A People-Pleaser’s Autopilot

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Question: Do you know what a people-pleaser’s biggest fear is?

(Hint: it’s only one word)

The answer: No.

The biggest fear of a people-pleaser is saying ’no’ when someone asks for something, may that be a favor or a meeting. It’s the fear of creating a conflict, of provoking the person who is asking, by saying the simple but oh-so-dramatic ’no’.

I haven’t written about people-pleasing in a while. That is mostly because my life has been pretty calm and there haven’t been that many requests or favors asked of me. And it’s been nice. I’ve been able to focus on more important things, on myself, on my writing.

However, now I have something to say, something to update you on. Progress, so to say.

The Autopilot

After I decided upon quitting my people-pleasing behavior (progress that has been going on for a year or so, but the active, conscious decision was made this Summer), I’ve done pretty well saying ’no’ to many things. If I haven’t felt like doing something or meeting someone, I’ve simply declined and moved on with my life. Of course, everyone hasn’t been quite okay with me saying no to them, but I’ve tried my best to accepted that.

Instead, I’ve focused on myself, prioritized my school work, my own interests, my own time and energy. They have come in the first place while favors and other things have come second.

However, there is a thing here: all the favors and meetings have been asked by friends and acquaintances. When the people asking for favors are part of my family, it’s a whole different story.

When they call and ask for something, it feels like I turn on an autopilot mode. I don’t even consider saying ’no’ to them because I’m already thinking how I can say ’yes’ to the thing they are asking. It’s insane – and still it happens.

Let me give you an example.

Last week, I was extremely focused on finishing the theory part of my thesis before the deadline on Friday. I invested huge chunks of time writing it in the library and prioritized the thesis over everything else (except my creative writing and habits). On Monday, my mother called. She asked if I could to do her a favor on Wednesday, two days before the deadline. It was something that would probably take a few hours of my afternoon. It would help her a good deal, she said.

While holding the phone to my ear, I already knew what my answer should be. I knew I should say ’no’ to her. I knew that I needed all the time I had scheduled for my thesis-writing that week and if I’d spend ”a few hours of my afternoon” executing that favor, it would definitely put me behind my work. I’d probably even miss my deadline. In addition to that, I knew the favor wouldn’t take only a few hours. I would put down energy and time before that favor (whether I wanted to or not), waiting for it to happen, and I would probably need a good deal of time for the after-effects of that favor, processing the experience and my thoughts about it.

In other words, the favor wouldn’t take only a few hours of my time. Instead of two hours, it would probably take five or six hours of my day, most likely the whole day.

While on the phone, I was aware of all this. I knew I was supposed to say ’no’ because it would have been the right thing to do for myself. It was my deadline, my biggest and most important essay for school, I needed to make that deadline in order to get onward in my life.

But here’s the thing: a people-pleaser never puts herself first. She always thinks of others before she thinks of herself. And this is why, while my mother explained something on the phone, my brain started going through these thoughts:

”Maybe I’d be able to get everything done before the deadline if I just re-scheduled my creative writing or postponed it altogether, prioritizing my thesis instead of Yellow Tails. After all, Yellow Tails doesn’t have to get done as soon as possible, even though I’d like to finish the first draft as soon as possible.”

”Even if I don’t make it to the deadline, it wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen. I could probably ask for more time, say I only need a few days more if it were okay. I could finish the theory during the weekend. Yellow Tails could wait.”

In retrospect, what amazes me is that I had a one hundred percent valid excuse to say no to my mother’s request and I knew it. I knew it – and still I was doing some serious B-planning in that moment! I was actually considering putting a favor in the first place, and letting my thesis, my novel, my personal well-being take the second place.

Now, a week after that phone call, I wonder how could I even consider it. But I did. It was so close that I would have said ’yes’. However, I managed to say that I needed to check my calendar first. I’d call her later that evening.

So, hello. I’m H.E.R., a recovering people-pleaser who almost relapsed last week.

Two Realizations

That phone call last week made me realize that my family truly is the weak point of the people-pleasing side of me. The members of my family are the people who trigger that people-pleasing behavior in me and even take it to the next level, the insane level.

