Updated: May 23, 2022
(Continued from 10 Things That Mentally Strong People Don't Do)
Growing up in the 80s meant drinking Tang at breakfast and watching my favorite weekday TV shows like The Incredible Hulk and The Bionic Woman. For my single mother, it was the era of the sugary sweet, eager to please, overworked female. These were the same women wearing the boxy power suits with the giant shoulder pads. Society's view of traditional gender roles in the home remained the same even though women were working twice as hard for half the pay of their male colleagues. A working mother was still expected to perform the same level of family caregiving and daily household tasks while struggling to prove her worthiness as a female employee. Not much, if anything has changed.
Dad brought home most of the proverbial bacon, so his family role and workload primarily remained the same. Women are fixers by nature and when the household structure crumbles, we grab our tools and get to work. Even the most super of superwomen are forced to prioritize one over the other. We place our career aspirations and life dreams on an old shelf collecting dust alongside granny’s holiday fine china. Recent findings support that Americans overwhelmingly agree that a working mom should shoulder most of the childrearing and household responsibilities and be the first to sacrifice her career. We take it all on in the name of pleasing everyone, except ourselves.
Whether it is our childhood wounds, relational and occupational failures or a gentle disposition, most women fall prey to the people pleasing monster at some point. I wasted so many opportunities and ruined relationships by allowing the people pleaser voice in my head to dictate my decisions. After all these years, I still must push myself to engage in the healthy conflict that comes with taking a stand and taking charge of my own life.
The truth is that being overly agreeable keeps us from getting our most basic needs met. Think of all the exhausted women in your life that can’t find the time to take care of themselves mentally or physically. These same women have all the time in the world to serve and care for others. What happens when we neglect ourselves and allow others to dictate our time and energy? Our mental and physical health begins to decline and we are no longer able to care for others. It's a vicious cycle that leaves us constantly overwhelmed. We become consumed by what other people may be thinking about us. For many women this continues until they experience an emotional breakdown or health crisis. So what's a girl to do? I've listed a few small action items that when implemented consistently, can drastically change your life for the better.
Take some time before agreeing to an ask that requires your time and energy. Pause before jumping in to fix a problem that your child or family member should handle on their own. Remember failure is a great learning experience for a kids and adults. Prepare a generic reply like, “let me check my calendar and I’ll get back with you”. It is a great buffer and gives the other person time to consider other resources or solutions besides asking you for help. Remember, a sudden YES can often be a knee jerk reaction based on your people pleasing habits. It is much easier to say NO if you have prepared for the impact beforehand. Role play with a safe friend or loved one to prepare a response. I teach boundaries classes and I assure you that roleplaying helps significantly! Boundaries take time and you need a support system. The more you work the NO muscle, the stronger it gets.
You’re not chocolate, so stop trying to make everyone happy. It’s ok if someone becomes angry or upset. They are grownups who don’t need your emotional protection. They learned how to deal with negative emotions just like you did. If they did not learn appropriately, then you become part of their reality check and catalyst for growth. When you cease people pleasing your life will change. Those that have been benefiting from your bad habits will react. Remember not to do the same. Take a deep breath and respond instead of reacting. Remind yourself that saying NO is a basic human right. God has given to all of us.
A hurtful reaction may be a sign that it’s time to reevaluate the relationship. Give them time to accept your growth by using healthy boundaries such as distance or time away, especially if the individual becomes emotionally or physically abusive. You may discover that this individual no longer wants the relationship now that you aren't serving a purpose for them. If they walk away, let 'em walk! If you find yourself needing a personal coach along the way or want some help achieving your goals, I'm here for you! I am a Master Certified Life and Professional Coach who loves to help other women live their best life.
Good luck. Remember, don’t sacrifice yourself for someone else!