In this episode, I dive deep into the concept of people-pleasing and its impact on our health and well-being. I explore the challenges faced by women in saying no and how this behavior stems from avoiding conflict and the need to control others’ emotional responses. Throughout the episode, I share personal experiences with people pleasing and how it can manifest in various aspects of life. I also discuss the importance of setting boundaries, practicing self-compassion, and seeking coaching and support to overcome this tendency.
Join me as I break down the effects of people pleasing and the importance of prioritizing our own needs over accommodating others, especially for women in midlife. Don’t forget to prioritize your well-being and have an amazing week!
People pleasing is the tendency to prioritize other people’s needs and desires over our own, often at the cost of our own well-being. This behavior is not the same as kindness, generosity, or altruism, but rather an inability to say no and a constant need for approval from others.
Women are often taught that it’s better to give than to receive and to prioritize others’ opinions over their own. This discussion includes the realization that people-pleasing behaviors often stem from avoiding conflict and the need to control others’ emotional responses. We also examine the importance of accepting negative emotions in ourselves and others to help overcome the need to people please.
We examine how people-pleasing behaviors can manifest in our lives and negatively impact our health. This can happen when we agree to go out to dinner or order in when we’ve already planned a meal, give in to others’ wants to avoid conflict or struggle and take on more work around the house to avoid dealing with others’ bad moods. Recognizing the problem, setting boundaries, practicing self-compassion, and hiring a coach can help combat these tendencies.
We explore the consequences of people-pleasing and the importance of prioritizing our own needs over accommodating others. This is especially relevant for women in midlife, as it can significantly impact their health.
On today’s episode of the Done With Dieting Podcast, we are exploring people pleasing and how it impacts our health, especially for women in midlife. If you’re someone who just can’t figure out why you can’t get on board with your healthy habits, I’m exploring the challenges faced in saying no, the importance of setting boundaries, and how people pleasing can manifest in so many different aspects of our lives.
Join me as I share my personal experience with breaking free from people pleasing and the insights, and practical tools that I’ve used myself to help you break the pattern and prioritize your own health. Now, if you are tired of putting others’ needs before your own and want to regain control over your health and happiness, this episode is for you.
So, let’s get started on breaking free from people pleasing and living a more empowered life.
You are listening to the done with dieting podcast. The podcast for women who are experiencing perimenopause and menopause symptoms and want to feel better – like they did before their body started changing.
I am your host, Elizabeth Sherman, Master Certified health, and life coach for women in menopause and peri menopause. I’ve helped thousands of women manage their symptoms, get off the diet roller coaster, and change their relationship with food, exercise, and stop fighting with their bodies. And I do it through a feminist lens – which means exploring how we are socialized as young women has a huge impact on our current relationship with food & exercise, our bodies, health, and ourselves.
What’s different about this podcast is that we’re exploring your health from all sides, not just food and exercise. We also address the mindset shifts that will make you happier and lead to better health.
My goal in this podcast is to illustrate that the reason diets don’t work long term is because your health doesn’t exist in a silo. Your health and your weight are a symptom of the OTHER parts of your life and how you show up. I want to help you to feel good and live the life you desire from a 360 degree approach: body, mind, and soul.
Welcome. Let’s get started.
Hey everyone, welcome to today’s episode of the Done With Dieting podcast episode number 123. And today’s podcast has actually been in the making for a really long time. I don’t know what’s kept me from actually going ahead and recording it. I think just because it’s so multilayered and it’s such a big topic that quite honestly, I’ve actually even broken it up into three different episodes.
So, last week, I talked about judgment and how we try to manipulate people into thinking different things about us, and with our eating, right? And so, today, I’m going to talk about people pleasing from a generalized people pleasing standpoint but also, how it impacts our health. Because I think that so many of us, we can’t see that we’re actually doing people pleasing. That people pleasing is part of us.
I’ll get into a little bit of my experience with it and the experiment that I did in order to get out of it, which was fascinating. But there’s also a third part to it and I’m going to be talking about that next week. Which is all about how people pleasing impacts our time and our time management, which then in turn impacts us being able to take care of ourselves.
So, there’s people pleasing in general is just a huge, huge topic. And there are coaches who focus solely on people pleasing because it is such an ingrained part of so many women, so many people.
Here’s what I experience with my clients, that we don’t think that we people please. We just believe that we don’t have follow through. That all of the past diet attempts that we’ve done in the past are just because of some moral failing of ours. That we are just weak and that we don’t have the ability to stick to a diet.
