Have you ever found yourself saying "yes" when you really wanted to say "no?" Maybe it was something as simple as agreeing to watch a show on TV that you didn't really want to watch (because it was just easier to go along). Or eating at a restaurant that you didn't really love (because it was simpler to just let other people make the decision).
On the surface, this type of people-pleasing behavior might appear to be innocuous. I mean, haven't we all been taught that this is what "nice" people do? Haven't we all been taught that it's more polite to make others happy? What's so bad about sacrificing a piece of yourself? What's so bad about contorting yourself into positions that don't serve you? What's so bad about trying to keep the peace?
In a word: everything. Even though people-pleasing may seem like an immediate way to avoid discomfort, it leads to a landslide of repercussions: resentment, a sense of hopelessness, depression, loneliness and a feeling of emptiness. People-pleasing makes others your focus and over time this behavior degrades the relationship you have with yourself.
The problem is that many of us confuse people-pleasing with actual kindness. And these two are easy to confuse because on the outside the behavior can look very similar. Yet, internally, they are vastly different and the key to their differences comes down to one thing: motive.
Kindness come from a place of love, acceptance and trust; people-pleasing comes from the dark side of fear, control and manipulation.
Here are three ways to replace your people-pleasing habit with a practice of authentic kindness:
1. Be willing to be uncomfortable. People-pleasing is -- at its core -- an attempt to avoid discomfort. We say "yes" instead of sitting with the discomfort of "no." We contort ourselves into what we think others want so that we don't have to feel the discomfort of being rejected. We fake nice so that we don't have to face the seething resentment (aka discomfort) that's building inside of us. Authentic kindness requires presence, and sometimes presence is uncomfortable. Sometimes, being present with someone might look like setting a boundary, saying "no," asking for help, falling apart, or just witnessing someone. To be truly kind, we must be willing to be a present and connected witness which requires a high degree of willingness to experience discomfort.
2. Be willing to feel your own feelings. The act of people-pleasing is a way to avoid your inner feelings. If your husband's bad mood puts your day into a tailspin, take a moment to stop and breathe. Instead of spinning your focus around your husband, come back to yourself, drop in and find out what you are actually feeling. You might find that you are feeling helpless. Can you handle that without trying to fix things so that the sense of helplessness goes away? You might find that you are feeling resentful. Can you handle that without trying to manage things so that your resentment disappears? You might find a feeling of inner peace. Can you offer yourself permission to be ok, even if your husband isn't? Authentic kindness allows others to feel what they feel, be who they are and behave the way they want to behave. Authentic kindness doesn't try to control, fix or please; it trusts, loves and accepts.
3. Be willing to show up. People-pleasing is a way to hide. It's a way to be politely fake, a way to pretend. It's a way to hide our inner feelings, our inner beliefs and to hide who we really are. People-pleasing creates disconnection rather than intimacy. It creates facade rather than authenticity. And over time this lack of depth deteriorates our relationships and leaves us feeling isolated, invisible and lonely. Authentic kindness requires us to show up fully, it requires sincerity and intimacy. It requires courage and vulnerability. Authentic kindness means showing up as you truly are, sharing the truth of who you are and doing things from a genuine place of trust, love and acceptance.