It isn’t any wonder that it’s my parents and my sisters who trigger the behavior in me. The people-pleasing habits of an individual are often created in one’s childhood. As children, we want to please the people we love in order to avoid conflicts and not add to the burden. I recognize myself there – I never wanted to add to my parents burden. Therefore, I was always the kind, trouble-free, helpful, well-behaving child. The one, who always had the time and energy to help others out.

And now I’m paying for that.

The happenings last week helped me realize another thing as well: my role in the family has always been to be that person who gives her time and attention to the other members of the family. I have always been that person who helps out, listens and does favors. I never ask anything for myself, in order to not add to the burden. I manage everything myself, but when someone needs my help, needs to lend my ears, my attention – count me in, I’ll be there.

Until now.

Saying ’No’

It’s a tough boggart to fight. It’s tough saying ’no’ to one’s family – after all, haven’t they done so much for you? Haven’t they always taken care of you, helped out when needed? Wouldn’t saying ’no’ be ungrateful?

The answer: no.

It’s tough to say ’no’ because you know it will provoke a conflict, questions about your attitude, your behavior. Your family will remember that you said ’no’ – and they will remind you of it later.

It’s even tougher to decline when I know my family doesn’t understand that me saying ’no’ is actually completely normal – they’re not just used to it.

Despite all this, the answer is: no.

Saying ’no’ is the only option I have if I wish to quit this kind of behavior once and for all. It was my family that brought up that behavior in me when I was a child and they are the people who trigger the behavior in me today. Saying ’no’ to my parents and my sisters, when it feels like I’m doing wrong towards myself in order to please them, is the only right thing to do if I want to stop pleasing other people.

It’s a battle I must take on. I want to be the kind of person who holds on to her own values and uses her time and energy on her own terms. A person who respects herself and who doesn’t recognize an autopilot mode when it comes to doing favors.

And that is why I told my mother I couldn’t do her the favor she asked for. I didn’t say it in the moment, on the phone, but later that evening as I had promised I would tell her when I got home. It was already late when I got home so I sent her a text message, explaining about my deadline and how important it was for me to use every hour I had to be able to meet it.

If she understood what I tried to say and if she respected my effort, I don’t know. She only informed me the next day that she had managed to get someone else to do the favor. I was left with mixed feelings, but in retrospect, I’m proud I said no. Because now I know it’ll be easier to do the same next time.

(And yes: there will be a next time.)

Things Will Change For A While

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It’s Tuesday and it’s time for a new blog post. However, this will be the last Tuesday post for a while. Let me tell you why.

For the past 16 weeks, ever since the beginning of H.E.R. (that’s more than three months!), I’ve been writing three blog posts every week. One on Tuesday, one on Thursday and one on Sunday. They all have their own theme: on Tuesday I share something more personal, on Thursday I connect that personal to something more abstract or theoretical – to things seen from a wider perspective. And the short-stories I publish on Sundays conclude the week, or prepare for the beginning of the coming week: the day of Still Life Sundays.

Until now, I’ve been able to put down the time and energy to write three posts a week. But things have been somewhat different lately.

  1. As you know, I’m juggling with three different writing projects at the moment: the blog, the thesis and Yellow Tails. That means I’m glued to my computer from Sunday to Friday, writing on or researching for something. Two of these projects, i.e. the thesis and Yellow Tails, have a more strict deadline (one dictated by the university and the other one by me) and require therefore more time and energy to get done in time. The deadlines are also closing in on me which means I need to invest more time and effort in these projects to be able to finish everything in time.
  2. In addition to that, there has been many social situations (and they’ll keep on coming) that have required a good deal afterward-processing. As a part of quitting my people-pleasing behavior but also practicing better communication, social awareness and analyzing the body language and words that are spoken, these social situations are filled with data. Processing that data takes huge amounts of energy and time. It might sound weird, being tired because of being social, but I’m not all that used to these situations, and especially not analyzing them as I am today. It is also something I hope to become better at, reading and analyzing people on the go.
  3. As a third thing, the Winter. Here in Finland the amount of light changes from 22 hours a day in the Summer to whopping 4 hours per day in the middle of Winter. We have been entering the darker time of the year for some time now, the daylight lasting for 8 hours and 54 minutes at the moment. The darkness in the evenings (as the sun goes down at 4:41 PM) and the shortness of the days make me feel tired and like there’s nothing I’d really like to do. It takes time and energy to get used to the darkness – and when you get used to it, the days will start to get lighter again (but it’s going to take a while before that period comes again – sometime in March maybe).

