A battle cry for people-pleasers

Image: Stephanie Fox

I’m a people-pleaser. I register as a solid 9 on the enneagram. Conflict makes me itchy. And if it gets real bad, it sends me into fight/flight mode.

I’m not sure where this comes from. Maybe it’s genetic makeup. Maybe it’s a result of my fairly dysfunctional childhood where the focus was placed on my parent’s delicate situations –

Ooh, dad’s broke and raging again, better behave.

Uh-oh, mom’s got another chemo treatment, better not stress her out.

It’s not all bad being a people-pleaser. We tend to mellow people out. We calm them down. We’re pretty good listeners. People open up to us. We live pretty harmonious lives. This is all good stuff.

But being a PP (yes, I’m abbreviating it now) starts to really suck when dealing with those with more… erm… ‘dominant’ personality types. Certain people can sniff out PP’s. They feed off of our weakness and will do whatever they can to take advantage of us. Before we know it, our bank balance will be dry and we’ll be serving them breakfast in bed.

Now, we can’t blame them. A scorpion is just a scorpion. Doesn’t do much good to blame the thing for stinging us, right? It’s just what it does.

PP’s are drawn to creative endeavors. Making things that light people up really gets us going. But those we work with/for often try to jerk us around.

And us, we’d rather lay down and get mowed over than stand up for ourselves and throw rocks into the blades. But if you’re a PP like me, here’s my call-to-action for you:

Go ahead. Throw f*cking rocks into the blades.

I’m not saying to be one of ‘them’. Remember, this is not fight-mode (that’s just fear talking). But stand up for yourself. Be calm. But be assertive. Step out of that comfort zone. You’re not doing anyone any favors by staying small. Tell the client your idea is better than his (you know it is). Tell your friend you’d rather do your thing as opposed to their thing. Say something when someone is trying to tear down your dignity just to build theirs up.

I know, it’s the standard “Stick up for yourself” talk — the same one you got from your dad. But it never hurts to have a reminder, right? Especially us, PP’s.

Now, if you know me, you know that I’m writing this just as much for me as I am you. This is no easy task. But I think it’s the only way we’re going to get past the repeated beatings from those more assertive than us.

We have to overcompensate for a little while until we lay the tracks for some newer, healthier habits to form. Go towards the conflict. In a mindful manner. This is not a fight. Nor is it flight.

It’ll suck. You’ll have visions of the other person(s) getting really upset with you. You’ll imagine them not wanting to be friends with you. It’ll be horrible. But I think you’ll find that, after the smoke settles, it’ll be fine. You’ll be better respected for it. And you’ll have your dignity intact.


More bits and bops from Jonas Ellison