Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Exhaustion of People-Pleasing

by Debbie Ford

~~  There is an affliction quietly and insidiously affecting us that crosses all lines of age, gender and race. It began when we were young and learned that in order to fit in with our families we had to ignore our own needs, stay silent, follow along, and give away our power. As adults this syndrome continues to rob us of our ability to ask directly for what we need and want and drives us to violate ourselves and our own integrity. When we're in its grips, we contort ourselves to fit in, to belong, and to ensure our status as a "good person". In a moment of desperation and powerlessness, we forsake ourselves in order to avoid confrontation and the mere possibility of rejection.

This is the disease of trying to be liked, being nice, seeking acceptance, and trying to please others as a strategy - as a way to feel safe in the world and worthy in our own skin. What is even more important to recognize is that seeking the approval of others is a way to avoid how deeply we disapprove of ourselves. The feared rejection of another is actually an outward reflection of how we have already rejected certain aspects of ourselves.

In all of the books I write, the talks I give and the trainings I lead, I encourage people to acknowledge the cost of their limiting beliefs and behaviors. When it comes to people-pleasing, the cost is so pervasive and damaging that I want to draw special attention to it this week. The moment we try to please another and abandon our own truth for theirs, we essentially hand our power to them, violate our own integrity, cut ourselves off from our inner wisdom, and - at least for a while - disconnect from our ability to love and nurture ourselves. [I know this so well, because I've done it a million times!] We may do this with our children, spouses, employers, friends and society at large. When being a "good girl" or a "good boy" becomes a way of life, we can be sure that exhaustion will accumulate, resentments will build, desperation and neediness will increase, and we'll travel deeper into the land of victim consciousness.

Transformational Action Steps

  1. This week, look to see how you might engage in people-pleasing and contemplate what the cost is in your own life, especially in the area of your self-respect...all the while keeping in mind that transformation begins when you tell yourself the truth.
  2. Take a moment to sit quietly, take a slow deep breath, and check in with yourself. Think of a relationship or situation in your life that is particularly challenging for you right now, and ask yourself the following Right Question as it applies to this situation:

    Am I standing in my power or am I trying to please another?

    Take a few minutes to jot down whatever arises. For greater clarity on how people-pleasing may be undermining you in this situation, utilize the following additional questions:

    • How am I giving up my power to this person or situation?
    • What am I afraid of losing?
    • What would I need to know in order to have the courage to be straight with this person or in this situation?
  3. Disappoint somebody this week. Give yourself the gift of saying "no" when you mean it this week.
As you practice being completely straight with yourself, notice the miracles unfolding in your communications with those around you.

With love and blessings,


Debbie Ford - Create the Life You Love.  
If you'd like to learn more about Debbie go to:  www.debbieford.com


  1. Nanc, what a great article, thx so much. People need to learn the power of saying "No" and being true to themselves.

  2. Thanks Janet, For myself and for many people it's a hard learned lesson but so liberating at the same time.