Ending the People-Pleasing Cycle That's Suffocating You

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These 3 simple keys will set you free from addiction to approval from people.
These 3 simple keys will set you free from addiction to approval from people. (Steven Estes)

Growing up, my decisions were made for me, as they often are for children. When I got to pick my birthday restaurant, people would whisper their favorite places and this special part of my day became a turmoil of stress, making sure everyone was happy with my choice.

Unfortunately, this learned behavior stayed with me until adulthood. My choices were born out of carefully weighed options and objectivity and predictable results. Like a computer.

Choose What You Want

The burden of pleasing everyone is heavy, and as young girl, I weighed out the consequences of who would be disappointed in my choices and chose the path that disappointed the fewest people.

I failed to understand this: "Options can be taken away, while our core ability to choose (free will) cannot." – Greg McKeown, Essentialism

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When I was in my twenties, the realization struck me: Who the heck was I trying to please? Who even cared? Was someone going to be disappointed in me based on this choice? Would I be loved less?

The insanity of making every decision, down to the clothes I wore, based on some expectation I'd placed on myself after leaving home had to stop.

"I had always known logically that I could choose not to ___________ but emotionally, it had never been an option."  – McKeown

There are times when considering the feelings and wishes of others comes into play. Marriage, for example, is a daily situation of compromise. However, being conscious of others and laying down your opinions for the sake of harmony are two separate things.

I see my children starting this same journey. One of them will have a choice and the other two will start whispering their desires. Or my oldest son will make a Monopoly transaction based on not hurting someone's feelings.

When I choose my birthday restaurant now, it's Olive Garden, and if someone doesn't like it, they can eat a salad or make a pb&j when we get home.

You Have Options

In the amazing book Essentialism, U.K. native McKeown describes a trip to America. He was internalizing his decision to continue law school, yet his real desire was to teach and write. In the good ol' US of A, the passing comment of an executive he'd met with changed his whole life.

"If you decide to stay..."

If you decide to stay.

McKeown goes on to say that he "had always known logically that [he] could choose not to attend law school but emotionally, it had never been an option."

You have options. I have options.

He left law school, moved to America, and pursued his love of writing and teaching.

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