So, you don’t believe that you have perseverance. You believe that you’re quote unquote just not disciplined. That might be true. However, it might not. It might be that you are just putting other people’s needs and wants before your own needs.
Today, in this podcast, what we’re going to be talking about is people pleasing and its impact on our health behaviors. So that you can start to connect the dots between what is getting in my way of accomplishing my goals? Is it really just that I don’t have discipline or that I just lose consistency or that I just forget?
It’s possible that those things are true. But I’m going to suggest also that you look at how you take into consideration other people’s demands on your time and your energy and what they want as part of the equation.
So, we’re going to discuss what people pleasing is and how it can affect our health. And then, I’m going to give you a few tools to break free from it. First, let’s talk about what people pleasing actually is. People pleasing is the tendency to prioritize other people’s needs and desires over our own. Often, at the cost of our own well-being, what that looks like is me saying yes to something that I really don’t want to do because I think it’s either what the other person expects of me or it’s going to make that person happy.
Now, people pleasing is not an actual medical diagnosis or a personality trait that psychologists or psychiatrists measure. But instead, it’s an informal label that we use to describe behaviors such as agreeing to Erin’s that a person doesn’t have time for.
I was just talking to one of my clients and she was feeling really super resentful of a friend of hers because her friend kept asking for favors. And her friend would never return the favor. And so, my friend was like, I feel like a terrible person for saying no, that I don’t want to do this when I really have time to do it. And I think that she’s going to ask me, why? But yet, I just feel so resentful.
That experience right there is probably a really good indication as to whether you are people pleasing or not. If you feel resentful of doing things for other people, you’re probably not getting your own needs met. And when you’re doing for others and you’re not doing for yourself, we feel resentful because we’re not getting our needs met. We’re prioritizing what other people want us to do over what we want to do.
Again, I’m going to give you some, ways to figure out if I’m people pleasing and what I want to do about that behavior at later on in the episode.
Now, where things get a little bit complicated asking, well, but I like doing things for other people. Great. People pleasing is not the same thing as kindness, being generous, or being altruistic. People can make balanced and intentional choice that favors other people. Someone who’s a people pleaser will find it hard to say no. And you might agree to do things that you don’t want or aren’t able to do.
What I also find is that people who identify as a people pleaser also tend to have social anxiety in large crowds of people. And here’s, why.
When we are talking to someone one-on-one, we know exactly how to show up for that person. We know exactly how that person is expecting to receive us because we can interact with him or her, we can engage with her. We can get those visual cues that we’re looking for. We’re looking for that feedback of, did what I say resonate with them? Did they like what I say? Did they give me approval? Are they validating what I’m saying.
And we tend to steer clear from topics that maybe this person wouldn’t be open to. But yet, when we have more than one person in front of us, then we have two people to start managing. We have two people that we need to gauge, how are they receiving me? Are they approving of what I’m talking about? Are they approving of my actions? Is what I’m saying, resonating with both of them.
And then, obviously the more people you add to the mix, the more complicated that gets. Because here’s what’s happening when we are people pleasing. We are trying to avoid judgment of others. We’re trying to manipulate other people’s opinions of us so that they will think a certain way about us.
It’s a little bit more complicated than that, but that’s really the basis. That when we people please, we are manipulating others into viewing us or thinking about us in a certain way. A way that we want them to think about us. Which is usually favorable, right?
But what we know is that we cannot control other people’s thoughts. If we could, then most of us would’ve done it already. We would’ve decided that everyone in the world will like them, right? Would like me. But we can’t do that. There are people out there who don’t like me. There are people out there that I don’t like. And it’s okay. We’re not going to like everybody, and not everybody is going to resonate with us. It’s totally okay.
So, before we get into people pleasing a little bit more, there’s one thing that I do want to point out. Which is that people pleasing actually stems from a very good quality. Which is someone who is calm and wants to keep the peace. Someone who is just like, yeah, it’s all good. But like with any tool, we’re overusing this tool. And we’re using it in a way that it doesn’t need to be used.
Like for example, and I’m going to talk about my experience a little bit more, but I know that there are times that I just don’t care. So, like when you’re in a group and you’re trying to decide, hey, where should we go to dinner? Or what should we do before the concert? All of those decisions that people have opinions on. And sometimes I just don’t care. What music should we play? I don’t know. I don’t care.
