What’s the Price of People-pleasing?

A friend phones to ask you for a favour.

You’re already swamped and you don’t have the time or energy to help them out. Plus, this particular friend never seems to return any of the favours you do for them.

They wait expectantly for your answer.

A voice in your head is advising: “don’t agree to this. You have too much on already. Say no”.

Into the phone, you say with a smile:

“Yes, of course, I’ll do it – no problem”.


Did you want to do something nice for them? Did you want to show them how much you care? Did you want them to think well of you?


But I’ll hazard a guess the real reason you said yes when you wanted to say no was guilt.

You said yes because you knew you would have felt guilty if you hadn’t.

If you’d said no, the instant the word spilled out of your mouth your Inner Bully would have popped up to punish you: “You’re so selfish. I can’t believe you did that. They were just asking for a small favour. What harm would it have done you?”

The sense of guilt would have made you so uncomfortable, even if you’d initially declined their request, you may well have ultimately agreed to it.

Sometimes it feels just too hard not to please people.

But have you ever considered the price you pay for people-pleasing?

If you’re too focused on other people’s needs, your needs inevitably get shoved to the bottom of the pile. While it’s perfectly fine to be considerate and help others, it’s no good if your own needs are ignored.

And if you continually ignore your needs, you’ll turn to food – not only as means of compensation for not getting what you really want out of life, but also as a way of filling the tank so you can keep going and carry on providing for others.

The Inner Bully will then give you a hard time about eating too much and gaining weight.

You just can’t win, can you?

Because your Inner Bully doesn’t want you to win.

It doesn’t care about the expense to you of people-pleasing.  It maintains you’re selfish if you don’t comply, don’t give in, don’t give unceasingly of your time and energy to others.

Have you ever noticed how your Inner Bully holds you to exacting high standards but not other people? It doesn’t assess if others are behaving reasonably or considerately. It just beats you up if you don’t instantly concede to their demands.

And that’s not fair.

So, if you’re a chronic people-pleaser, the best thing you can do is learn to deflect your Inner Bully’s guilt attacks.

Dismiss them with a swift – “there’s nothing wrong with saying no” or “meeting my own needs isn’t selfish, it’s self-care”.

Better yet, come up with something in your own words that has real truth in it for you.

Whether we realise it or not, we’re teaching people all the time how we expect to be treated. If you’re used to complying with other people’s wishes, that’s what they’ll always expect. It’s OK to teach them a new way to relate to you.

If they truly care about you, they’ll adapt.

Because life’s about balance, it’s not about pleasing other people at the expense of your health and wellbeing.

I can hear your Inner Bully arguing with that statement. Do you want to tell it where to go or shall I?

Food for Thought: To Be Nobody But Yourself

“To be nobody but yourself – in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you like everybody else – means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”

– e.e. cummings

In a world that says we must compare, correct and conform, this e.e. cummings quote – written decades ago – has, surely, never been more relevant.

There’s so much pressure for us to look the same, act the same, be the same.

Sometimes it’s hard to assert our uniqueness because we risk rejection.

But there’s such power in being nobody but ourselves.

Continue reading “Food for Thought: To Be Nobody But Yourself”

Food for Thought: Learning Just To Be

“Finding the lesson behind every adversity will be the one important thing that helps get you through it.” ― Roy T. Bennett

Somebody tweeted the other day that if we don’t use our time on lockdown to learn a new skill, start a “side hustle” and gain more knowledge, we lack self-discipline.

I have a problem with this kind of thinking.

My bingeing days may be well behind me but, like many people who binge eat, I have a tendency towards busyness and achievement.

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Expert Insight: Filling the Spaces of Your Life with Positive People

“Boundaries can be used in two ways – by limiting the actions of the people who have hurt you, and by including the people who’ve shown themselves to be trustworthy. In other words, boundaries prevent harm and allow benefit.

…When a friend proves trustworthy, see that friend again. Risk a little more. Notice when you are treated kindly. Pay attention when someone offers you trust. As you become more discriminating about the people you let in, the spaces of your life will fill up with positive people, and you’ll have less room for the harmful ones.”

– Anne Katherine, “Where to Draw the Line: How to Set Healthy Boundaries Every Day”

Often we think of boundaries as a means solely of keeping toxic people out. But, as Anne Katherine explains, they’re also how we let trustworthy people in.

But how do you know who to allow close and who to keep at a distance?

Continue reading “Expert Insight: Filling the Spaces of Your Life with Positive People”

Who Do You Trust?

I was horse mad as a child.

I was born and raised in Australia until the age of nine and, along with a modest collection of pony books and stickers, I had an imaginary horse I kept tethered in our backyard. Truth be told I had about fifteen imaginary horses – all with their own names – but that’s another story.

More than anything, I wanted to ride a real horse.

When I was about eight, I came across a brochure for a kids’ activity camp. I can’t remember how but it immediately caught my eye because there on the front cover was a photo of children smiling as they rode horses through the countryside.

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Food for Thought: Waking Up to Our Boundaries

“Boundaries are the lines we draw that mark off our autonomy and that of other people, that protect our privacy and that of others. Boundaries allow for intimate connection without dissolving or losing one’s sense of self.”   

– Amy Bloom

I love this definition of boundaries by Amy Bloom – psychotherapist, author, screenwriter and probably my new shero.

Boundaries make it safe for us to engage with others, without compromising our independence.  They separate us from each other, while at the same time allowing us to be close. Rather than a barrier to relationship, boundaries give us the means to connect authentically.

But what if we don’t know where they are?

Continue reading “Food for Thought: Waking Up to Our Boundaries”