This is why I have decided to do the following: at least during November I will cut down the amount of blog posts from three to two posts a week. This means the Tuesday posts will fall off and the Thursday posts will become a sort of mix of Tuesday and Thursday posts, starting on this Thursday.

This way I will hopefully be able to keep things more realistic and not drown myself in my self-made to-do lists. One post less to write each week will hopefully also help me 1) finish my first draft by or in early December, and 2) finish the theory part of my thesis in the end of November.

In theory, cutting down one blog post a week doesn’t sound like anything major. But for me it feels like a huge weight being dropped off. It feels like I can focus on other things for a while. I’ll stay active on WordPress, still publishing twice a week, and will keep on updating Instagram – but I’m also allowing myself to refocus and steer my energy and time to things that need it the most.

So, this will be the last Tuesday post for a while. But as you know, I’ll see you again on Thursday. Have a good one!

 

The Conviction, The Passion

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”You would make a good secretary with those organization skills.”

”The way you talk about things, you could be a politician.”

”You have such a nice voice, you should do radio!”

I consider myself lucky for having almost always known that I wanted to become a writer (fun fact: before landing on that profession I considered becoming a trainer of either dolphins or lynx). Although that Dream of Becoming a Writer has shifted many times because of the thought that I could become something else as well, interest in writing has helped me make various decisions.

Writing has always been the number one way to express myself. Whether it’s been private journals, blogs (that are long-gone), fan fiction or NaNoWriMos, it has always been about putting down words on a piece of paper, a notebook or a Word-document. I have never found similar pleasure in drawing, painting, singing or acting. (Actually, I considered myself being pretty bad at the other creative outlets for a long time)

But why isn’t it enough for me to just write on my free time, why not keep it as a hobby? Why do I insist on this journey of becoming a published author, of becoming a full-time writer?

It’s because this is the only thing I can imagine myself doing for the rest of my life.

Yes, I have great organizational skills and I can talk about different subjects in a neutral way if I want to. And I do have a nice voice! But those ’good qualities’ are just good qualities. Simply because I’m good at something doesn’t mean I want to make a profession out of it and do it for the rest of my life. None of the professions listed in the beginning offer the same kind of challenges or give the kind of fulfillment writing gives to me.

Linking together words that create sentences and meaning – that is my passion. It’s what I get excited about and what I think about a great deal during the day. Writing, whether it’s this blog or Yellow Tails or the book that comes after that, is also something I’m willing to live for, commit to and to sacrifice things for even if it doesn’t feel like the best damn thing all the time.

(Because let’s be honest: writing is a rollercoaster ride with highs and lows and some days it just feels like I don’t even like writing. But those moments last only for a short while and tend to happen when I’m not writing. When I get to writing part, putting down words feels awesome again)

But I do like writing. More than that, I love it. It’s my creative outlet, the most fulfilling way for me to express myself and my thought-processes. And it really is the only thing I can see myself doing when I’m fifty or sixty-seven, even when I’m seventy-three years old.

And those other things I’m good at, what am I going to do with them? Will I let them go un-pursued, let my great organizational skills and nice radio voice gather dust in the closet of great qualities? No, I won’t. Instead, I’ll make them into my hobbies.

I hope you get to spend your Tuesday doing the thing that is both your passion and your conviction. I sure will spend mine doing exactly that.

 

The Difficulty of Accepting Change

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It has become clear to me in a completely new way that we people aren’t really that good at accepting and adjusting to changes in our near environment. Sure, we are okay with brand new buildings and cafés popping up in the neighborhood or when new traffic lights are installed in one of the crossings – but when it comes to personal change… Boy, don’t we struggle.

We are usually fine with the changes happening in us, within ourselves – after all, it’s something we aim for: personal growth, self-development. But when it happens to other people, change suddenly becomes harder to accept. Why is that? And especially, why do we find it so challenging to be happy for someone else’s progress?

