November 8, 2022

We Can’t Pour from an Empty Cup: 10 Ways to Stop Being a People Pleaser.

Read Part I: People Pleasing Doesn’t Make Us “Good” Humans: 9 Signs you Might be a People Pleaser.

“If you’re searching for one person that will change your life, take a look in the mirror.” ~ Unknown


I remember watching an interview by Shah Rukh Khan way back in school.

He said that “the only person you need to make happy is you. When you’re happy, everyone around you is happy,” and I found this to to be absurd and selfish at that point. I thought it was a self-centered thing to say.

Years later, his quote has become one of the most profound things I’ve ever heard. There is nothing more to life than one’s own happiness simply because we lie at the heart of all our relationships and associations.

The life force that we carry radiates into and permeates every aspect of our lives, impacting everyone who is associated with us.

If we stop pouring that energy into our relationships or pour too much or too little, our relationships will cease to exist. They will lose their essence and will become mere name tags.

Therefore, if we are truly happy and centered, we will be able to nurture our relationships the right way. If we are not, no matter how many sacrifices and compromises we make, they won’t matter if we are empty from within.

After all, we can’t pour from an empty cup.

When we run after people to get our needs met, it only works superficially. We are always asking, complaining, explaining, begging, and pleading to be heard, seen, acknowledged, and when that happens, we find a temporary relief only to get back into the same cycle again.

“If you live for people’s acceptance, you will die from the fear of their rejection.” ~ Legrae

It’s akin to popping painkillers every time our stomach hurts. When we consume too many or too frequently, we might end up experiencing side effects that eventually outweigh the relief.

Similarly, when we are constantly embroiled in a struggle to please people around us at our own cost, the following happens:

>> We lose touch from our own wants and desires.
>> Even when we are aware of what we want and need, we keep pushing them aside, rendering them as unimportant.
>> We are unable to ask for what we want.
>> We aren’t able to express ourselves fully.

>> We are always afraid of any kind of conflict, disagreement, or confrontation.
>> We feel that our life isn’t in our control.
>> We allow people to take us for granted.
>> We shut down or explode.
>> Eventually, we reach a point where the more we do for others, the worse we end up feeling. We fill up with contempt and disdain for ourselves and others (especially if they do not validate, appreciate, respect, or support our needs).
>> The false sense of safety that this mode of operating provides gets overshadowed by the numerous costs we end up paying across our life span.

Nothing about pleasing people all the time feels good, does it?

Getting out of this default mode isn’t easy. But it isn’t impossible either. Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, our identity wasn’t formed overnight, and it’s not going to change in a jiffy as well.

All we need is to start from somewhere.

Here are some things we can do to come home to ourselves:

1. List down all the behaviors that you engage in that signal a tendency to please people all the time—such as avoiding confrontations, not asking for what you want, not expressing your discomfort, saying yes when you want to say no, and so on. Acknowledgement of what’s not working is the first step to change.

2. For each point on the list, write down what you would like to do instead. Make it as elaborate as you can and include the sentences that you would like to use.

3. Start with baby steps. Choose a few situations and people to experiment with. State what you need simply and clearly.

4. Build up slowly.

5. If someone says no to your asks or requests, don’t give up on yourself. Try again till everyone around you starts to recognize that certain things are indeed important for you.

6. Notice and acknowledge the thoughts and feelings that show up for you instead of shunning them away. Let your emotions guide you.

7. Reward and appreciate yourself for every small step. Remember, recognizing your own efforts and wins is how you take your own power back. That’s how you’re teaching yourself to rely on yourself instead of running after others.

8. Get help if needed. Pleasing people comes from a space of deep rooted trauma around our unmet needs. Therefore, it might take time, effort, and patience to learn another way of being.

9. Be open, willing, and curious to learn about your own self.

10. Work on trusting yourself. You’ve always had your back even when you think you didn’t. You still do. Allow yourself to listen to your inner voice.

Most importantly, understand that your life is about you. You are the source. You may have become a certain way or have adopted certain strategies knowingly or unknowingly because it made sense to you then. If they aren’t working now, there’s always another way. We just need to extend a little.

“When you say yes to others, make sure you’re not saying no to yourself.” ~ Paulo Coelho

And yes, when we change, equations around us change too. The so-called equilibrium will be disturbed till a new one sets in, and that one will be more in line with who we are and want to be.

“Don’t be afraid of losing people. Be afraid of losing yourself trying to please everyone around you.” ~ Anonymous

Everything comes at a price. What matters is the one we’re willing to pay.

I’d rather live a life that feels good on the inside and is mine rather than one that only looks good on the outside but is hollow from within.

What about you?

“There will always be someone who can’t see your worth. Don’t let it be you.” ~ Anonymous


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