How to Stop Being a People Pleaser & Take Control of Your life

  horseriding girl

The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate. – Oprah Winfrey 

For a long time, I turned away from any recognition and achievement…

I thought I was being spiritually enlightened, but now I know it’s because I was ashamed of my need to be loved.

For the first 26 years of my life, I had been heavily focused on competitive achievement in horse riding.

I understand now I wasn’t always doing it for the right reasons…

The wins were to appease my gods – teachers, trainers, owners and bosses.

I was actually seeking a metaphoric gold star to prove, not that I was good at riding, but that I was worthy of loving and existing.

How to Stop Being a People Pleaser & Take Control of Your life

motivation quotes

Winning rosettes, cups, and money didn’t get me praise or love from those gods, it just meant that I didn’t get criticised, punished, nagged or worse – ignored for not being good enough.

My experience of positive recognition and attention was not praise and celebration, but the absence of pain…

Happiness was associated with feeling safe; which simply meant not being hurt.

Instead of growing in confidence by the time I was 20 I was so scared of making mistakes – I was having panic attacks and OCD behaviour for fear of causing disasters – like burning the house down!

Smothered Passion

I’d adored horses since I was four and being with them was not only my safe haven, but I felt completely at ease.

Riding was something I was naturally good at, but by the time I turned my back on it and walked away from my career, horses had lost all pleasure, security or enjoyment.

My passion and dreams of being an Olympic champion had been completely smothered by fear and pain…

I thought I would be free, once I stepped away from that way of life, but I took the beliefs with me.

As soon as I found a new focus I would become fixated in striving hard to achieve, as big and as quickly as possible to please who ever I saw as the source of my recognition.

Terrified though of failing and being found out that I wasn’t really good enough…

Starving For Love, But Love Equalled Pain

Of course this continuous striving and achievement were not sustainable, so inevitably I would fall down with exhaustion, but in my eyes I’d failed, which meant I was not only unlovable but unsafe.

The irony is that I knew in pro-sport – continuous training and competition makes you weak. There must always be rest time for the muscles to heal so they can grow stronger.

Eventually, I walked away again and gave up all my desires and dreams for my own life; the rollercoaster of highs and lows was too much.

I Was Terrified Of Hurting To My Core, Each Time I Failed

I retreated even more from my own life and focused wholly on helping other people and tried to convince myself that I was being spiritually enlightened.

It was this decision which brought me to acknowledge my own self-belief…

I don’t matter, so I was choosing to self-sacrificing.

I’d come to believe it was safer and that was love.

I felt needed though if I served/helped other people.

I had nothing to offer anyone who wanted a real relationship because I didn’t exist.

By going to the extreme and playing out this belief to its fullest, I became very, very angry, resentful and bitter, which was trying to highlight my deep disappointment and longing for my own life.

Eventually my anger saved me and I found a fight in me that voiced – I matter to me.

Rediscovering My Desire To Live!

I discovered courage to face my fear, demand more and change my life to love me no matter what.

I will never be ashamed again of my need to be loved!

That meant though slowly learning what LOVE really is – unconditional and what that looks and feels like – and the truth of what I had actually experienced.

Once I did this though I could separate my self-worth and existence from my actions.

Without deep fear or shame, I could once again give myself permission to have goals and dreams, but this time work towards them for the right reasons.

I want to try things and achieve or succeed, but it is not intrinsic to my self-worth

Free To Dream Once More

Actions are just actions; they’re conditional and that’s how they need to be.

Without recognition of doing it well, or making mistakes by ourselves or someone else we don’t receive any feedback, so we can’t learn, improve our skills or know if we are on the right path to success.

If we love ourselves – not punish, no matter what we do or don’t; succeed, trip or fall, we can handle external feedback and become free.

Free to explore, try stuff, make mistakes, play around, have fun and challenge ourselves and commit to what we truly want to do.

If I notice growth, change and improvement in my life, I do my best to praise myself like a kind mother would and really acknowledge it.

I share with my friends my ups and downs and invite them to help me celebrate when I need some validation because I like positive feedback and praise.

I also practice praising other people authentically too.

Sometimes I need rosettes, gold medals or gold stars from other people and that’s OK, as long as I remember it’s just the icing on the cake to my own praise.

I can take the feedback that I need and let go of that which isn’t useful because it’s just guidance on my actions, not a judgement on my existence.

Which means that other people’s constructive feedback or critical response is also no longer detrimental to my soul.

Some dreams will succeed and some won’t, but I won’t give up dreaming.

I will keep striving though for the ones that truly matter because I will always keep praising me and loving me no matter what.

The final outcome isn’t really up to you or me, but how I choose to approach the journey is!

Photo by Thomas Hahusseau
  • anon

    I have this issue but I don’t think I would call it people pleasing. It’s perfectionism, but perfectionism is often not a very people pleasing behaviour (the opposite, really). I agree with your statement that the behaviour is designed to prevent attack, but I’m not sure it is done to invite approval. In reality, other people’s standards are much lower than mine, so they will praise me for things I don’t think are praise worthy and not listen. Ergo: The praise does nothing for me, but achievements as high as I want them to be provide momentary relief from the fear of attack and of not existing. But it’s fleeting and then I need to do it again. I’m trying to work on this as I go along.

    Having said all of that, I actually got here by Googling “ashamed of love” rather than “ashamed of needing love”. What I mean is that I am ashamed if I love others. I wondered whether this was a trend and others would be able to relate to it. If I have “love” feelings towards people it makes me feel ashamed, so I avoid close relationships. Is this connected to the perfectionism?

  • Virgil Lee Beasley

    Beautiful, meaningful and significant share. Love your authentic and transparent “Being”. Much of my childhood and adult life was a mirror of what you share in this post…3.8 grade point, Tri State 1st. place winner/college scholarship on the saxophone (walked away from it because of ‘hollow victories’, high achiever in college (19 to 21 units per semester, Psy. D. degree. I took and failed my exams for Clinical Teaching Membership in the International Transactional Analysis Association to please my therapist/mentor because he needed another feather in his cap . Six months later, following intense personal therapy with another therapist strictly for myself and not to be better at helping others, aced the oral exam. In fact, when I left the room I went to the bar and purchased congratulatory drinks for all of the examining to pass around when I went back into the exam room to hear their decision. A divorce and one year later a life threatening illness/emergency surgery (30/60 blood pressure when entered surgery with 30% change of making it) was a life changer for me. I now live and love fully my new bride of 36 years and am of true service to Prostate Cancer Survivors and their significant others. Again, your post is like a biography of me with “How To’s” for a loving, successful life. I appreciate that somehow on this busy internet freeway I found a true soul mate.

    • Joanna Warwick

      Dear Virgil, I’ve only just seen this beautiful comment – thank you so much for sharing your story. Its sounds like you have really found your hearts calling and now being of service but from a I love me too stance and of course you are free love another without expectation too – wow 36 years !! May you keep shining brightly and sharing your true self… xx