What happens though is that when we say I don’t care often enough, people then stop asking us our opinions. And eventually, what happens is we stop having an opinion. And then, when I find a lot of women do is we just stop thinking about what is it that I want?
And we default to giving other people what they want because we know what they want and we stop asking ourselves, what do I want? And when we stop asking ourselves, what do I want? Then, we lose part of ourselves in the process. And this is something that I work with a lot of my clients with. Women who are experiencing empty nests, and here they are with their partner, and no children to discuss the daily things about, right?
And so, these partners are having to rediscover, who is this person that I’m living with after 20 some years? And so many women that I talk to have no idea what it is that makes us happy. What brings us joy. We know that food brings us joy. We know that seeing the people that we love be happy brings us joy. We know how to provide joy for them, but we don’t know how to provide joy for ourselves.
And as a result, It’s really kind of an awakening that I help my clients go through. Because when the only thing that brings us, joy is shopping or eating. Then, that becomes a problem because then it becomes so easy to escape to those things.
And typically, when we’re eating for joy, we’re not really eating high quality foods, right? We’re usually going for the sugar or some sort of pleasure that is artificial pleasure. But I digress.
So, people pleasing for women is specifically a problem because we are socialized to not say, no. That when someone asks something of us, that it’s naturally going to happen. That we are taught that saying no is bad. Or if we do say no, we need to give an explanation for why we can’t. And that explanation better be freaking good because otherwise that person is going to judge us.
And so, for many of us, we would rather say yes, and put up with the short-term pain of having to go through whatever it is that we’re going through than being judged. Being thought bad of. Not being validated.
We’re taught that it’s better to give than to receive. And we’re taught that women are naturally giving. Right? We’re taught that women are such giving creatures that we always put the oxygen mask on the other people before we put it on ourselves. It’s better to give than to receive.
And what happens then is when we decide that I need to receive, I need to ask for help. We’re afraid because we’re afraid we’re going to be judged for that and we can’t accept it.
So, common signs of people pleasing behavior are difficulty saying, no. Feeling guilty for putting yourself first, avoiding conflict, and prioritizing others’ opinions over your own. That’s some pretty big stuff.
Now, in 2022, I set out on a goal to stop people pleasing. And I think about how cute that goal was. It was kind of my New Year’s resolution, and I was talking to one of my friends about it and he was like, well, what exactly does that mean? And what I really decided was that I wanted to do what I wanted and not feel obligated to do something.
So, that’s kind of what the goal was for me to really be able to tune into what is in alignment with what I want and where do I feel obligated to do things that I really don’t want. And where this stemmed from is I live in Mexico and the cultural norm here is that when Mexican people meet other Mexican people, they give that each other a greeting, hello of hug and kiss. Actually, it’s usually just a kiss on one side.
So, I live in an area where there are lots of ex-patriots here. There are lots of Americans and Canadians who live in this community as well. And we have a huge diverse friend group both Mexican, as well as American, Canadian.
And what I started experiencing was that there were some men who were white, who were American, or Canadian. Who I felt really out of integrity with kissing them hello or goodbye because it felt a little gross.
And so, I decided that you know what? It’s something that I’m fine doing it with Mexicans because for Mexicans, it’s just part of their culture and it doesn’t mean anything. And I will do it with friends that I truly love and care. But I just felt like there were some men who were using this cultural standard to kind of cop a feel, just felt bad.
And so, that’s where the genesis of this stopping people pleasing started from. That I wanted to have authority over my own body because at the time, I really didn’t feel like I did. Because I was naturally expected to do this gesture.
When I went through a year of really just starting to pay attention to where are all of the areas that I want to do something different than what’s expected of me. And what I noticed was that in my experiment with people pleasing, that it stemmed out of avoiding conflict.
So, that was the first really big aha moment. That I am apparently conflict avoidant. And so, any time that there was a conflict, I would try to manipulate the situation to calm things down so that I didn’t have to address the conflict.
And I also noticed that people pleasing really impacted so many different parts of my life. Not only being touched and body autonomy. But also eating in an effort to control someone else’s emotional response.
So, years ago, Gary and I had gone on a food tour. And in this food tour, we had gone to a restaurant that we had been to a number of times. It was a burger restaurant in the town that we lived in. And it was a very popular burger restaurant, but it wasn’t they really didn’t have great burgers. On this food tour, I knew that I was going to be overeating just because of the nature of the food tour, we had been on number of them before.
