Lift You
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Lift You

How to Stop Being a People-Pleaser

Key Points from ‘Please Yourself’ — a brilliant debut book.

A lovely illustration by my favourite artist, Yaoyao Ma Va Nas

This book was given to me by the most famous people pleaser in my life, my mother. We were buying college books in a bookstore on a fine Monday morning when she came up to me insisting that this was her treat. You could probably rightly guess that I modelled my niceness after her, and thus you see how amusingly ironic life is.

I knew this book would help me with patterns my whole family said I needed to change. What I didn’t expect was for this book to actually fulfil its cover page promise and ‘transform the way I lived.’

Over the two weeks that I was finishing this book, I bought another copy for someone, recited extracts on the phone with my closest friends and then bullied them into buying copies themselves. I read it out to both my parents.

This book is now decorated with so many orange pen scribbles across its chapters that I cannot lend it to anybody for fear they shall discover my greatest secrets.

Now my enthusiasm for this self-help book will shine its beam upon you dear reader! In case you aren’t able to spare the time to read all of its 230 pages, crib not, for I am here.

Here’s an article covering a few (not all!) points this incisive and empathic UK psychotherapist makes for us.

I will explain what she says in my own words and understanding so as to not infringe on her artistic copyright, and still be able to share my enthusiasm for her work. There are also some bonus humorous comments made by yours truly.

My Intro

To feel a good and happy feeling is to feel pleasure. It’s a feeling everybody on planet Earth would love to feel.

As per the author, a people-pleaser is someone who gives up their own happiness, authenticity or integrity for other people.

(Perhaps someone with a hero complex? Alas, that sounded like me.)

A people-pleaser needlessly sacrifices themselves for another, hurting both people in the long term. Their actions often come at the cost of their own emotional, intellectual and perhaps even economic or physical integrity.

So many of the author’s observations and the stories of her patients’ cases resonated with me in diverse, accurate and nuanced ways. I’d thought I was an emotional enigma to people; existing as some kind of special snowflake all along. But I realised I wasn’t alone. In fact, I recognised my friends and family within them as well.

Here’s an overview of what Emma explains as divided by some particular chapters I loved:

1. Four Types of People Pleasers

We may recognise ourselves within one or many of these profiles. The author is basing this arguable framework on the countless therapy cases she has worked with.

Firstly, there’s the Classic People-Pleaser.

Someone who feels emotionally validated and reassured of their self esteem by pleasing others, basing their identity on being ‘so nice to everyone!’ They are the last one in office because they took up others’ projects, are never able to say no to the boss, and feel like a great success if they are praised by someone higher on the career ladder. They enjoy being a mythical wish-granting genie on the planet.

Secondly, there’s the Shadow People-Pleaser.

This is someone who constantly gives up their limelight to highlight other people whom they believe are ‘above them’ and therefore ‘all this is for the greater good.’ They always shadow themselves to serve other people’s needs and feelings, slowly becoming motivated by personal insecurities to rank themselves below those people.

Thirdly, there’s the Pacifier.

This is someone who cannot bear the sight of conflict and confrontation, immediately rushing to mediate and resolve matters between two sides by understanding and explaining both of their feelings to each other, and asking them to reach a resolution or compromise.

They soak in an unhealthy amount of stress and transferred negative emotions that aren’t theirs in the first place. Sometimes this even stops the constructive energy for change that a conflict brings out, and the chance to be honest.

And finally, there’s the Resistor People-Pleaser.

This is the person who looks like the furthest thing from a people-pleaser from the outside. They are loud, clear and aggressive when they need to be. They’re the tough boss, and the no-nonsense parent. They fake indifference. ‘I don’t care what people say.

However, the truth is that a Resistor cares, and cares deeply. They seek acceptance and human validation from society as much as any normal person seeks.

They spend their time trying to outrun their feelings, refusing emotional vulnerability, and are dismayed to discover that they cannot escape their emotions in the end.

Emma Turrell explains that the different ways all of these types of people-pleasers live, all ends up making them feel exhausted, frustrated, and emotionally self denied.

Sometimes, they are self-suppressed to the point of reaching clinically depressing numbness, or a life-implosion where everything suddenly falls apart.

The reasons why people act this way, are often rooted in their childhood and with experiences related to their parents, siblings, friends and authority or caregiving figures.

Emma explains that the various relationships we create in life often mimic the core family unit that we are born into. That we can seek some kinds of bonds to unconsciously repair the damage of old bonds that did not work out.

