People pleasers feel more important and feel good about themselves through the act of taking care of others. However the people they often take care of tend to manipulate and misuse them and offer them little care in return. While People Pleasers show love and affection by taking care of others, they find it hard to set healthy boundaries. They often over extend themselves. They begin to feel resentful that no one is meeting their needs.
People Pleasers spend so much time and effort in taking care of others. Unfortunately, they often do not establish good social support for themselves. They also find it hard to give up control and let other people take care of them. While taking care of others in noble and rewarding, it can also be toxic and unhealthy. If other people are using shame and false guilt in order to get their way, then you need to consider making some changes.
Learning how to be assertive is very important in stopping the toxic cycle of giving too much and owning other people’s emotions. I recommend working with a counselor in order to best learn about healthy boundaries. You will also want to to learn assertiveness in your unique relationships. This article is a quick primer on assertiveness that I have broken down into 3 steps.
Step 1: Stop owning other people’s emotions
It is very important to recognize and understand that other people can express a wide range of emotions. They might claim that these emotions are a result of your behavior. However it is very rare that you should take any ownership of their feelings. I previously wrote an article titled“Do You Have a Guilty Conscience”. This article touches upon feelings of “false guilt” that occur when you own someone else’s negative emotions. If you haven’t read it take a quick 5 minutes to read through it. My rule of thumb about owning other people’s emotions is quite straight forward. The only time you should feel guilty is when you intentionally behaved in a manner that you knew would cause either physical or emotional harm to another person. If your actions were not intended to inflict harm then don’t defend yourself. Don’t justify your choices or decisions.
It is also important that your own emotions are not affected by other person’s reactions to your behavior. You must learn how to stay emotionally neutral with conflict. Once you have mastered this concept it will be much easier for you to set emotionally healthy boundaries.
Keep in mind this does not mean that you can act inappropriately and get away with it. When you have behaved poorly you should own it. However if your behavior was not bad and another person is upset with you then you should not justify your actions. An appropriate apology would be “I am sorry that you feel (fill in the blank), but it was not my intention to make you feel that way.” In this way you can empathize with another person’s feelings without taking ownership.
Step 2: Embrace the adage that you teach people how to treat you based on what behaviors you accept.
If you allow people to behave poorly then they will continue to behave poorly. If you do not accept bad behavior then one of 3 things will likely happen. The person will either learn to stop behaving that way, they will behave that way with other people but not with you, they will behave poorly in a different way, or they will chose to no longer interact with you. Hopefully the person learns to stop the bad behavior. However, be weary of anyone who continues to act poorly with other people or who acts out against you in a different way. These are red flags that they are not an emotionally healthy person.
Step 3: Determine what behavior, words, and actions are acceptable to you.
This of course will take some time. As you have conflicts with other people start to make notes about what behaviors are not acceptable to you. Take some time to reflect on what short phrases you could use in those circumstances. You want to be able to quickly nip the behavior in the bud with just a few words. Practice what you will say. You want to be able to deliver your responses with a pleasant look on your face and a neutral tone of voice. You can practice by looking into the mirror, role playing with another person, or even pretending that the person you want to say this to is sitting in the empty chair in front of you. Whatever method you chose it is important to practice and practice and practice some more. It is important that you feel comfortable and confident when the time comes that you need to be assertive.
Learning how to be assertive is very important skill that you should take the time to master. It will benefit you at work with co-workers, employees, and your boss, at home with your children and spouse, and socially with your friends. At first you will notice that people don’t like that you changed the rules of interaction. Be patient because you will get some push back. However it is very important to continue to be assertive. Do not become emotional and hold your ground. Consequently, you will notice a decrease in conflicts as the people in your life start to learn what behaviors you will accept. You will also find that your resentment towards others will start to dissipate. As you become more assertive, your needs will be better met and your relationships will become more fulfilling to you.
