Today I want to talk about the idea of self advocacy. One area that I really struggle with, and I’ve talked a bit about it on this podcast, is the fact that I’m a recovering people pleaser. Too often I’ll put my own needs aside and try to do what I think other people want me to do. Usually it’s not a conscious thing, but a built in habit from years and years of either wanting people to like me, or to avoid conflict.
The thing about people pleasing is that it’s lying. When I do something so that someone else will like me, I’m lying. When I do something for someone that I really don’t want to do, I’m lying when I say that I want to do it. When someone asks my opinion and I try to figure out the “right” thing to say, then I’m lying about what I really think.
Most of us who are people pleasers feel like if people knew who we really were, they wouldn’t like us. We feel like our needs aren’t as important as the needs of others, or that we have to put their needs above ours in order for us to be liked. In some cases we do or say things we don’t really believe or want to do because we want to avoid conflict with the other person. That if we just say or do things right, then we’ll somehow keep the peace.
The problem is that it doesn’t work, and in the end it backfires on us.
We often feel resentment towards this other person. If I lie to someone by telling them what I think they want to hear and not what I think, then they really can’t know who I am. They only see this image I’m trying to put out there, and so I’ll resent them for not letting me be myself, even though I was the one making that choice.
When we put our needs and wants on the back burner for this person, and they don’t react in how we want them so, we’re upset that they aren’t pleased by what we did. And the thing is, what we’re doing is trying to manipulate them. We’re trying to control how they feel, and most people don’t like that feeling at all. And to top it off, we’ve just put our happiness in the hands of other people.
So how do we change this behavior? How do we stop doing things or saying things that we really don’t want to? I mean it seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? We should just stop saying and doing those things, right?
In reality, it’s not that easy. For me, this is a pattern that is so ingrained that I often don’t notice that I’m doing it. It won’t be until I’m part way into an argument or some time after a situation I’ll see that I was trying to please the other person. I often have a bit of anxiety when I want to step up and say what I really think or feel because I’m afraid it will upset the other person.
This is where the idea of self advocacy comes in. Self advocacy is the idea that you have the right to stand up and advocate for yourself. That your feelings, your thoughts, your opinions do matter, and that you have the right to advocate for yourself, regardless of how others feel about what you think. Often, we cast the other person as some kind of bully that doesn’t like what we have to say or think. Often, this isn’t the case and we’re the ones that are self censoring, and then blaming them for our behavior. And when I think of it this way, it’s kind of crazy.
Now there are going to be people that dislike what we have to say or think. And that’s okay. One of the most important things that I hope you can take from today’s episode is that you don’t have to please anyone else. Ever. Let me say that again. You don’t have to please anyone else. It is not your job.
Let that sink in for a moment. I know that sounds really selfish, but it truly isn’t. To me, trying to manipulate others is selfish. Trying to control the feelings of others is selfish. To be honest and truthful and let them decide how they want to feel is really an unselfish thing. Think about that. By being your true self, you are giving them the choice to decide how they want to feel an how they want to act. They may not like you, and that’s okay. That’s their choice. Let them have that choice. And if they decide they don’t like you, then they’re not someone for you. They’re not your people.
For recovering people pleasers, this is not easy. It may feel extremely anxiety producing. I know that it is for me. I sometimes feel like I’m disappointing others or that I’m letting them down somehow. But the thing is, when you do this, it lets the others know who you truly are. It frees you from feeling like you need to be in charge of other people’s happiness. It frees others from feeling like you are trying to manipulate them. It allows you to be a stronger person because you’ll know who you are, and so will other people.
Learning self advocacy is really just an expression of self love, and that’s something that benefits us all.