Are you a people pleaser?

I often support my clients with their people pleasing tendencies… Why? Because I used to be one and it almost drained the life out of me!

People pleasers might be the nicest and most helpful people you know. They never say no, you can count on them when you need a favour and they spend a lot of time doing things for other people.

They get things done, whilst helping others, they make all the plans within their friendship groups and they always have a shoulder for you to cry on.

Which all sounds great right? Out of balance, it can be very unhealthy behaviour, as I discovered!

Why people please? There is often a deep rooted fear of rejection or a fear of failure. I used to give myself such a hard time if I made a mistake and would hate to upset anyone! I also consider myself a caring person, but that’s no good if you stop caring for yourself first!

Overtime people pleasers neglect themselves, they start to feel resentment, they stop enjoying occasions because they are too concerned with everyone being happy - especially if you are the organiser! I found that this lead to stress and anxiety.

Lastly, you can feel taken advantage of. I found overtime some friends pushed boundaries, asking for more than what was reasonable. Even people who don’t mean to, they just might not realise the stress you are under because you look like you have it all together. This was especially true for me in my job too, I found myself with by far the largest workload - I never said no, ever.

I taught myself to release my fears of rejection and failure. I started to say no more and set boundaries for myself. In the process some friends left my life (but new aligned souls came in). I realised we are responsible for teaching people how to treat us, we accept or reject their behaviour. You need to set boundaries of what you can and cannot do and what you will and will not accept. Then you need to stick to it. You cannot place the blame on others. The right people in your life will understand.

I found I had to work through feelings of guilt, however everyone deserves to take care of themselves and so you cannot feel guilty if you think of it this way!

Do you need more time alone?

I was with a client this week who had been feeling disconnected and was experiencing a lack of clarity. She had the AMAZING realisation that she doesn’t have enough time to connect to herself and find clarity, simply because she doesn't spend enough time alone.

She fills her free time with friends and family and this makes her happy, however she discovered the balance was off and because of this she was struggling to clearly hear and connect with her own thoughts.

This sometimes can happen when you are busy with work colleagues, family, friends, and even watching television or being on social media. Instead of allowing space for your own thoughts and intuition to shine through, you hear a lot about what other people are doing, how great/terrible their lives are and you can be presented with a lot of opinions and advice on yours.

It’s all about balance
Spending time with other people is one of my favourite things to do, but I do balance this out with what I'll refer to as 'me-time'. I shared with my client that I actually mentally block out me-time in my diary. For example, let’s say I have plans on Wednesday evening and a friend wants to meet up the same week, I tell them I’m free Monday or Friday. This is because I need time to myself, at least every other evening. This might be to stay home and cook, watch a film, or I might go to a yoga class, do a guided meditation, have a bath or read… the nice relaxing stuff. Along with my social life, in my planning I acknowledge my day job, studies, travels, my client sessions and time dedicated to my business. I couldn't do all this if I didn't have a work-study-business-life balance worked out.

The social butterfly
I wasn’t always this way. I remember my very social ‘London life’ just a couple of years ago. In 2014 I returned to the UK from 16 months away, travelling the world and living in Australia. I was really excited to be moving back to London, after a quiet few months spent with family in Yorkshire. My evenings would be spent in Soho with work colleagues, or catching up with friends, going on dates, or going away for the weekend. I was constantly making new plans and life was good.

After a few years, I felt like I was losing my connection to myself and felt very distracted by everyone and everything around me. I convinced myself I was ‘living for now’ ‘living in the moment’ and that everything was great. And honestly, it was… for a while anyway, until it became too much and I realised I wasn’t allowing enough time for me or the things that light me up. My balance was off.

The niggling thoughts of ‘I think there is more to this’ and ‘I don’t think I’m living up to my full potential’ started to happen around this time. I was also suffering from insomnia, which I couldn’t make much sense of at the time. I remember at least once or twice a week functioning at work on 2 hours sleep and wondering why this was happening. 

Reconnecting with me
I intuitively decided I needed to make a change and I needed to reconnect with myself. I think I’d got a bit blinded by the lights and the pace of my environment. London is an amazing, fun city, but you have to know how to handle her, or she can suck the life from you. I feel that most cities with so much energy sizzling around have to be (mentally) managed carefully.

I created more space for me and I was ready to face whatever that was. I started swimming, I reconnected with my yoga practice, I upped my reading of self-development, books, started meditating again, going on lone walks and generally just being on my own more and learning to enjoy it, as I used to. I remember my housemate (at the time) once saying to me, “You're not going to be much fun to live with if all you do is go to yoga and go to bed early to read every night”.
Maybe... but I was happier… and it wasn’t every night! 

I realised during this time that I was guilty of being a people pleaser… I was doing a lot of things for other people, I allowed friends to push boundaries, I was taking more and more on at work and once I acknowledged this, I realised just how draining it was on me. 

I still loved spending quality time with others, but I started to do this with a more balanced approach and I used my free time more consciously, making sure I did things that light me up and refuel my energy. I started to feel more like my authentic self, talking about the things I am truly passionate about and ideas I had for myself. My intuition became brighter and clearer, which was empowering. 