If you would like to do more work on your own then I recommend the following literature:
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Are you plagued by feelings of guilt? Does your stomach churn when someone is upset with you? Do you seek excessive reassurance from others? Do you avoid conflict whenever possible? When conflict is unavoidable do you find yourself consumed by distress until a resolution has been found? If you answered yes to any of these questions then you maybe suffering from false guilt.
False guilt is pretty self explanatory. It happens when you feel inappropriate guilt and typically occurs in people who were shamed in their past. Not everyone reacts the same way to being shamed. However people who suffer from false guilt tend to be people pleasers who do not cope well when other people are upset with them . By pleasing the person who shamed them, People Pleasers found a path of least resistance that led to less conflicts. However, this unhealthy dynamic leaves them vulnerable to excessive feelings of guilt and shame. In fact they often tend to find themselves in relationships with people who are Shamers.
Shamers are people who manipulate others. They do this by casting their emotions and expectations onto another person or by shaming others in order to get the result they want. Shamers do not stay in relationships with emotionally healthy people for very long because their bad behavior is not tolerated. Instead Shamers tend to gravitate toward People Pleasers who avoid conflict. People Pleasers do not set good boundaries and own other people’s emotions and disappointments. As a People Pleaser they look for ways to justify other people’s actions and like a bad habit, they too easily accept bad behavior.
So to all of those People Pleasers out there I have an easy rule of thumb to remember when it comes to feeling guilty. The only time you should feel guilty is when you intentionally behaved in a manner that you knew would cause either physical or emotional harm to that person. In that circumstance you should own your bad behavior’s effect on another person. You should not only apologize, but do your best to determine how you can repair the damage you caused. However on the flip side you should not feel guilty if someone is physically or emotionally harmed by your actions if you did not intend for them to suffer pain. You can express empathy for their suffering. However you do not own their feelings and you do not feel guilty for your actions.
I hope this simple rule of thumb can help you more easily determine when you should feel guilt. By being able to draw a line on when you should feel guilty, you will find it easier to keep healthy emotional boundaries. Healthy emotional boundaries will lead to less conflicts with friends, families, and co-workers. Imagine how much healthier your relationships with other people can become if you learn how to stop owning other people’s emotions. You can finally let go of the guilt and shame that plagues you. If you want to work on this more on your own you should consider taking steps to heal from the shame of your past. I would recommend working with a licensed therapist and I also highly recommend this book:
Journaling is a great way to process the world around you and your own thoughts. However, many people find it difficult to organize their thoughts. As they try to put pen to paper they are overwhelmed by the blank page. I recently wrote an article titled“In My House We Believe in Talking About Emotions.” This article discusses the importance of emotional wellness. It touches on the importance of being able to connect to and label emotions. The article contained a lovely visual aid called the emotion wheel that organized both good and bad emotions. I love this visual aid. However it can be a little overwhelming. Spending time getting to know yourself and your emotions can make it easier to use the emotional wheel.
The Emotion Worksheet
I have found this emotion worksheet to be particularly useful. It is an excellent tool to process feelings and emotions. With practice and time it will help you learn how to better recognize your emotions. This worksheet helps you connect the dots to how your feelings connect to your thoughts, body, and behavior. Sometimes your feelings may be preceded by a behavior change or physical feeling. This worksheet will help you determine that the behavior or physical feeling was triggered by what you were feeling.
Studying Your Emotions and Your Behavior
Ultimately, observing how an emotion impact your thoughts, your body, and your behavior allows you to lower the intensity of the emotion. By better understanding how your mind and body react to a certain feeling you will more quickly recognize what you are feeling. No doubt once you know what you are feeling you will find it easier to cope.
Study Your Good Emotions
Imagine how wonderful this worksheet could be if you also used it describe good emotions. Instead of blowing past the good feelings you have each day, you could indulge in your good emotions. If you take this step you will notice an improvement in your overall sense of wellbeing. Imagine slowing down and diving into the positive feelings you experience in your day. Wouldn’t life be more fulfilling? My challenge to you over the next week is to spend a few minutes studying everyday. Study one good and one bad emotion you experienced. Try your best not to judge yourself and see what you come up with. I hope you find it be a rewarding experience.
