Sometimes we’re going to have to do things to protect and care for ourselves that inconvenience others.
And that’s okay.
Just reading that probably made some people uncomfortable.
Many of us HATE the very IDEA of inconveniencing others.
For some of us, it goes even deeper: we’ve come to associate the idea of inconveniencing others as inviting pain.
That is to say: some of us have concluded, either consciously or not, that it’s not SAFE to inconvenience others.
This idea is related to other ideas we get in our head about what reactions it may not be safe to elicit from other people— for example, MANY people truly believe that it isn’t safe to “make” other people angry.
Their only experiences with people being angry with them are frightening and painful, so they develop the belief that “safety” involves NEVER “making” anyone angry.
All of this gets wrapped up in a larger idea that “safety” can be created by accommodating other people at all times— and to NOT accommodate someone is to make yourself vulnerable to attack (either physically, or verbally, or emotionally).
It’s a type of trauma response called “fawning.”
People-pleasing is a form of fawning. Being reluctant to set boundaries because we don’t want others to be mad at us is another form of fawning.
The common denominator of these fawning behaviors is that we have decided that our best chance at safety is in scrambling to never displease, inconvenience, or otherwise elicit a negative feeling or impression from somebody else.
The thing is, we’re human beings and this is real life.
We’re GOING to displease someone, sometime.
There WILL be times when our needs— not just our wants, but our needs— WILL be incompatible with what someone else wants or needs just then.
In those moments, when we have to choose between meeting our needs and caring for ourselves, OR minimizing our anxiety by putting our needs and self-care on the back burner so we don’t “make” somebody mad or inconvenience them…anxiety management frequently wins out.
When we do this over and over again, over the course of years…our self-esteem takes a nasty hit.
After all, it’s really hard to esteem ourselves when we’re constantly putting the comfort and convenience of others above our actual needs.
And it’s nearly impossible to establish a sense of REAL emotional or physical safety when we don’t think we have the right to set boundaries.
Recovery from people-pleasing involves us giving up the fantasy that safety can be found in someone else’s positive response to us.
When we pin our only hope for safety on someone else’s positive feelings toward us, we’re setting ourselves up for a permanent state of anxiety.
We will be CONSTANTLY checking and re-checking others’ responses for evidence that we have, or are about to, displease them.
Eventually it becomes more than a preoccupation. It can become an obsession.
Not to mention: that sense of safety isn’t real.
We can’t ensure that someone will NEVER think negatively about us.
We can’t ensure that we will ALWAYS make a positive impression.
And there will ABSOLUTELY be times when we have to say or do something that WILL displease someone else in order to get our needs met.
There WILL come a time when you have to prioritize your needs over someone else’s comfort.
That doesn’t make you mean. It doesn’t make you “high maintenance.” It doesn’t make you entitled.
Your needs are as important as anyone else’s needs.
And your needs are almost always MORE important than others’ convenience.