Colleen Long Psy.D.

The Happiness Rx

When You're Afflicted With the Disease to Please

How to stop living the life others want and begin living the life YOU desire

Posted Jan 19, 2015

Many clients I see in my practice are pleasers. They come in all forms: the ones who want to be their kids' best friend, the ones who want to be the most successful attorney at their firm, or the adult who simply hasn't let go of needing to be the "favored" child.

Our need to please usually starts in childhood. We do something pleasing, we get positive reinforcement—and we're hooked! However, this desire to please others often gets carried away and we lose sight of what it is we authentically want.

Many of my clients are riddled with guilt, anxiety, depression, loss, grief, sadness, and resentment after years of valuing someone else's comfort over their own—and that's what it is really, right? We are saying "I value your comfort over my own. I value you having peace of mind over me feeling that I'm living a life of authenticity."

So how then does one break the spell? The following are seven simple steps to break free from others'

demands and start to live the life YOU ultimately want:

1. Identify what areas and key relationships in your life, where people pleasing has run amok.

2. Assess what it is you might be doing differently, if their being pleased with you was a non-issue.

3. Begin to have a dialogue with those you've carried this unhealthy dynamic out with, and let them know that you are going to make an effort to curb your people pleasing tendencies. Most people are way more open to your change and less likely to take offense, when you let them know. This change is not about them. It is about you.

4) From now on, when someone asks you for a favor, a question, or something that triggers that gut instinct to please, simply say, "Can I think about it?" Give them a designated time when you will answer their request. Oftentimes, if we can give ourselves some space, then we can step back and truly evaluate what it is we want.

5) When you've given yourself an adequate amount of time, follow through with the potential "please-ee," and let them know what you've decided.

6) ** This might be the most important step: Allow yourself to feel a bit of discomfort with the decision

you've made. It is likely you will begin telling those around you that you cannot help them at the same level you were or that you can no longer be a part of whatever unhealthy dynamic you were once a part of. Many are not going to be happy with this, and you have to allow yourself to sit with the discomfort that will come with making others displeased. Knowing—that at the end of the day—you will ultimately have your peace of mind as well as a life that is authentically your own.

7) Let go of the need to be liked by everyone. Most interesting people in history, or people worth knowing, weren't well liked by all. See this "letting go" as a giant leap toward surrounding yourself with only those who will like you for you, instead of what you can do for them.

Dr. Colleen Long is the author of Happiness in B.A.L.A.N.C.E; What We Know Now About Happiness as well as Meditation Medication. She is a licensed clinical psychologist and couples therapist with practices in Los Angeles and Manhattan Beach, California. You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook. To make an appointment, call 1-800-593-2560

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