And so, we went to this restaurant as one of the stops and they gave us a quarter of a burger. And I decided that I wasn’t going to eat it because it just wasn’t a great burger. I just didn’t want to eat it. And after we were at the stop for a little bit, the woman who was the owner of the restaurant came out and dressed the group.
And while she was there, while she was addressing us, she was staring at my uneaten quarter of a hamburger the entire time. And it was really uncomfortable because I could tell that I wanted to eat the burger to help her feel better. I was trying to not make her feel bad about the burger. And after she concluded her talk, she asked me point blank. She asked me was there something wrong, and I said no. And she asked, would I like something different? And I said, no. And it was really awkward.
Now, when we stop people pleasing, it is going to be awkward because we’re not used to it. We’re used to giving in. We’re used to not feeling that tension. But how often do we eat to manipulate other people’s opinions of us?
There’s another podcast that I have it’s called “Emotional Childhood and Emotional Adulthood.” I just want to bring it up here. You can go back and listen to it. I mentioned this before, but I want to bring it up in this context that when we people please, we cannot influence other people’s opinions of us.
We are taught from childhood that we are responsible for other people’s emotions and that other people’s actions are the cause of our emotions. So, we will often say, what you did hurt my feeling. But the truth is that me not eating that burger really didn’t hurt that woman’s feelings or create any emotion in her. That was her thought about me not eating the burger.
And so, when we can start to understand that I cannot influence someone else’s emotional experience and that other people are not responsible for my emotional experience. Then, we can actually start to decouple people pleasing.
Because here’s the truth. And I’m going to recommend listening to episode number 18 with Michelle Reynolds, because she gives a beautiful explanation about what we really need to do is get in touch with our own negative emotion. When we can tolerate having negative emotion in ourselves, we will be so much more likely. We will be so much more accepting of other people having negative emotion themselves. So, we’ll no longer need to get someone out of a bad mood because we can tolerate being in a bad mood ourselves.
Now, here are a few ways that people pleasing may show up in your life and how it might affect your health. So, one, agreeing to go out to dinner or ordering in when you’ve already had something planned. Which may or may not go to waste. So, we do that a lot. We say, okay, this is what we’re having for dinner. And then, our partner or our kids say, oh, let’s not eat that, that’s gross. Let’s have pizza! And everyone kind of gangs up on you and you’re like, you just give in.
Because those other people know that you want to make them happy, and you don’t want to disappoint them. Which is the whole reason that this whole thing started in the first place. Because we don’t want to disappoint other people and we think that their emotions, or their needs, or their wants are more important than what we need and want.
When we allow them to take over, then what we do is we lose part of ourselves in that process. And you can see here where being conflict avoidance is a huge gateway to people pleasing, right? Because when I don’t want to confront, my partner or my kids and say, no, this is what we’re doing. And have them be disappointed in us.
Then, of course, like people pleasing is the logical step. So, that’s one. Giving in and going to a restaurant that others want because it’s just not worth the struggle. If that’s something that you think a lot like, it’s just not worth it. This is not the sword that I want to die on. Now, I understand that we want to pick our battles.
However, when you’re saying that over, and over, and over again. Then, you teach other people that if they just complain enough, then you will roll over. And that’s really the message that Michelle talks about in that episode. Episode number 18, “Getting Cooperation and Feeling Appreciated” with Michelle Reynolds.
When we give in because other people are complaining because we just don’t want to deal with it. That is actually emotional manipulation. And what tends to happen is this isn’t just around food. You’ll also find this in terms of housework and other areas of work and time stuff. And we’re going to touch on that a little bit more on next week’s episode.
So, giving in and doing more work around the house because you just don’t want to deal with other people’s pouting, or sulking, or bad moods. That’s how you people please. You’re like, Ugh, it’s easier for me to do it than have to deal with the fallout of expecting this person to do it, right? So many times, we do that stuff.
And so, what happens is then we start to neglect our own health needs. Not only because we put other people’s needs and wants for tasty treats and whatever in front of our own. But also, when we start taking on all of that extra work, we don’t have the time and energy to focus on our own health. So then, what is the solution?
Again, I went through this in 2022. And to be honest, it’s a continual process. I don’t even feel like I’m still out of it. There are still days that I have a tendency to people please. And it shows up in my marriage. It shows up in my work. It shows up pretty much everywhere. I had no idea that it would touch so many different areas of my life.