How We Define Each Other

We are defined by what we do. For many people, our profession defines who we are – a journalist, a teacher, a baker, a broker. It is probably one of the most asked questions when meeting a new person – what’s your name and what do you do.

In social situations, when we are finding out who the other person is by asking his or her profession, we are trying to categorize them in our internal system – is this person a maker, a thinker, a creative or a practical person? And when we have that person categorized, we can relax. We know now where we have this new person, in what category, with what kind of emotional tags. We know where we can place this person in our personal hierarchy.

But then something changes. The person we knew as a broker decides to become an entrepreneur, open a bakery and instead of having a normal nine-to-five job, he now works from 3AM to 3PM. The practical thinker becomes a creative maker. And suddenly you notice you have a hard time realizing that this person has (in what seems like an overnight) changed his place in your hierarchy and  doesn’t fit to any of the old categories anymore. That is when it becomes tough to accept the change. Questions arise: Is this a good change or a bad change – is this person completely nuts or actually a genius? Who is this person now compared to before? And where do I stand in relation to this now-changed person?

When we are forced to define our friends and family members anew, i.e. sort them into a different category and find a new place for them in our personal social hierarchy, it easily leads to a conflict. It can be a silent conflict in one’s mind or it can become a conflict talked out loud. Accepting and readjusting is always about dealing with a conflict – and some people handle it better or worse than others.

It’s About Comparisons

Why people most probably have difficulties in being happy for the changes that happen in their friends is that they quickly compare the efforts and results of this person to themselves. The fact that a friend has lost weight – where does it put me in the hierarchy of fitness and health? Or the fact that another friend seems to follow his or her career dreams bravely and actually succeeds in them – how am I doing with my own career plans? Am I doing what I want to do? Am I as happy as my friend seems to be?

Personal growth and self-development tends to lead to some sort of increased happiness in the person doing the changes. Sometimes the happiness lasts longer, sometimes a shorter period of time, but still, it’s extremely valuable. We all want to be happy with our lives. However, we aren’t, not at least all the time. And when a friend suddenly seems happier than usual, happier than we are – we find ourselves wanting the same thing, the same happiness.

Depending on how happy we are at the moment or how easy it is to reach that same state of happiness, we react to the changes in our friends in different ways.

What We Need Is Confrontation

There are so many questions that arise when a change occurs. The questions are about the change, about the person, the environment, about oneself, and they never seem to end. That’s part of the process of accepting and adjusting to a change in our social environment.

However, the process gets twisted if none of those questions are asked out loud. And it isn’t even enough that these questions are asked – they also need to be answered. That is  what I call a confrontation. And I know, confrontation sounds like something negative, even violent but it doesn’t have to be that. As Merriam-Webster defines it: a face-to-face meeting or the clashing of — ideas. In my opinion, that’s what confrontation is: an opportunity for a face-to-face conversation about the ideas of two persons that have clashed.

After I came back to the city where now I live, I hoped for a confrontation about the changes that had happened. About my weight, about my career plans and about my behavior. And there were questions asked out loud – but no one wanted to hear the answer, the questions being questions without actual question marks.

When this happens, the processing of the changes and the efforts to re-categorize the changed person becomes twisted. It’s as if having a trial for a suspect without asking the suspect or his/hers defenders any questions – sounds wrong, doesn’t it? By confronting and asking the questions one gives an opportunity for the changed person to tell and explain what has happened, what kind of process has taken place.

So, confrontation is needed but unfortunately only few of us have the guts to do it.

After The Change

If a change is never discussed, then processed and, in a way, accepted, it will have other consequences. Because, as I was left un-confronted and, therefore, without the support I had really hoped for, it left me thinking.

I haven’t really had the opportunity to show and tell who I am today because I’m still waiting for some sort of confrontation to happen. I am hoping that these people would ask me the questions that actually end with a question mark but instead, I keep on getting quizzically creased eyebrows or confused looks that go from the top of my head to my toes. I see the thought processes going through their heads but no questions are asked.

Of course, I need to be realistic and remember that even other people need time to adjust to the changes I’ve made because my changes have led to changes in them and in their personal hierarchies. But what I also know is that the longer we postpone asking those questions, the harder it’ll become to ask them.

