May 4, 2022

Taming your inner People Pleaser in midlife

Taming your inner People Pleaser in midlife

Many of my clients tell me they’re people pleasers. I wonder if this is because I spent a lot of my time and energy people-pleasing myself, so I attract clients who have similar experiences? It’s a tendency that I’ve worked hard on recognizing, understanding, and changing so I enjoy helping others do the same.

Here’s something important I’ve learned, we’re not people pleasers but we do have an inner People Pleaser Saboteur that is stopping us from living into what is most important and showing up the way we want to.

Let’s start here, most who fall into people-pleasing legitimately do love to help others.

We often have strong values of service, empathy, compassion, and connection. That’s a good thing, and it won’t change when you stop letting your inner People Pleaser dominate. In fact, the good news is that you’ll have more time and energy and be able to make authentic, powerful choices about how you honour your values.

While the name People Pleaser indicates that someone is leaving these interactions happy and satisfied, it’s very rarely true. When you legitimately live into your values, everyone involved gains from the exchange, boundaries are clear, compassionate, and respected, and there are no hidden motives or agenda.

Rarely is the behaviour from our People Pleaser Saboteur truly helpful for anyone.

How do you know when your People Pleaser has taken over?

You’ll know a value has been taken too far when it no longer fulfills you and instead starts working against you. It’s sabotage when it negatively impacts you or others. So if you find yourself giving to the point of exhaustion, resentment, and stalled personal progress, your values are being hijacked by your inner People Pleaser. It will tell you that people rely on you and that it’s selfish to behave differently, but this is a lie. Rarely is the behaviour from our inner People Pleaser truly helpful for anyone.

Here are some signs your Inner Pleaser is sabotaging you:

  • You are one or more people’s go-to person, but it’s not reciprocal, and, in your vulnerable moments, you might feel like nobody is there for you the way you are for them.
  • Your friends and family compliment you on being “strong” and assume you “always have it all together.” You might even notice that some of your friends forget to ask how you are.
  • You find yourself dropping your other priorities to help people.
  • You might be hard-pressed to identify your preferences, needs, and desires.
  • It’s difficult for you to ask for help.
  • You sometimes find yourself judging the people you are “helping.”
  • You often feel like it’s on you to fix or solve a problem, even when it’s technically not your responsibility.
  • It feels selfish to talk about yourself and your needs.
  • You’re tired, maybe even exhausted, and your tools for replenishing yourself don’t seem to fill up your tank for very long.
  • You struggle with boundaries and saying no.
  • You feel guilty taking time for yourself if someone else needs you.
  • You believe you have to earn other people’s love and affection by helping, fixing, solving, and pleasing.
  • You pride yourself on having the answers, being able to fix most problems, and giving good advice.

If you identified with some or all of the items listed above, you likely have a robust Pleaser Saboteur. It can feel impossible to change this dynamic so entrenched in our personal and professional relationships, but by midlife, many of us who have been operating this way are becoming burned out and living life this way becomes unsustainable.

So, what do you do once you’ve recognized you have a strong Pleaser?

Start by noticing what brings out your Pleaser Saboteur. Perhaps this STOP acronym will help you when faced with a request for help or a situation that triggers your Pleaser:

Please don’t beat yourself up for your history of people-pleasing. There is information here that you can now work with to make powerful choices.

I promise so much is possible once you become aware of how your Pleaser is stripping you of time to focus on yourself, your projects, and your values.

Sara Smeaton Coaching SS-177 Photo by Marina Dempster
Hi, I'm Sara!

I'm here to reclaim the term 'midlife' and embrace the power these years offer us.

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Sara Smeaton Coaching SS-177 Photo by Marina Dempster


Sara Smeaton

Sara Smeaton is a certified professional coach and facilitator who partners with people in their middle years to help them grow and thrive personally and professionally. She works privately with clients in Canada, the US and the UK.

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