The bursting point
I remember in March 2017, saying to my friend I was on a girls weekend away with, ‘I have zero plans next month and I’m going to try and keep it that way’ … this is because I’d already been away several times that year, I was really busy at work and I had started to let my balance slip. Well … this whole concept of ‘me-time’ was somewhat intensified when I got sick the following week from my appendix bursting and poisoning me. I spent 1 month barely moving at all, followed by more months of barely doing anything fun.

This isn’t exactly the way I would have chosen to gain more time and perspective, however life magically started to accelerate from there on and during that time is when I decided I would train to become a life coach. I met my boyfriend 3 months later, and it was probably one of my first ventures ‘out’ again (and my first date in about a year). It was quite awkward when he asked … ‘so what have you been up to recently?’… ‘Erm, well you see this thing happened and so nope, nothing … a lot of recovering and me-time!’ (I’m paraphrasing).

Today, I love spending time with people, being busy with projects and by balancing this out with time to myself, I am very content! I am fully connected to who I am and my truth. I create my own energy and I have learnt how to maintain this, my way.

What about the busy times?
Going back to my lovely client who inspired me to write this blog… afterwards when writing up my reflection notes from our session, something was niggling me. I hadn’t felt quite myself that day and I recognised afterwards that her realisation had struck a chord with me. Due to working away for 3 days last week (which was especially full on), followed by a long weekend visiting family (although lovely, still full on), I hadn’t had any me-time in a whole week and that was my niggle, I was really feeling it and was reminded just how important it is to create that space.

Luckily in that moment I acknowledged it, I decided to take the whole next day off to replenish my energy and spend time connecting to myself, which was just what I needed. 

So, do you, do you time?

Here are my 5 top tips:

  • Be organised, plan ahead and block out time in your diary for ‘me-time’. At least once a week would be a good starting point. I realise that we all have different commitments and circumstances, but creating space is nearly always possible if you try.  

  • Have an idea of what you might do. Create a list you can consult that takes in to account low energy (like having a lavender oil infused bath) and high energy (like going to a yoga class) and anything in between like reading, listening to a podcast, drawing, writing, singing, music… It doesn’t matter what it is as long as you create space for yourself to do what you love doing, intentionally. Also, save some time for stillness/relaxation either through a mindfulness practice or a meditation — this is where the magic happens.

  • If you live with someone, tell your housemates/partner/family what you are doing or find your space, which might be the local yoga studio, library or swimming pool. 

  • Switch off and digitally detox from your phone and social media. This time is for you, not the rest of the world.

  • Be present and mindful.

How I reconnected back to myself

Some years ago now, when I came up for air in between all the ‘stuff’ I had going on, I noticed my life was out of alignment with who I truly am; I felt heavy, I lacked in clarity and had low energy levels - all the time! Life began to feel like hard work and it felt all wrong.

We are constantly growing and evolving, however I was settling for ‘comfortable’ and ‘the known’. I made myself really busy as a distraction technique. I got to the point where I couldn’t deny the lack of purpose I felt, but I struggled to see a way out of the life I had created.

So I made a commitment to myself to slow down. Over a year my life started to look very different:

  • I committed to spending more time with myself; as I lived with friends at the time I made the investment and joined a gym which had a swimming pool and spa. I learnt how to relax and be by myself again here; mindfully.

  • I started practicing yoga again, on a regular basis.

  • I reconnected with my meditation practice and rediscovered my intuition.

  • I created a morning ritual, which you can read more about in this blog post. I believe the way you start your day, creates the tone and vibration for your whole day; and your entire life.

  • I started journaling about the exciting stuff. Since being a child I have used journaling as a tool to process my emotions and fears; which works really well for me still today, however I recognised that my journals were all doom and gloom and not a representation of me. I discovered journaling was also a brilliant way to get clarity, set intentions and explore my passions and ambitions.

  • I built a relationship with myself; I treated myself with kindness and compassion. I discovered that I loved my own company and started to feel really confident in who I was inside and out.

  • I promised myself only to say yes if I really meant it and I stopped giving myself a hard time; I addressed my people pleasing tendencies, only doing what I felt was right for me, I set boundaries and the perfectionist within me started to melt away because I had learnt self-acceptance and self-compassion. This created so much time and space for the important stuff.

  • I became more in tune with my body. I looked at my alcohol intake, my diet and how much sleep I was getting. All three were off balance. I often felt unwell from food, probably drank too much and didn’t get enough sleep. Today, I don’t put any firm restrictions on myself; but by noticing my body more I went on to realise what makes me feel good and what doesn’t; which I now allow to lead the choices I make. This is a continuous journey and I’m always checking in with my body, seeing how it feels and what it needs.

I began to feel empowered to push myself out of my comfort zone and in the direction of aligning my life with what I really wanted.

Sometimes we look for the answers externally, when all we really need to do is slow down and tune into ourselves.