Updated: May 4
I am a big Taylor Swift fan. When her Miss Americana movie came out in 2020, I was ready. I didn’t expect to watch such an intimate portrait of the singer, after all she is usually quite private about her life. It struck me when she talked about living her life to please others and needing approval to feel validated. I could completely identify with her. It also gave me a sense that I wasn’t alone.
I’ve often written in this blog about my journey towards self-love. One of the biggest discoveries I made was to understand my patterns of wanting to please others with this online are you a people pleaser quiz and these 10 signs you are a people pleaser checklist from Psychology Today:
People Pleaser checklist:
You pretend to agree with everyone
You can’t say no
You feel responsible for how other people feel
You apologize often
You feel burdened by the things you have to do
You’re uncomfortable when someone is angry at you
You act like the people around you
You need praise to feel good
You go to great lengths to avoid conflict
You don’t admit when your feelings are hurt
Much like Taylor Swift, I had built my life wanting to make sure everyone in my life was happy. I hated it when people were mad at me and I often internalized other people’s feelings as something I had caused and was responsible for fixing. I felt depleted, like no matter how much I gave, it was never good enough.
I found myself in patterns of relationships with toxic people. By toxic I mean the people that took advantage of my giving and kind qualities and over time expected me to give and give until there was nothing left. I found that I would often anticipate my partner’s needs and feelings and prioritize them above my own. Life became about them and very little about me. What I needed, wanted or felt was always unimportant.
This pattern was very visible to me when I started saying no and putting boundaries in one particular relationship. I was in a better financial situation than him, so I would often purchase things he wanted, I liked to do it, and never thought it was an expectation. On this occasion he wanted to go see the Broadway musical Hamilton as it was coming to our city. I had a few extra expenses that month so I simply said I could not do it. To my surprise he got really pouty. He made it sound cute and sweet, but he was displeased when I didn’t meet his needs. On another occasion, he got a flat tire. He called me to tell me about the situation, he didn’t ask for help, but I think he expected I would spring into action, drop what I was doing to come help - just as I’d always done. I simply made a statement that maybe one of his roommates could help. At that moment, I knew the relationship would start to decline because I wasn’t going to be the person who would cater to his needs. Within a few weeks, the relationship was over.
This was consistent with the pattern I’d seen: whenever I started to share my needs and feelings my partners became extremely unhappy, they were displeased with my sudden rebellion, and all too often they discarded me and sought to have their needs met elsewhere.
In the Feisty Mermaids Podcast episode 14, I talk about people pleasing and offer tips to help identify if you have this tendency. I also talk about the things that have helped me identify when I am people pleasing and the small steps to take towards a healthy self where my needs and feelings matter.
Knowing my tendencies to people please, I am mindful of the equity and reciprocity that should exist in a loving and wholehearted relationship. It is easy to get blinded when falling in love so for me it is all about awareness and setting boundaries from the start. In the past I attracted people into my life that took advantage of my qualities and I ended up hurt and alone.