Please please me


There have been times I’ve literally gone hungry rather than stop what I’m doing to eat. In that moment, even prepping a dry piece of toast or biting an apple seems like a time-wasting experience. It’s usually when I’m helping the kids (#witchinghour) and have a set amount of time to get through post-daycare play time, dinner, bath, quiet time, stories and bed. The fellow mamas among us will be hearing me loud and clear – this time of day is next-level hustle and we end up grabbing that last piece of garlic bread/chicken nugget/carrot stick off the kids’ plates and calling it quits.

But, equally, I have no doubt there are times in any modern woman’s life, mother or not, when this scenario rings a very loud, resounding bell. Right now we’re living in a time where we have more opportunities than ever before… and yet we’re drowning, tackling each day feeling exhausted and disconnected. We juggle multiple deadlines, rush from meeting to appointment to extra-curricular activity, via the supermarket for supplies for that (hopefully) perfect meal we’ll cook for the family this weekend, all the while silently scolding ourselves for somehow not having the energy for yoga at 6am and relying (yet again) on that third coffee this morning to just – keep – going.

First. Drink the coffee.

Secondly. Breathe.

It’s time we faced this never-ending, overwhelming, self-sabotaging pressure head on.

My name’s Khara. And I’m a people pleaser. Yes, it’s a thing. And yes, it mostly affects women more than men. Why? Because essentially it’s more common for women to worry about others and defer their own needs – in fact studies have shown that women are socialised to be nurturing and responsible, which ultimately sets the stage for people pleasing, according to Terry Gaspard, LICSW, a licensed therapist, relationship blogger and author.

“It’s natural for girls to grow up feeling that it’s desirable to be flexible and subordinate their needs to others, Unfortunately, this tendency can set the stage for unhealthy boundaries in relationships. However, with some self-awareness and support from others, it is reversible.”

Terry goes on to explain that before you can begin to truly build successful relationships, you must have healthy self-esteem – which means that you have self-worth and evaluate yourself in positive ways. One of the first things to consider is: how do you treat yourself? Could you be kinder to yourself? Maybe allowing yourself to eat something nutritious here and there is a good place to start.

Seriously though, Terry says the first step to reducing approval seeking behaviour is to examine your self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviour.

“Often people get stuck in the ‘Approval Trap’ because they lack self-awareness,” she adds. “I recommend the following steps to anyone striving to exercise personal power and gain control of their life…”

·       Realise you simply can’t be liked by everyone. There will always be those who don’t agree or approve of your words or actions. Accept that you can’t control what others think of you. We all have unique perceptions based on our personalities and upbringing.

·       Examine whether you give too much in relationships. Do you ignore your own needs due to seeking other’s approval? Therapy, reading, and keeping a journal can aid you in this process.

·       Challenge your beliefs and self-defeating thoughts about your self-worth. You don’t need to prove anything to another person about your self-worth.

·       Make a list of things that are important to you and begin pursuing some of them. Share the list with a friend and/or therapist.

·       Practice self-approval by learning to set personal boundaries and saying “no” to unreasonable requests from others. As you begin to care less about seeking the approval of others, you’ll find you have more energy – people pleasing can drain us of time and energy.”

And remember, making yourself a priority isn’t selfish. You deserve this. As for Terry’s final piece of advice?

“Saying farewell to this constant people pleaser act will see your sense of self will soar and your self-respect blossom.”

And in the long-term, you’ll be well on your way to living a more purpose-driven, happier life.

You can read more of Terry’s thoughts on the topic via her website, her book Daughters of Divorce or on Facebook and Twitter.

Khara Williams