But all we end up doing is make history repeat itself.

She explains that there is a way to get out of all that, if we are willing to listen to ourselves and understand our emotions and see where they are rooted. Listening to our honest feelings, is the best way to get out of being a people pleaser.

‘Feelings are the thermometer check that protects us when we are in a harmful place we do not want to be in.

They are a source of happiness and contentment when they signal that we are in the place we want to be in. With people who value and care for us like we care for them, seeing us for as we truly are.’

2. Pleasing Our Parents

Emma explains that our parents shape us and our future relationships as adults. The harm that most parents inflict is often unintended. They have good intentions and may believe they are being helpful.

They might be unconsiously passing down a generational problem that they underwent with their own mom and dad.

However, the reasons for early praise that each child recieves in their family, the circumstances they find themselves in, and the acting part they make themselves play— often ends up making them behave in the same way as grown adults.

If parents had unfair expectations or rewarded self-sacrificing behaviours, it is likely that the adult that a child turns into a Classic Pleaser.

If parents were in conflict, arguments, or intruding in the peace of other members in the family, it is likely that the child will become a Pacifier as an adult.

If parents consistently encouraged a child to put their younger or older sibling above them, or showed favouritism between children, the child can grow up to become a Shadow-Pleaser.

If parents were distant, cold, needlessly angry or emotionally unavailable, it is likely that the child will turn into a Resistor as an adult.

The process of healing some of one’s childhood pain, can lie in telling yourself the words you wish your caregivers had told you when you were little.

You may ask a trusted person in your life to say those words to you, after you tell them the whole story.

If a conversation is possible today with your own parents and they are open to listen, you can discuss this with them as well. Emma explains that you may be surprised to find out how well they take it, and how happily they respond upon seeing your honest self.

If they are unable to respond right, or show an inability to care about your feelings, it is time to distance yourself emotionally to protect yourself.

(Isn’t this author just brilliant by the way, readers? I’m a dedicated Emma Turrell supporter now. Y’all better message me when her new books come out. I’ll buy you free copies too.)

‘The ones in life who care for us, understand us, and are willing to change to meet our emotional and pragmatic needs, as we will for them — are the right ones who are worthy of us. They are the ones we should keep.’

3. Pleasing Our Friends

The key of a true friendship lies is its mutuality, and this is something I believe to be true. In a mutual meeting of care, respect and interests in each others’ lives. In a way of existing in the story of each others’ lives that makes them both happy.

There’s one simple and logical philosophy Emma explains here, and indeed something many people say many times:

In order to have space for the positive friendships, one must exit all the toxic friendships first.

The friends who constantly demand and emotionally leach off you, draining your energies in the process, are ones you should stop treating like a charity case with an illogical loyalty — and drop them.

The friends who are envious of you and subtly downplay your success in various paths in life, making you feel small in the process — are the ones you should ditch.

Friends who came in your life only for a window of intersecting time and interests, who now constantly neglect you, refuse to meet with you, and basically don’t seem to bother much with you now that distance has separated you — are the ones you should no longer bother with either.

Friends who demand conditions of you that you are not ready to meet, assert that you never call them or care for them enough, are absolutely opposite to whatever you stand for or are interested in, and push you into doing things you never want to do — are the ones you need to drop.

Basically, all one sided or co-dependent relationships end up becoming toxic.

Make space for the people in your life who are better for you, similar to you, and matter to you. Otherwise you are just filling up their space with people you don’t want to be friends with.

4. Pleasing At Our Jobs

The gist of what Emma explains here is not to bow down to work designated by our authorities, or collegues’ assignments, that we have no actual time and energy left to do, but end up slaving away at anyway — just because we are afraid to say no, and ‘fail’ or be ‘hated’ as a consequence.

When we state justifiable reasons to oppose something, we will find that we actually gain the respect of our bosses by proving that we have a backbone.

We are not necessarily respected at work for being the ‘best employee’, or having the most agreeable attitude. We are more respected for the quality of our work, and the perspective we bring to the table. How we mutually communicate with people for a Win/Win.

Don’t subordinate your important personal life to your work life.

This does not mean you push yourself even harder at home to ‘be perfect’ after a long day of work. My personal thought is that:

Perfectionism is an endlessly moronic concept.

Emma explains that that having a family life, means that you are present and emotionally in the lives of your family. Your core family. Your best friends.

