tuneless blasts of ‘ three blind mice' on the recorder, and nodding, clapping and smiling at the right time. The same with listening to Grandads tales of yesteryear we’ve heard hundreds of times before. We make a decision to do this, whether we’d prefer it or not, and that’s not people-pleasing, it’s life-affirming.