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Is it time to change this dangerous pattern in your life?

July 28, 2011

Interestingly, I’ve just had three lovely clients in the last week who are all experiencing a severe lack of motivation, especially in the world of work.

Each arrived with a different story – but what they all had in common was deep seated anger, which they were burying deep under a veil of “niceness” and “understanding” for the other people involved in their saga of woe.

My three delightful clients had all shouldered more than their fair share of the “work” and had taken responsibility for “making things happen”– only to find that they’d been let down by others. But interestingly, rather than admitting that they were furious at being let down, instead they were insistent on seeing things from the other person’s point of view.

Of course, it’s compassion and understanding which not only keeps society on track, but it’s what we’re taught as being “right”. Only it’s less right when it’s not true compassion and understanding but is instead a masquerade for the real (all be it, uncomfortable) feelings – fury, frustration and fear.

And I have to admit to having a deep understanding of all of this as it’s something that’s played out in my life – so, probably it’s no accident that the three clients chose me to help them!

In fact, someone once labelled me as a “people pleaser”, which I found particularly nauseating – not least because there’s an unpleasant insinuation of weakness. Worse, studies have shown that people with this tendency often go on to develop exceedingly dangerous illnesses…

Time to shake things up then!

Often the people with people pleasing tendencies are those who are only or eldest children, who have an overly developed sense of responsibility.

Rewarded with the sense of approval for being “grown up”, these children learned that it was good to be thoughtful, considerate and polite – but bad to be “selfish and demanding”.

The result?

A tendency to put everyone else FIRST – and leave oneself out of the equation.

Worse, the ego then starts to kick in – and one of two things then happen. Either the person goes even more into people-pleasing and “niceness” – or they go into “anger and attention seeking”.

In the first scenario, the result is just a deepening of an already embedded pattern…in the second, the person feels an initial sense of release and relief, swiftly followed by guilt at not being “good”…and thus they swing back even further on the pendulum into increasing “niceness”.

And all the while, the individual is not getting what he or she wants out of life, with the result that sooner or later, they simply give up on trying, feeling that nothing will ever work out for them…and asking themselves, “what’s the point?”. Motivation levels descend to rock bottom.

But actually, the point is that there is a gift in all of this.

Once the ego is broken down from things “just not working out”, eventually a decision is made to “try doing things differently”.

The invitation?

Simply put yourself FIRST rather than last.

Sounds simple…but not if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool people pleaser.

But of course, the least selfish thing you can do is to put yourself first. By taking care of yourself and your needs, you’re actually stepping into your power. Looking after everyone else at the expense of your own needs means that ultimately, you’re becoming a victim/martyr…and who wants to spend time with one of those?

Great relationships work on a “win:win” basis – love itself is a continuous flow of giving and receiving. Anything else is simply a form of co-dependency, of enabling behaviours and patterns that aren’t actually helping anyone in the relationship.

So maybe it’s time to remind ourselves of the most important relationship we have in our lives: the one we have with ourselves!

It’s time to put ourselves FIRST, and not last. This is not about trampling all over others in order to get our own way, but instead, coming to see that we’re not meant to be giving to everyone else continually, at the expense of ourselves.

I once heard a religious man instructing people to “love others as you love yourself”. Nothing new there. But then he flipped his comment around, almost flippantly… “ And,” he continued, “maybe you should also try loving yourself, as you love others.”

That’s a major change in perspective.

So, the choice: Stand in your power and be true to yourself (irrespective of what others may or may not say about you) – or be the victim, and watch your life (and life force) ebb away. It’s a choice. We have free will.

And finally, I saw a greetings card once which said, “Please yourself – at least one of you will be happy!”

A sentiment that those of us with people pleasing tendencies would do well to apply to ourselves…

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