Living As A People Pleaser Still Brings Emotional Pain

It Rains On The Rich (thanks for the reminder Jim)

As I was talking with my client, he was expressing a story that I have heard from many. Fearing emotional pain that comes from others judgements. From disappointing someone else. Therefore, he can never make a mistake. Because if he disappoints someone or go against their moral code, that can mean that he is not a good person and that means he is not good enough.

He was living his life being a people pleaser. He had put his true self in an inner prison so that he could do his best to prevent any time of judgement for doing the “wrong” or “unmoral” thing. Anxiety and depression are constant companions of his. And with each year of inner prison that passes, the anxiety grows stronger.

Spending so much time worrying about what others thought, he hadn’t given himself a chance to know who he is. What does he like about himself? What are his dreams? No idea. Because when he went to bed at night, it didn’t matter what he thought, he cared about if he was likable enough for others. Did others approve of him and the way he was living his life?

Once, I Was There Too

I remember being the most passive girl. Apologizing for anything and everything. If someone hurt me, I apologized and made it my fault that they hurt me. If someone bumped into me, I’d say “oops, sorry.” I’d say sorry so often it was pretty much on autopilot.

Nights were spent in a panic that I said something or did something to upset a friend and I’d lost them forever. If I felt the tiniest bit of tension, I would continue to apologize over and over until I accidentally annoyed them. And then that reignited the panic. Pleading that they would forgive me. Struggling with being good enough. Being the perfect friend, daughter, student, girlfriend, employee, person.

If I thought I messed up at all, it would haunt me for years. I’ve been there. Doing anything I could to prevent or apologize away any emotional pain. I just wanted it to be better, for any negative feelings towards me to be gone, to be loved. Feeling loved, even for a minute, was my calm in the storm.

And I chased that calm almost daily. I never wanted to call it anxiety. It was this fear that was strong and persistent that could show up at any time. Any time that I was not perfect. Not just in my eyes, but in the eyes of everyone in the world.

Now we all get here for different reasons.

I found myself telling this beautiful client, that life will offer him pain no matter how perfect or good he is. People are going to judge him no matter what, because people are living life through their world lens. And people won’t always meet our expectations and we won’t meet their’s, because every relationship is two different worlds coming together to create one.

And as tears rolled down his face, I presented him with the idea of freeing himself. Learning to let go of the anxiety and idea that he can prevent people from judging him by doing all the right things and never messing up. Because people will judge anyway. And we can love ourselves through that.

What if the depression was there because an internal battle was taking place? A battle between freedom and prison of yourself. That to please others all the time, you had to keep your true self in an inner prison? Depression makes sense in that situation. But it doesn’t have to continue.

Pain and love, fear and peace, will all be a part of life.

Even though it’s one of those statements we don’t want to hear…. life includes pain – physical and emotional. Pain is found in relationships at times. The thing we often forget is that love is always there. Regardless of the pain. If we can take our eyes off the pain and look for the love, it can be found. And we can be free.

I hope one day, we can all choose to free ourselves.

Much Love, Steph