The Pleaser Disease

How can you know if you’ve been infected with The Pleaser Disease? Here are some questions to help you figure it out. Do you often find yourself doing things that you really don’t want to do, saying “yes” when you really mean “no?” Do you give up something you want so that other people can have what they want? Is your mantra, “Whatever everyone else wants to do is fine with me”? If any of this sounds familiar, do you imagine that these “others” will repay your sacrifice by thinking well of you? Do you expect that they will like you more because you anticipated their needs and wants and did your best to fulfill them? If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, do not “pass go,” proceed immediately to the inquiry in the rest of this article to route out The Pleaser Disease.

Pleasers are called “twos” in the Ennegram model. According to the Enneagram Institute, ”Twos are empathetic, sincere, and warm-hearted. They are friendly, generous, and self-sacrificing, but can also be sentimental, and flattering. They are well meaning and driven to be close to others, but can slip into doing things for others in order to be needed. They typically have problems with possessiveness and with acknowledging their own needs. At their best, they are unselfish and altruistic and have unconditional love for others. Their basic fear is of being unwanted, and being unworthy of being loved.”

This is key. The Pleaser Disease derives its momentum from fear. In The Pleaser role, we create a story that includes scary, imagined consequences for daring to do what we really want to do or not doing what we think others want us to do.

Knowing that you’re infected with The Pleaser Disease is the first vaccination shot. If you’re asked to do something, and you feel moved to say “yes” when you really want to say “no,” just because you think someone won’t like you or will think badly of you, realize that in that moment you’re people-pleasing, and tell yourself the the truth about the consequences. Seeking the good opinions of other is a prescription for misery because:

1.    You feel badly
2.    Feeling badly tends to send you running to the refrigerator
3.    In spite of all of your pleasing antics, people don’t necessarily like you or respect you any more for it.

If, like me, you’ve been a People Pleaser for most of your life, your seemingly selfless strategy comes with strings attached. Pleasers are sweet and nice on the outside but angry folks on the inside. In most cases, just beneath the surface, you resent the people you’re trying to please. The reason for this is that you to subjugate your own needs and wants based on  expectations that you attribute to them. This causes you to feel angry and resentful. Often this resentment surfaces as passive aggressive jabs broadsiding the poor unsuspecting people out of nowhere!

Many of us who have eating issues have a hard time saying “no.” As a result, we end up in situations that we don’t want to be in. Then we stew about it and get mad at ourselves and others about it, and voila, we’ve set the stage for an eating explosion.

Look at how pleasing causes you to suffer and consider other chosing differently from now on. Perhaps you don’t need to go on that second family vacation with your in-laws. Maybe you don’t need to have host the church potluck. Is exposing yourself to an uncomfortable or unpleasant situation, what I call, an “Achilles heal” situation or person really necessary?

If food is your primary escape and you’re a Pleaser to boot, then I’ll wager that People Pleasing is one of the driving forces behind your emotional eating. One way to get your power back and stop creating the anger that’s driving your eating is asking yourself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen if I begin to assert myself and  say “no” in situations where I might have said “yes” in the past? Will life as I know it end?” Once you begin to inquire and come up with concrete possibilities, rather than amorphous potentialities, you see the truth rather than the ego’s overblown fears. When you question the fears it’s like turning on the light in a dark room and realizing that there are no zombies hiding under your bed. If you realize that not only aren’t the  potential consequences catastrophic, but you can actually live with them, it gives you the latitude to experiment with “not pleasing” for a change.

Recognize that people’s judgments about you are their problem, not yours. So let loose and begin to exercise your “no” muscle! If I were a betting woman, I would wager that there will not be much fallout from this new “non-pleasing” posture. Even if there is, ultimately, speaking your truth from a place of Essence rather than ego is always in everyone’s best interest.
The cure for Pleaser Disease is awareness, recognizing this pattern and coming to see:

1.    It’s okay to honor your own needs and preferences
2.    You don’t need to prove anything to yourself or others.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not telling you what to do. My intention is to help you become aware of your behavior and its impact on you and your relationships. Once you are more conscious, you have the freedom to choose, but from a place of clear seeing rather than conditioning and old habits. You can operate from what is fresh and alive and true. Essence is ever-present and moving you in this moment. When you are aware of it and choose it, life is joyous. You wake up out of suffering, and rather than being tethered to past ideas or patterns, you respond naturally to what is arising in you. This is the ultimate cure to The Pleaser Disease.