To learn more about feelings and emotions I recommend the following literature:
In My House We Believe in Talking About Emotions
By: Amy Morrison PA-C at morrisonclinic.com
I have noticed that as a society we really do a poor job of expressing our emotions. Not only do we feel uncomfortable talking about emotions, but we also do not really know what we are feeling. We don’t know how to deal with negative emotions because most of us lack the ability to recognize our emotions until the feelings become intense and overwhelming.
In my house, talking about our emotions and feelings is a priority. Teaching my kids how to sit through and cope with bad emotions is as important as providing them food, clothes, and a roof over their head. My job as a psychiatric PA has allowed me to recognize how difficult life can become for adults who avoid their emotions.
The Yin-Yang of Emotions
My medical practice is geared towards prescribing medication to treat adults with ADHD, depression, and anxiety. I have noticed that most of my patients struggle to cope with negative emotions. They don’t grasp why they should embrace feeling a bad emotion or talk about it. To help them understand I like to use the analogy of the yin yang, which we all know as a balance of good and bad and we recognize that you cannot have one without the other. Emotions are the same way. In order to fully experience good emotions you cannot avoid the opposite negative emotion. You will never feel true peace, if you cannot tolerate feeling scared just as you will never be blessed with intense feelings of joy if you cannot sit through feelings of sadness.
The Emotion Wheel
After discussing the yin yang I like to show them the emotion wheel. It is a wonderful illustration of emotions and their polar opposites. It looks like this:
I have found that most of my adult patients are able to identify the emotions at the center of the wheel. However they get flustered when attempting to branch out from the center. They find it frustrating and overwhelming to cope with emotions they cannot name, it is like a missing puzzle piece that makes it difficult to see the full picture. When you don’t know what you are up against it is hard to cope. So many people feel overwhelmed by emotions they cannot name, but due to no fault of their own.
Our Culture of Not Feeling
Unfortunately, our culture has left so many of us devoid of emotional knowledge and sophistication. As a child I remember learning about the importance of taking care of our bodies. We were taught to eat nutritious food, get enough sleep, and exercise daily. However no one ever taught me about emotional health and wellness . No one ever explained that emotional wellness has a profound effect on physical wellness.
My Hope For My Children
It is my hope that by the time my children head off to college they are able to recognize and sit through each one of these emotions. I will not only teach them to brush their teeth and take care of their physical bodies, but I will also teach them the importance of good emotional health. What about you? Do you teach your children about emotions? How well do you think you label emotions?
To learn more I recommend reading this article, How well do you know yourself.
Ok guys I have to admit, I am a bit addicted to Pinterest. I’m not gonna lie, it can be a problem at times. I find myself going to Pinterest for that crock pot recipe I need for dinner tomorrow and 2 hours later I haven’t even found the crock pot recipe… But I found great information about amazing ways to organize my closet, the best homemade fertilizer to grow the sweetest tomatoes, and I probably spent a few minutes giggling on my funny board. For a person who loves to be inspired, Pinterest is my home away from home.
Pinterest for Psychiatry
For the longest time I never considered using Pinterest for my work. Then one slow afternoon in the office I searched Pinterest for therapy worksheets. The results were profound and one pin led to another which led to another… It was a psychiatry and therapy lovers dream. This “aha” moment inspired hours of hyper-focused searches of Pinterest. I found a wealth of resources for myself and my patients. My boards on psychiatry, emotional health, wellness, and therapy will impress any Pinterest skeptic. Come check me out on Pinterest. Hopefully you will stay focused on them for more than a few minutes. But don’t worry, I won’t judge you for getting lost in recipes, home design, or whatever draws you in and inspires you.