See that you don’t leave a partner to handle everything all alone, and that doesn’t mean just keeping up with their physical burdens, but also being someone who lends an ear to their emotions, their problems — when they too are tired after a long day of work like you. That you do not leave your child to grow into adulthood without any valuable and self-esteem inducing memories with their parent.

If you do not tell your family how you are truly thinking and feeling about your life, imagining that you are shielding them from your problems — all you are actually doing, is coming off as being detached and inscrutable.

5. People Pleasers & Femininity

Interestingly, I related to 70% of the problems that were described in being pleasing as a woman. And I related 90% to being described as being pleasing as a man. Therefore, you may find yourself relating across a spectrum too.

Emma clearly explains that there is nothing inherently gender-centred about human personality traits in a scientific sense.

Emma asserts that it is true that many women and men are conditioned across cultures and time to conform to certain stereotypes and behave in certain ways. She explains that most of our differences are more cultural than scientific.

She explains that the detrimental effects of limiting societal conditioning, harms both genders in parallel ways.

The author explains the problem of the female Classic People-Pleaser. She appears in the form of the perfect daughter, best friend and work-dedicated employee.

This is the little girl who constantly received straight A’s and fulfilled all her parents’ expectations. The teenager who cannot feel beautiful without a plethora of Instagram likes and comments. The employee who feels like she is failing if she says no to an authority figure. The mother who feels guilty if she is not home every moment with her sour teenagers. The friend who will feel like she is deserting her girl group unless she takes emotional responsibility for all their problems.

Emma explains that these people should free themselves to take space, and get angry when they need to. To realise that anger is not a negative emotion, rage is. They must to allow themselves to feel anger. It has been the protective survival instict of the human species since its orgin. It is a most natural human emotion, as much as pain is.

Emma says that anger is our protector, and our friend. It alerts us when a limit has been overstepped. It empowers us with the needed energy for change.

These are the women who can tactfully say no to social invitations they have no interest in attending, and be amazed at how empathically people can respond.

These are women who can recognise when they are in dysfunctional relationships, and have the anger fuelled courage to leave them.

These are the women who do not justify abusive romantic relationships, call emotional manipulation ‘love’, and refuse a relationship that is unequal. Women who leave it, for good.

‘Anger gives you the split second courage to hit back when someone hits you. You find that your hesitation and fear has vanished after you protected and defended yourself.’

Now let us look at the other side.

There’s the female Resistor-People Pleaser. She might be the kind of person who will deny and oppose every sort of regulation imposed on her by civil human society, simply because it was dared to be imposed on her. She could be callous, even a cruel person to humans across both genders, in the garb of being being progressive. She might never apologize for being plainly rude.

There were a few insightful paragraphs Emma wrote in the end of this section, about the harmful impact of modern feminism, on both little girls and little boys. It really challenged and changed the way I thought.

I urge you all to get a copy of the book and check it out.

6. People Pleasers & Masculinity

The author psychotherapist describes a various array of behaviours often observed in men. They have also been detrimentally influenced by a man-biased power system for centuries, ceaselessly asked to hide their real selves behind rigid masculine expectations of success, bread-winning careers , and ruthless leadership attitudes — never being given permission to feel or acknowledge what they felt, even to themselves.

They choose escapism when life turns too stressful — a guilt-filled escapism that comes in various numbing forms.

Often they shut and suppress themselves off to such an extent that they plummet themselves into a sudden breakdown that wrecks havoc as their life implodes on itself.

Emma explained that it is wrong to hide how we authentically feel from our family, our workplace, and most importantly ourselves. Emotions are like warning traffic signals, if we ignore them for too long, we will get in a car crash one day.

Often, the shame and hiding stems from a deep rooted fear of failure that exists within many men.

Of failing their careers and their families who rely and expect much of them, of falling short of friends by being embroiled in a pointlessly eroding competition.

Of not meeting their crucial duties and financial responsibilities to sustain the lives of everyone they care about.

In many households around the world, they still do end up becoming the sole breadwinner.

They are afraid of overburdening others or looking weak when they need to appear strong, and thus consequently, they never share their fears with their partners or children, putting on a facade of a stoic mask that actually never ends up helping anybody.

They turn into Resistor People Pleasers.

I related to the shame and hiding part quite a bit. I know what it used to feel like to carry a huge, pointless fear of failure in my head all the time, driving myself to crazy levels of toxic productivity, till I was seeking an addictive, numbing escape. As a younger teenager, I spent dangerously endless hours on social media, celebrity articles and hip-hop music infused sleepless nights that ended up making me properly ill. It was like a sudden brake stop, after going at full throttle speed.