The things is that after a change is made and Time goes by, one looks at life from a new perspective. And a question arises: in this new life, this post-change phase, what do I wish to hold on to – and to whom?

(P.S. I’m no saint when it comes to accepting changes in other people. However, I do feel that I reflect upon my own reactions more than many others do which, in the long run, makes it easier for me to accept the changes other people make in their lives.)

Personal Growth – Pride Mixed With Confusion and Regret

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Me and my partner spent the last year (from August 2017 to May 2018) in a city further up north. It was a smaller place with greater distances to big cities, almost always at least a three-hour bus ride away, which meant that we were pretty stuck in that place.

I was quite busy that year with my journalism studies that were very practical instead of theoretical, and spent nearly eight hours every day at school doing tv, radio or writing.

However, in addition to all that time I spent in school, I had a great deal of time on my hands. Probably even more than I have now. I’ve talked about having too much time on one’s hands before but in that city, Time was given to me and my partner in handfuls.

All that time we had – what did we do with it?

We did the basic stuff: went on walks, watched tv-series (Mindhunters being one of the best ones we saw) and movies, read books and cooked food. However, we still had time to spend. So, we got some painting supplies and created our own paintings that we hung on the walls. We came up with a proper workout routine and started going to the gym. We both did some changes to our diets (which always requires time and energy for the change to become routine). My partner got into creating his art and soon after that, I started writing on a daily basis.

These things we did had a huge effect on my life:

During that year I lost almost a quarter of my weight. I also decided to change and challenge my career plans and started to realize that my people-pleasing behavior wasn’t benefitting me in any way.

In a way, it was a crazy year. But it was also one of the best years from the perspective of personal growth and development (the picture I used for this blog post shows me on a day I was super proud of myself).

As long as we lived in that smaller city up north, I had time to get used to the physical and mental changes that were happening in me. For instance, I was able to take in and process the confusing comments from sales persons in two different clothing stores who guessed and complimented my size and my body as if I had always been that way.

No one asked me any questions (because almost no one seemed to notice the changes, funny enough). Instead, I was the one asking myself all kinds of things: How had I been able to do all these changes? Was I on the right path? Was this what I wanted? Who was I now, compared to who I was before?

(I haven’t quite yet answered all those questions but I’m getting there, slowly and surely.)

However, when we returned back to the city we had left from a year before, the changes became real – now through the reflections of everyone else.

Especially the weight I had lost seemed to get many people’s attention. My mother came to me and patted my stomach, wondering how I had become so thin. My grandmother asked me how I had lost so much weight, and a guest at a party commented in a loud voice how much I had changed since she last saw me.

All these comments were compliments – in one way. But at the same time, not all of them were genuine happy-for-you kind of comments. Many of the compliments were mixed with confusion or had a hint of jealousy or frustration in them. It was as if people became unsure of who I was and how they should be in my company.

In the same way, as I tried to explain to friends why I was thinking of changing my career plans, many of them had a hard time understanding my decision. They had always thought of me in one way (someone who wanted to become a journalist), and now I was saying I wanted to do something else? Instead of being supportive they kept on asking how come I was changing my mind now.

I’ve written about changing my people-pleasing behavior in previous blog posts. It hasn’t been conflict-free, either.

The past months have been eye-opening when it comes to personal changes.

I was pretty happy and confident with the changes I had made and reached, and still am. However, as I saw how other people reacted to the changes I had made or was making, reacted to their reactions. The pride I felt about the major life changes got mixed with confusion, sometimes even regret.

I couldn’t help but wonder: were all my changes worth this emotional rollercoaster? It became clear to me that my personal growth and development seemed to come at the expense of my social relations.

I also thought this: why does it feel like no one talks about these aspects of change? As if every article I’ve read is about making a change and getting there – but so few of them, if any, talk about the things that follow when a change has been made.

Why do we want change, but when it comes, we aren’t that willing to accept and adjust to it?

It’s been a rollercoaster, these past four months. And let me tell you: it will continue for a while.

The History of Me, The People-Pleaser

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For most of my life, I have had a very strong need to be accepted and liked by people around me. I wanted my parents to like me, my teachers to like me, and my friends to like me. I wanted to be liked by everyone. Not in the most-popular-girl-in-the-school kind of way, but simply acknowledged and liked by all the people around me.

