People-pleasing is all about the need to feel safe.
Until a few years ago, I was afraid that if I didn’t do what my parents thought was right, they would get mad, disapprove of me, and feel upset.
I thought I couldn’t handle the whole situation, the drama, and the pain.
I thought it was easier to do what they said. Tell them the story. Agree with them—put me on the back burner.
I remember when I was getting married, they had a lot of opinions about the wedding, my fiancé, how we should do counseling, and they were worried about our relationship due to our different faiths, races, and cultures. They believed our marriage would fail. They wanted to tell me their opinions every time we got on a phone call.
I didn’t want to hear it, but I thought I had to be a good daughter and listen.
I thought I couldn’t say no. I thought I owed it to them to hear out their opinions, even though I became distraught and afraid every time I listened to another lecture.
I thought I couldn’t set boundaries. Actually, when I tried, it never worked. I would say something like, “I don’t want to hear this,” and instead of following through with the boundary, I would listen and fight with them, then feel resentful that they didn’t listen to my boundary.
(This is not how you set a boundary, but at the time, this was all I knew.)
By the end of many of these conversations, I always just agreed and put my sense of self in the backseat, or I lied because I didn’t know what else to do.
I often told myself it was just for the time being. I told myself it would get better once I went to college, got my masters, had my own apartment, got married, and had kids.
It never did get better. It actually got worse.
Why? Because by people-pleasing I wasn’t creating safety for myself in the relationship with my parents.
Safety is a must in order to have a good relationship with others. But by people-pleasing, I wasn’t creating safety for myself in the relationship.
Hell. I wasn’t even myself.
I was lying to myself, lying to them, and not upholding my own values. My parents were in a relationship with a woman who wasn’t really me. And what kind of relationship was that?
Well, for sure not a safe one. It was also a lie.
Once I stopped trying to people-please, I began to feel safer being myself.
I stopped lying about my options and who I was and the life I wanted to live. I began to become me. I began to let my parents be themselves too.
I began to set boundaries—I didn’t threaten them, didn’t try to change them, but upheld my personal values. It worked. I let them feel all the emotions, instead of trying to control them with my people-pleasing responses. I let them be disappointed, angry, sad, and judgmental.
I let them be wrong about me, my husband, and my marriage.
Doing this was not easy work, but now I trust myself to make my own decisions, be me 100 percent of the time—not only around my parents, but with all my relationships.