This kind of behaviour causes the whiplash one would expect, seemingly plummeting one from the top to the depths of depression and shame.

Emma explains that we must not hide about what it means to be human from our loved ones. For our own sanity, we must acknowledge all our feelings and tell ourselves that they are okay. That they can be understood, and slowly get better with time.

Now I wondered how much this effect would amplify in the life of a grown adult who numbs himself with drinking, cheating, gambling or anything of the like, killing his pain quietly until his life collapses on him.

Emma explains that he never shared the ordinary painful thoughts he feared he would get unforgiveably judged for, and thus he numbs himself and behaves irresponsibly to the point, that his worst fear actually comes true.

He does something properly bad in the eyes of his family, and then faces the risk of losing them forever.

Most acts humans fail at, are not so shameful as we imagine, or unforgivable in a way that would get us driven out of society forever.

Most things can be shared, outlasted and be repaired, if we are willing to face them.

If we acknowledge that we are imperfect, and stop trying to please everybody. It will be discovered that a trusted person before us, will be willing and honoured to share emotional responsibility of our problems with us.

Even more importantly, we must listen to our emotions, and take small steps every single day, to move forward in life.

Our blue emotions protect us, and they protect our yellow emotions too.

Emma arrived at another section in this chapter, where she described the ‘perfect gentleman,’ or the equivalent of a ‘perfect lady’ for me. I related hard to this one too.

Basically, Classic People Pleasers.

This is the man who always holds car doors open, brings roses, says exactly the most charming thing, pleases his mother and is all round a perfect gentleman everyone around him is constantly charmed by.

There can be a never ending list of people he is always trying to please.

But this person creates a complex for himself, where he creates an expectation for mutual pleasing. Of receiving exactly the sort of help and attentive care from the unwitting people whom he gave help to.

They never match up to his expectations, most often because they aren’t sure what exactly it is that they are expected to do.

The perfect gentleman ends up feeling justifiably hurt and neglected after he love-bombed them, and so he abandons them and finds someone else to charm.

The person they left, grows to feel justifiably confused and disappointed as well, because of the absence of the care they had come to expect of ‘the perfect gentleman.’

Emma also warns us about giving loving attention or help to people who don’t deserve it, who want to manipulate us for our hunger to always win people over with our charisma.

Emma asserts that ‘we cannot do authentic genorosity with inborn expectations.

We should be kind to people, but only when we are genuinely willing to be, with no strings attached.’

To lend a hand or make someone’s life happier when we feel able to do so, without creating an invisible expectation in return the other person has no idea about, because most human beings are incapable of reading minds.

Emma also says that the way we act can be inherantly and unintentionally, manipulative, because we are doing something the other person thought came with no strings attached.

It is important to be clear and honest from the beginning.

7. Being Pleased by People-Pleasers

The essence of the section was about how it feels on the other end of a relationship with a chronic people-pleaser.

These are the people who push every decision and initiative on you, needing and craving your praise and validation.

They try so hard to please you that they never communicate their authentic social needs.

It can get frustrating and wearying to be so over responsible in a relationship. You bear all its burden.

All this time, they ask you about what they should feel or the actions you want them to take — never ever doing what they want to do, or telling you clearly what they think or feel.

They travel in merry-go-round circles.

They think they’re being nice. But it’s just honestly harmful and hurtful to you both.

Now imagine this sort of a People-Pleaser and now realising how we can unwittingly come across to people, garnering the very sort of reaction we want to avoid?

The feeling we fear is rejection. But rejection is a part of life for everybody. It’s impossible to live happily unless you get comfortable with it.

Conclusion of Please Yourself

In the final section of Emma’s that awesomely rounds off the key points and case studies this book is enriched with, and there are many, many important points I have not shared with you.

You must get a ‘Please Yourself’ copy to do so.

And take note dear reader, that I am getting no sponsorship benefit from this shameless advertising of mine, so you must believe that I am endorsing this because I genuinely want to, no strings attached. *winks*

So Please Yourself! ❤

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Soulful, creative and light hearted stories intended to inspire

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Vandini Sharma

Vandini Sharma

20 year old awarded & published 🇮🇳 writer. I write soulful, creative & lighthearted stories intended to inspire!✒AP, Forbes, HT & 50+ global credits.💖

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