The first time it happened was in June 2014.
I found myself locked in a bathroom stall at my corporate fashion job, experiencing what I now recognize as a panic attack. My ears felt like someone had stuffed cotton balls in them, and my palms were so sweaty I couldn’t stand to touch them. Everything went black and white, and I felt like I completely lost control.
At the time, I had no idea what was going on. Immediately, my mind went to the story I’ve been told since a young age – that I was too emotional – and proceeded to get back to work to finish the job everyone was counting on me to do. It took me about three more years to uncover my existing anxiety, worsened by living a life for others.
Up until that point in the bathroom stall, I had interned at some of the best global fashion brands in the world and committed my entire college career to apparel merchandising and business. I had gone on to live and work in New York City for four years in the highly-competitive and money-tight fashion industry.
Life as a people pleaser
During my time in New York City, I had itchy patches on my eyelids, chronic digestive issues, scaly elbows, and a Tito’s and soda habit like no other. Drinking only for the weekend, it was also Thursday’s, and Wednesday’s, basically any time with a solid happy hour.
At the time of my first panic attack, I had been single for a few months after breaking up with a boyfriend that could be deemed emotionally unsuitable for me. Someone who made me doubt my self-worth and convinced me that I would be a better person if I started to go to the gym to reduce my “meaty thighs.” Little did he know, going to the gym and committing time to myself is what ultimately allowed me to become a recovering people pleaser – so I do thank him for that. After a few months of working out with my personal trainer, my self-confidence began to grow. I started to value the little moments of self-care I could gift to myself – lunch away from my desk, eating more vegetables and less sugar, and figuring out what the heck I really wanted to do with my life. My sacred time at the gym became more of a ritual than going to happy hour or indulging in (yet another) pint of ice cream.
This realization didn’t happen overnight. It took me another year to discover that I was a chronic people-pleaser, someone too scared to say No and also quick to say Yes. Over the ten years of my life, I had lost touch with who I was and what I wanted. As it turns out, I was always quick to stick to the plan I thought I had to follow, and too scared to question my path along the way.
At the height of my people-pleasing, I was missing all the signs my body was trying to give me. I now recognize these as attempts to tell me where I was getting lost and where my boundaries needed strengthening. The stomach aches and sleepless nights were piling on top of each other and becoming my new normal.
I didn’t listen.
Ignoring all the signs, I pushed through and continued to be the Coordinator Carley, the one that helps everyone with anything, no questions asked. Saving the day made me feel so good, but only for a short amount of time. I had lost all self-respect for myself when it came to my relationships, as I was too scared they’d come crumbling down if I pushed back or voiced my opinions in any way.
Common signs of people pleasing
Had I known the common signs of people-pleasing, I probably would’ve been able to stop my exhausting behavior sooner. Here are some common symptoms of people-pleasing, as well as more information about the people pleaser personality.
- You have a hard time saying No because you feel guilty or too worried about the other person’s feelings
- You are quick to say Yes and sometimes find it hard to follow through with everything you committed to
- White lies have been used to help you get out of obligations you over-committed to
- Sorry is a common word in your vocabulary
- You find it hard to accept help or compliments
- Rescuing people – at work, in relationships – gives you a sense of purpose and validation, but often leaves you feeling burnt out and exhausted
- You have a hard time communicating what you truly want or need to be entirely happy
Life as recovering people pleaser
After a lot of self-care, yoga, meditation, and personal reflection, I am a proud recovering people pleaser. Someone who is not afraid to say No, but more importantly, I am someone who is no longer afraid to say Yes.
I have finally regained control of my power and my anxiousness to please no longer defines me. Instead, I love harder, I say No more often, and I make sure that, in the end, I am taken care of because I am worth it.
And so are you. Today, I am a self-care coach (I attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition) and author of the book and digital course, Boundaries with Soul™. I am passionate about helping women – like you – who give too much to everyone around them, leaving nothing for yourself by the end of the way.
If you’re the woman who is tired, stressed-out, and way too hard on herself – I want you to know that there is another way.
The woman who is always pouring her precious energy and resources into clothes, happy hours, men, and work in search of the life she craves – a life without fear of rejection and fear of failure, the life where poor self-esteem is a thing of the past.
When all you now is people pleasing
See, the funny thing is, most people-pleasers are so used to people-pleasing and catering to the needs of others, they forget what they truly want. Over time, you might lose touch with our authentic values and find communicating your needs as a people pleaser as next to impossible.
People-pleasing is genuinely a vicious cycle of seeking affirmation and positive feedback from those around us, which we receive by obliging to their wishes. After living that life for months, you might find yourself harboring resentment for those you’ve been so quick to help in the past. You might even convince yourself that they’re the inconsiderate ones and can’t understand how other people can be so rude.
As hard as it is to hear, in most cases, it’s not the other person’s fault for your unhappiness. It all comes back to common people-pleasing behavior and lack of communication, low self-esteem, and fear of rejection on your end.
If this is resonating with you, it’s important to remember that you are worthy of happiness and saying No to things that don’t bring you joy doesn’t make you a terrible person. Remember what your values are and reassess what you’ve been prioritizing as important. Self-care is a tool that can help you move away from your people pleasing behavior and transition into living the life of a recovering people pleaser.
Check out some useful self-care tools that can help you get on the path to becoming a recovering people pleaser and create a life that finally feels like it’s yours.
Private coaching and online self-care coursed
You don’t have to navigate this path alone. Learn more about how Carley can support you on your journey to become a recovering people-pleaser.
Books you’ll love
by Elena Brower
Present Over Perfect
by Shauna Niequist
Boundaries with Soul
by Carley Schweet
Living with Intent
by Malika Chopra
Tune into the You Time™ Podcase
You Time™ is a weekly podcast hosted by Carley Schweet, a self-care coach and author of Boundaries with Soul™. Each episode shares compelling stories of transformational self-care to inspire listeners to create life-changing self-care practices of their own.
You Time™ is a must-listen for those who give too much.