I have always been a people pleaser. And a pretty darn good one, too. Like, if there was ever a ‘People Pleaser Olympics’, I would definitely have a shot at taking home a medal.
It is a skill I learned very early on – be what people want you to be and you will never be left. Simple.
I was raised an only child and have some pretty significant abandonment and daddy issues so I developed an innate ability to not only worm my way into people’s lives, but to make sure I stayed there. I craved belonging, and became the ultimate shapeshifter.
“Oh, you like country music? I don’t mind it either.”
“Scary movies? Me too!“
** Note, both scary movies and country music make me want to cry. But there is no way in hell I would ever risk rocking that boat so I spent much of my youth with bleeding ears and terrible nightmares.**
I was the funny kid, the sweet kid, the energetic kid, the charming kid. I was whatever was required of me in the moment.
Even as I got older and became a little more rebellious (read: a teenaged nightmare), I remained likeable. And it was a title I wore with pride.
My friends, parents, teachers, and employers all tolerated even my most rascally behaviour, because I was … agreeable.
“Christine, such a nice girl.“
My people pleasing nature went beyond just pretending to like the twang of a steel guitar to slightly meatier issues. From not sharing important opinions at work or biting my tongue when someone hurt me to nervously laughing at inappropriate jokes or tolerating abuse so that I wouldn’t be ‘rejected’.
I can’t remember how old I was when I realized that there was a downside to my ‘please everyone at all costs‘ approach to life, but I am guessing it was my late 20’s, a fairly typical age for women to get tired of bullshit.
I think I was getting exhausted. Exhausted from having to be a chameleon in order to feel safe in my relationships. Exhausted from pretending to like or dislike things I didn’t. Exhausted from not feeling confident enough in myself to show up in the way I wanted.
I was fed up and shit had to change.
And it did. Or … it is. Let’s just say, it’s been a s-l-o-w recovery. You don’t go your entire life making sure everyone else is happy to confidently ruffling feathers overnight, it takes time and is a bit of a process.
I have had to literally train myself that I can share my opinions without worrying about being left. I have had to get used to the super uncomfortable feeling in my stomach when I tell someone they have hurt me or I don’t agree with them.
It is like everything in my body is screaming at me, “No, don’t do it! There will be conflict. We hate conflict! What if they leave us? We will be all alone.”
But here is what I have learned, although there is a bit of a learning curve on both sides (it is an adjustment in any relationship when you drop the people-pleasing routine), and you might lose a few along the way, the people of value in your life will actually appreciate the change. Turns out, people like authenticity. Go figure.
Like anything, it is a bit of a ‘two steps forward, one step back’ process, and I stumble along the way. A lot. I have had to learn to take things slow, to let people adjust with me, and that being a people-pleaser is NOT the same thing as being ‘easy going’.
But I am working on it. And I am committed to myself and to that little girl who thought she wasn’t enough.
So for now, I say, “Hi, I’m Christine. I am a recovering chameleon.”
Are you a recovering chameleon? Drop me a comment if you can relate. Also, feel free to share using the super-easy share buttons below!