For most of my life, It never occurred to me that my happiness was important. I spent a lot of energy trying to “make other people happy” (which is impossible) or “make other people like me” or “respect me” (which is a useless waste of time). Now that I am older and wiser, I find it much more fun to fully express myself and see who I attract and who gets pissed off.
Society conditions women to be self-sacrificial. It is “virtuous” for mothers to care about those around them more than they care about themselves. I see this translate to the work environment too. The unconscious expectation is for women to be caring, better listeners, willing to take a few extra steps to ensure all the team’s work gets done. Indeed, these are excellent qualities to have, but not at our own expense. A pet peeve of mine is at work. I notice that if the male physicians exhibit caring behavior and good listening skills, they are praised for their excellence. If a woman physician is caring and attentive, she is not an exception; it is expected.
On the flip side, if women take the time to care for themselves, such as take a nap instead of making dinner, self-inflicted guilt emerges. If a woman has to take care of a sick child at home, she is guilted at work and secretly feels responsible for not being there earlier at home.
It is not helpful to play the victim or find villains in our societal norms. Men and non-binary people indeed also suffer from societal expectations. Still, I think it is useful to notice harmful expectations and then do the internal work to change how we treat ourselves and treat others. The problem is not that we look out for each other and our families. The problem is when we care more about everyone else than we care about ourselves.
The added layer of this conundrum is the layer of shame when we do take the time to care for ourselves.
As a recovering people-pleaser, here are a few lessons that I have learned from living and breathing in the coaching world, with a particular acknowledgment to the Life Coach School.
- Being intentional in taking time for yourself is essential for mental health. You can call it selfish if you want to, but the deliberate time taken to care for yourself is a healthy selfish practice.
- Going out of your way to “please” other people is often motivated from a place of insecurity. If you seek approval from others, this is a flag telling you that you ought to do some internal work. It may sound “pretty” to want to make other people happy, but that is your brain lying to you. What you are seeking is for others to feel good about yourself or feel better about the relationship.
- The difference between self-confidence and narcissism is that a narcissist boosts themselves up by bringing down and devaluing those around them. Narcissism is false confidence because, at their core, they live in a soupy mess of self-loathing and shame. Healthy self-confidence is loving and respecting yourself so much that it is easy to embrace a sense of abundance, and it becomes so easy to love the humans around you with compassion. Healthy self-confidence lifts everyone around them.
- Take the time to surround yourself with people who bring you joy. Like the Marie Kondo method of cleaning out your wardrobe, you can clean up your closest peer group. Don’t waste a lot of energy on people who need “proof” of your worthiness. Even at work, if you notice this need to prove yourself to others, stop and think about it. Ask yourself why you are engaged in that activity. I find it best to focus on the work at hand and show value there rather than “trying to please the boss.” By doing this, the value you deliver and produce at work is entirely in your control rather than dependent on someone else’s opinion.
- We train the people how to treat us. We do this subconsciously all the time. We train our partners by responding to criticism, requests, gifts, and conflict. These interactions teach our partners and mold the relationship. They learn what to expect from you in each situation on a subconscious level. It becomes magical when you decide ahead of time how you want to be treated. You can define relationships based on what you want to create in that space between you and the other person. If you’re going to develop it from a place of love, respect, mentoring, collaboration, stating those intentions makes it so much easier.
- If you want help navigating what you want, how to start speaking your voice, setting boundaries with those around you, how to respect and love yourself fully, then Inner Freedom Therapy is right for you. Click here to find out more about my new offer for 2021 called Brain Spa, or click here to set up a discovery call with Elaine.