Why People Pleasing feels Toxic (Part 2)

Last week I began a series of emails about why people pleasing feels toxic and shared with you the first reason why – click here if you missed it.

I received many responses of gratitude for putting words to people’s experiences and helping to make sense of what was going on for them.

Today I’d like to share what I see is the difference between what is frequently described to me as “People Pleasing” and how it differs from our natural “Giving from the Heart”.

It is natural to want to enrich the lives of others… particularly when our reserves are full… wanting no outcome in return.

But there is a huge difference in how it feels to simply give from the joy of giving and how it feels to give when we are wanting something in exchange or unconsciously ‘keeping score’.

I’m not making this kind of giving wrong. It has served most of us well for many years.

What matters to me is to recognise why it doesn’t feel good so we have more choice and awareness, and to be able to choose from what enriches Life now.

As a child, for many of us this was the only way we had to meet our needs, including to belong in our families, to attempt to control our parents/siblings emotions so that we were safe, to encourage others to say yes to our requests by our being “kind”.

My father died when I was 13, and my mum, who had 5 children (I was the oldest) was understandably often stressed and angry and could become more reactive toward us. One of the only ways I knew to keep myself emotionally safe from her volatility was to become aware of her moods and if I sensed that she was uptight, offer her something that I thought she might like. That might cheer her up. I might fold the clothes, or offer to make her a coffee.

And sometimes it did cheer her and I could relax.

I know I am not alone.  From working one on one with thousands of people in coaching and trainings this is a story for most of us.

Large Group of People

Some children learnt to be happy all the time to win love and approval.

Others learnt that if they didn’t speak up then they would belong.

Others learnt that by being a “good girl or boy”, that they would have approval and validation from people around them.

And these learnt behaviours then became part of our habitual patterns, long outliving their usefulness.

Because over time, we loose our own authenticity. We loose our ability to speak up. We loose our trust to be vulnerable and emotionally available. But more than that, we loose trust that we matter and that our needs matter, and that we are precious and safe and connected with All of Life. And we forget that we actually CAN trust into that.

I was never able to say to my mum “I feel scared when you are angry and stressed. Im afraid to hear you yell and I don’t know what to do.”

But as an adult, this is the vulnerability and authenticity which helps us to have real and authentic relationships. In a diverse and sometimes insane world, it is our needs which guide us back to our sense of self and our unique position on this planet.

Next week, I will share with you the final aspect of this important topic by discussing more about this natural giving from the heart

Until then, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this very important topic. Have you been taught that to give is better than to receive? How has this affected you? How has NVC changed your approach to ‘people pleasing’?

And if its time to find a new way of Trust… you may want to join us at our next NVC Foundation Training.

With love,