“Yes, you’re right”
“Do they agree with what I’m saying?”
“I don’t like confrontation”
Have you said or thought any of these phrases?
These are words that you use when you’re attempting to please someone or have them agree with you. Maybe you want them to see your point of view, or perhaps you want them to like you.
It is good to make someone feel good and please them. You create a deeper bond with them and bring a lot of positivity to the interaction.
But in this process, are you also feeling uplifted and experiencing joy? Are you sharing your thoughts and emotions honestly and authentically?
If the answer is no, then you’re making someone feel good at your expense.
You observe their reactions to see if they’re happy and pleased, and you modulate your voice and actions to ensure that happiness. You shrink yourself to give what you think the other person needs.
And this causes a heavy burden on your mental and physical health.
You feel diminished. You lose confidence in your abilities to say and do things, and you start doubting yourself. And you lose touch with who you are and what you want.
Anatomy of People Pleasing
When you think of why you try to please people, you may think that you’re doing it because you want to make other people happy.
While that may be true, it doesn’t describe the internal motivation that drives you to suppress yourself and put someone else’s happiness above your own.
For you to unearth the root causes, you’ll have to dig into the importance and impact of strength and stability.
When you’re strong and stable in both body and mind, your health is good, you feel confident about who you are, and you have the courage to say what you want.
But when you feel weak and insecure, you constantly doubt yourself and your abilities, you look for validation from others, and you feel a general sense of anxiety or restlessness.
How do you build that strength and stability?
Think of the structural strength of a building.
For a building to be strong, you need to have the right design, use the right materials and then start off with the right foundation. When the foundation of the building is strong, then the rest of the structures are supported, and the building withstands the onslaught of the elements of nature.
Your body and mind also need a strong foundation, and that foundation is laid in your childhood.
Ayurveda says that kapha dosha dominates the early part of your life. Kapha is the bio-energy that is responsible for accumulation.
In the body, kapha helps with building of tissues, bones, muscles and other structures. In the mind, kapha is responsible for memory, mental stamina and resilience, and your sense of identity.
When you receive love, affection and support at a young age, you lay the foundation for good mental strength. Similarly, when you grow up eating fresh fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods, getting good exercise, and sleeping well, your body becomes strong and healthy.
If you had a childhood that did not support your mental or physical growth, you may be experiencing the consequences of those early beginnings.
But it does not mean that you have to be stuck with those effects. You can choose to change your thinking, your habits, and thereby the trajectory of your life.
You’d have to let go of non-beneficial scripts, strengthen your body and mind, and become more present with your words and behaviors.
Here are some ways of how you can do that.
Rewrite Your Story
Think of events or interactions in your life that were uncomfortable. They could be moments when you were embarrassed, ashamed or ignored. Perhaps you were trying to crack a joke and nobody laughed. Maybe you were in the middle of presentation, you froze and forgot what you wanted to say.
These moments are emotional. These experiences create a strong impression, cast doubts on your ability around a particular skill, and form a larger narrative about who you are and what you’re capable off.
When you challenge the conclusion of the story, you’ll change the narrative of your abilities and self-worthiness.
Tip: Write down the conclusion of your embarrassing or shameful experience. And take actions to change that conclusion. For example, if you had concluded that you freeze during presentations, take a class in public speaking or effective presentation to become more skilled and confident.
It is easy to get caught up in your own thoughts and feelings about specific situations. For example, when someone gets angry, and if you’re uncomfortable with confrontation, you may try to placate or please them and get yourself out of having to deal with that anger.
This situation may transport you to an earlier time, and to a younger version of yourself where you learnt to react a certain way in order to feel safe and secure. But in this process, you lose touch with the present situation and the conditions that exist at that moment.
Tip: When you feel uncomfortable or emotional in a situation, pay attention to the soles of your feet and how they are firmly placed on the ground. Take a deep breath and then respond to the situation. This should bring you back to the present moment.