But first, what we need to do is we need to recognize the problem. So, acknowledge that people pleasing can have a negative effect on your health. Start to notice where you are saying yes, when you really want to say, no. And here’s one really good way of knowing. If you feel resentment. Resentment is a huge red flag that if you are feeling resentful, it’s probably because you’re doing some people pleasing in there.
Two, start to acknowledge where you want to create some boundaries. I did a podcast on this, and I’ll link to it in the show notes. But boundaries are actually set not in controlling other people, but rather from a place of self-respect and self-love. And so, what that looks like is when you’re people pleasing for work, for example. Whenever your boss lays a new project on you or tells you that you need to work late. Really asking yourself, is this something that I’m willing to do?
What are my boundaries around time that I’m putting into work? Where is it that I’m not taking care of myself because I’m doing too much work, or I’m running the kids around, or whatever it is. So, really asking yourself, where am I prioritizing other people’s needs over my own. And then, you get to decide what your boundaries are going to be in which areas.
Now, setting boundaries is really super easy. What’s difficult is enforcing the boundaries. So, when your boss texts you at 10 o’clock at night and asks you to do something in the system really quick, what do you tell her? Do you respond or not? You can have a conversation with her beforehand telling her that, look, you know what? I need to set some boundaries because I need to practice self-care a little bit more. So, you can do that, or you can just naturally set the boundary.
Now, here’s the thing. If you’ve never had boundaries before, someone is going to be upset because they’re not used to that. So, be prepared for it to be awkward at first to get some pushback. It’s okay. They will get on board eventually.
Something else that you can do is really start to practice self-compassion and recognize your own worth. One thing that I see a lot with people pleasing is that so many of us, we believe that our worth is in doing for other people. That if something were to happen where we could no longer do, like I broke my leg, or something happened where I couldn’t do for others. That they wouldn’t be our friends anymore.
It’s kind of a really interesting question because do you want to have people in your life who only want you around so that you can do for them? Don’t you want people who love you and accept you regardless of that? And that’s really the crux of the people pleasing. I learned this from my Coach Brooke.
When she stopped people pleasing, she said, I would rather people dislike me for me than to like me for who I am not. And when you say that that allows you to show up in the world and really shine as who you are. There are going to be people who aren’t going to like what you stand for or certain parts of your personality. It’s totally okay for other people not to like you because again, people view us through their own lens of past experience.
And so, when we can show up as ourselves, what that does is it just allows us to breathe a sigh of relief. Because when we can just accept who we are as we are, then everything else becomes easy.
One of the other things that you can do is hire a coach. So, in the Feel Good Sisterhood right now, one of the women has been on this quest learning how to say, no. And it is so freaking amazing to see her go and just stop doing the people pleasing, stop taking on more work, and really being able to enforce her boundaries. It’s been just such a huge win for the other women that are in the group. They’re like, oh my god, “Go you!”. So awesome.
I remember the days when I was on my weight loss journey. And people pleasing there, really played a huge part in being able to stick to my eating plans.
If you are someone who identifies that you just don’t believe that you have the follow through. If you’re someone who just believes that you don’t have the perseverance. That maybe you’re just not disciplined and that’s why you’ve never been able to stick to diets before.
I’m going to suggest that maybe it’s not. I mean, it’s possible for sure, 100%. It’s possible that maybe those other diets were just restrictive. But if there was a diet that worked for you and somehow, you’re like, gosh, that really was working for me. Why did I fall off of it? It’s possible to look into people pleasing.
Was that a factor in you not following through? Because when we accommodate other people over our own needs, that’s a recipe for health disaster.
Alright. So, if you want to work on your people pleasing, you can work with me as your coach. You can join the Feel Good Sisterhood, or you can work with me one-on-one. It’s something that so many women in midlife are struggling with. It really has the capability of impacting your health.
So, expect another people pleasing episode next week. Next week we’re going to be focusing a little bit more on time. That’s all I have for you today. Have an amazing week, everyone. And I will talk to you next time. Bye-bye.
Hey, if you enjoy listening to this podcast, you have to come check out the Feel Good Sisterhood. It’s my small group coaching program where we take all this material, and we apply it. We figure out what works for us, and we don’t ever look at another diet ever again.
Join me over at elizabethsherman.com/groupcoaching. I’d love to have you join me in the Feel Good Sisterhood. See you there.