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Bill Cosby once said, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”
I’ve been a stage-four people-pleaser for as long as I can remember. I’ve always believed that other people know better than I because they’re smarter. My SAT scores were proof of that. And the few times I did confront something I didn’t like as a child or adolescent, the silent treatment and guilt trip that followed taught me early on that it’s much less painful to simply abide by someone else’s rules, even if I don’t agree with them.
But, as I said recently in my “Tales of Recovering People-Pleaser” post, keeping quiet is bad for your health, and terrible for your mental health. If you make a habit of being a puppet, your body starts to collect pockets of Cortisol, the evil stress hormone that mucks up every organ in the human body, especially the brain. Stress hormones in the prefrontal cortex of your brain do bad stuff–killing off cells and diminishing nerve regeneration. It’s not pretty.
Alas, because I cannot afford to feed my brain any more cortisol than it already has, I have made my new year’s resolution to become less of a people-pleaser. Too vague? I am keeping a people-pleasing journal, where I will write down one victory a day.


To do so, of course, requires to listen to the voice within me that whispers my truth. Not my husband’s truth, or my daughter’s, or my mother’s. MY truth.
How do I go about doing that?
listen-cover1.jpgLynn Robinson’s book, “Listen,” is a good start. She lists the ways you can hear your heart speak. For example, tuning into your enthusiasm or energy (or lack of enthusiasm or energy) on projects can give you an idea of where you want to go. She writes, “When you are doing something you’re excited about, interested in, or energized by, you’re following your guidance within. It’s telling you, ‘Do more of this.’ It’s leading you toward your success and best interests. Conversely, if you’re feeling drained, bored, and anxious, that’s also your intuition.”
Right before the holiday, I had a work situation that was making me sick. I knew I needed to step in and intervene, but the people-pleaser in me was petrified of ruffling any feathers. So I made a list of pros and cons for staying silent versus confronting a few people and making a statement. I realized that I was risking too much by staying silent and low maintenance. In this situation, I needed to be high maintenance, as difficult as that is for this people-pleaser.
Three weeks later, I see the fruits of my decision. And I am so proud of myself! That one triumph has helped my self-confidence and self-esteem in some surprising ways. I now want to do more of it. I want to start loving myself, and being a pest when I feel like I have to. I want to protect my projects, my children, my home from negative forces. And I have a renewed sense of self.
My therapist is thrilled!
I suppose it all goes back to the slogan on most sobriety chips of twelve-step programs: “To thy own self be true.” It’s damn near impossible to stay sober, or stable, or resilient when you don’t love yourself enough to stand up for yourself, when you follow the truths of others, because you’re afraid to listen to your own. But lasting recovery rests there.
So there it is, my new years resolution: to be less of a people-pleaser, and to be true to myself.
If any of you want to keep you own people-pleasing journal, it would be fun to compare notes.

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