I also had the need not to add to the burden of anyone. When I was nine, my little sister was born and she was, of course as an infant, a lot to handle. A few years later, my father was unemployed for one and a half or two years, which made everything financially tough for my family during that time. And, a few years later, my older sister started her rebellious years. Through all this, I just wanted to be the kind and easy daughter for my parents. The daughter who could behave herself and was good at school. The one you didn’t have to worry about.

All this worked against me, resulting in a very energy-demanding and harmful behavior. And it took me years to figure it out.

Three Different Roles For Three Different Situations

As I got older, my people-pleasing behavior started to demand more energy from me.

Subjects at school became more difficult, requiring more time. I was active in Scouts and had many responsibilities there. And at home my family had many conflicts.  All this at the same time as I tried to grow up and find out who I was and what I wanted to do with my life.

It was a tough time. Somehow, I thought the best way to deal with everything happening around me was to be an easy, kind and upstanding daughter, friend, scout, student and sister. Being like that would get me through every conflict, challenge and problem and help me save energy for the things I wanted to focus on. This is at least how I thought it would work.

I guess you can see the conflict here.

At the age of fourteen, I started having problems with my mental health. I reacted strongly to socially awkward or unsuccessful happenings; if I suddenly wasn’t liked or if I didn’t do good in a test. I wasn’t okay, I was being self-destructive and would have needed help and support – but I didn’t want to add to the burden of my parents. So I kept my thoughts and problems to myself and instead, created social roles for different situations to get through the day-to-day life.

With friends, I was bursting with happiness and laughter, telling jokes and always smiling. And as they learnt to me as an always-happy-person, it was almost impossible to break away from it, even if I didn’t feel happy or entertaining.

With my family, I wasn’t as filled with laughter and jokes as I was with friends, but I kept my (non-existent) energy up and talked as if everything was okay. And as they learnt to know me as a problem-free child, it became harder to open up about any problems I was experiencing.

But when I was with myself, alone, I could let the feelings, the tiredness, the self-hate, the destructive behavior take over my body and mind. Finally, I let myself be me in all my misery. Especially self-destructive behavior was the one of the hardest things to break away from.

As I look back at my behavior and how I was as a person, I’d like to state that people-pleasing is like a disease. However, it’s more like a symptom of another disease. A symptom of I don’t know who I am or what I need and want.

How To Identify A People-Pleaser

So clearly, breaking free from people-pleasing is one of they key things for me to do. It’ll allow me to make my own decisions and be myself, which often leads to self-development and some sort of fulfillment.

I did some research on people-pleasing for this blog post. I am familiar with some aspects of people-pleasing behavior but there seems to be a great deal left to discover. Only by identifying the characteristics of people-pleasing, one is able to break free from the harmful behavior.

I found a list of 10 signs that tell if you’re a people-pleaser. These are the signs I recognized to have had or still have:

  • You feel responsible for how other people feel.
  • You apologize often.
  • You feel burdened by the things you have to do.
  • You can’t say no.
  • You feel uncomfortable if someone’s angry at you.
  • You need praise to feel good.
  • You go to great lengths to avoid a conflict.
  • You don’t admit when your feelings are hurt.

So, the next step?

Break Free From Your Behavior!

Of course, the real issue here is to become a mentally strong person. But breaking free from people-pleasing is a part of it.

Luckily, during the last couple of years I have been able to change some of my people-pleasing behavior: I no longer have roles for different social situations. Instead, I dare to be me and show my emotions better than before, especially with friends. I’ve learned to say no more often, to not apologize for things that aren’t under my control, and most importantly, I’ve learned not to feel responsible for other people’s feelings.

However, after years and years of people-pleasing, my behavior cannot be altered in just a day and I won’t become a mentally strong person overnight. But it is possible. It just requires a great deal of work.

Even though I’ve managed to break free from several characteristics of people-pleasing, challenges remain. For instance, I still have a hard time dealing with conflicts. This is partly because I am also a highly sensitive person which makes arguments and conflicts even tougher to handle and process. But partly because I’ve almost always managed to avoid conflicts.

Becoming a stronger person is a journey, and every conflict on that journey leads to development. I just need to stay strong and take the winds as they come.

Categorize Me Anew

A few words about individual progress.

In this case, I think progress somehow becomes ironic: to let go of people-pleasing behavior inevitably leads to conflicts. And that’s terrible, because it isn’t simply enough that I decide to stop being a people-pleaser – all the people around me need to understand and accept it as well. I need these people, who have always categorized me as a kind, loyal, easy, well-behaved and upstanding daughter, friend and sister, to take me out of that category and place me somewhere else.

And that leads to conflicts.

From the people around me, this leads to questions like ’Why can’t you be like you were before?’ and ’Why are you so difficult?’. It leads to orders like ’You need to answer when someone asks you a question’ or ’You have to help when someone asks for your help.’

And when I decide to be mentally strong and simply answer ’no’ to the questions and orders… well, I might as well close the windows and bolt the doors and prepare for a hurricane. This is where it gets hard.

I would love to be able to carry this change through without conflicts. In my mind, I wonder: how can I stop being a people-pleaser and apply the change without seeming like a total douchebag to everyone around me? How can I get what I want in a conflict-free way?

And at the same time, I have this thought: are these conflicts (both inside and outside my head) a part of the whole transition from a people-pleaser to an independent, strong-minded person?

These constant conflicts both inside and outside myself about my behavior and what is the best way to handle these conflicts without letting go of what I want – this is what I am dealing with at the moment.

I’ll keep you updated.

A People-Pleaser’s Hike

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I feel it when we’re home. A wash of guilt comes over me, leaving me soaked, cold and shivering as waves do in the mid of Winter. For every wave, there’s comes a demanding question to my head, and another and another:

”Why haven’t I still proposed a new date to this person whom I failed to meet two months ago?”

”Wouldn’t it be easier to just say yes to my sister’s request and be done with it?”

”How come I never answered that letter she sent to me almost three years ago? Or just sent her a message that I wouldn’t be answering anymore?”

To every question, I would just love to yell back ”Because I don’t f**king want to!”

Those are hard words. They aren’t even completely true. But they are a natural response to the thoughts – I feel so trapped, so selfish and so in conflict with myself that this is what I end up with. A mess.

We decide to drive to the national park which is one hour away from our home town. It’s a hike of nine kilometers for intermediate hikers. We pack some light snacks, fill the water bottles and start driving.

In the car, I’m silent. I have nothing to say, only thoughts running around my head. A few of them I try to write down – an effort to clarify my thoughts to myself so that I could maybe present them to someone else as well.

When we get into the woods and start the hike, I’m still in my own thoughts. I take steps on the soft ground covered with pine needles, and every step is fueled by the negative energy in my body and mind.

We come to a lake where we step on a small ferry. It has a rope we have to pull in order to get to the other side.

We pull the rope together. But we do not pull it together – not in synchronized movements, not in cooperation with each other. My mind is still wandering and annoyed by all the requests, demands and expectations other people and myself have on me.

However, slowly, as time goes by and our steps take us further into the forest, my mind starts to relax. The thoughts, previously on other people and their expectations, start to wander in a different way. I’m able to let go of the previous thoughts – not only of the accusations other’s have pointed at me but also the one’s I’m pointing at myself. Instead, I wonder why they changed the intro music of Seinfeld in the third season.

I see, feel and breath in the mossy green forest air. I breath out stress, frustration, negativity. We talk about hikes we both did in Scouts when we were younger. I observe a tiny brown frog that crosses the path the same time with me. My partner looks at my eyes and says they seem to be glowing, that the great outdoors has its effect on me.

The freedom of being out in the woods, outside of everyone’s reach except myself and my partner, feels wonderful. My phone has been in my backpack the whole time, untouched. I don’t need it. I don’t have to be available, not here.

I do not have to answer any calls, or messages on Whatsapp. I do not have to, I simply cannot do any favors at the moment. And even if someone asked me to do something for them, I’d have to check my calendar first which is at home. So, sorry, can’t be there for you right now even if you’d want me.

I can only be here for myself – because I’m out of town.

And I’d like it to be more like this forever.