Confessions of a Recovering People Pleaser: I Still Do More Than My Fair Share, Just on a Smaller Scale

a brass sign on a door that says "packages"
Image by marc falardeau / CC BY

I’ve been having a fun time writing these essays about being a recovering people pleaser. Here are the first two I wrote.

11/25/2019 – Discovering Places Between Pushover and Pusher

11/29/2019 – I Didn’t Want to Change 

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In these articles, I’ve been talking about odd quirks that come with my history of people pleasing.

Today I’d like to talk about something I haven’t seen people talk about much (if at all): Despite years of treatment and radically altering the way that I interact with others, there are plenty of times, even now, that I still do more than my fair share.

How is this possible?

Well, it’s simple, really. People pleasing used to follow me everywhere in my life. As I put it in a previous essay, in the past I was prone not only doing what people asked of me (regardless of how it inconvenienced me to say yes), I’d also cater to unspoken implied expectations. You didn’t even have to say “jump” for me to ask how high. I would just react to the implication, start jumping, and adjust the height of my jump based on your facial expressions.

This was, predictably, disastrous. I was reluctant to stop, however, because it was how I largely defined my self-worth. It’s why I felt that I was a good person. And if I stopped, I’d worry that it’d make me a selfish or a bad person.

(It didn’t help that I’d accumulated a number of toxic friends and romantic relationships with people who only wanted to be around with me because they could use me for this part of my personality.)

As a result of extensive treatment that included assertiveness and talk therapy (which I talk about more in my former two essays), I am no longer like that.

Well kinda. Because I kind of still am.

No More Soul-Crushing Sacrifices

Let me explain.

I’m done with the soul-crushing sacrifices. Once I started giving reasonable “no”s to people who asked for things that I really didn’t want to give, I noted that some people dealt really well with that.

But others really, really didn’t.

The funny thing about life is that people all look alike if you’re doing whatever they want. It’s when you set a reasonable boundary or say no to them that you get a peek into someone’s true nature.

As I observed the differences, it became progressively easier to figure out who really cared about me and who was trying to take advantage of me.

Sometimes people will ask me how to tell that difference. My best advice is to try politely saying “no” when you honestly feel it to people and pay attention to how they react to it. In the moment and over time. People will tell you.

You’re likely to cue into different details than I would — but there are so many telling details and patterns that it gets easier after a while if you practice.

One day if you do it enough, you’ll get to a place where you just know.

I Can Spot Manipulative Behavior a Mile Away Now

Anyway, I can now spot it a mile away. I knew the instant when a relationship with an ex-girlfriend turned proto-abusive and we were doomed to break up (unless I jumped into a prior bad people pleasing pattern that was self-destructive, which I wasn’t about to do, yay treatment). When she was testing me and seeing how far she could bend me for selfish aims before I broke.

It was disappointing but valuable information.

I’m not an easy mark anymore.

Still, I have to confess one thing: I still do more than my fair share. It’s just on a smaller scale.

I Still Have a Tendency to Do More than My Share — But on a Smaller Scale

still, even now, notice some of those same tendencies coming through in other outlets, ones in which there is little harm but let me know that I have to make sure not to backslide.

For example, if I’m getting a delivery and there’s any sort of real-time online tracking available for it, I’ll monitor it continuously and then arrive early so that I’ll be right there magically when the delivery person gets there so I can let them in past security.

This is really silly. I don’t have to do this.

They can call up to me and I can come down then.

Sure, doing so means they would have to wait an extra minute or two for me to get down there (unless they leave it with the office), but other people are fine with making delivery people wait. And heading down early to greet them also means that I’m inconvenienced a few minutes on my end — usually more if the real-time tracking is off, which it often is.

Not to mention the time that I spend monitoring the real-time tracking to see if they’re getting close (for systems without push-through alerts).

My partner has noticed I do this and pointed it out to me. “They can call you when they get here,” he tells me. “They don’t care. It only takes a second.” And when I get a delivery while he’s there, I do tend to leave a little later to respond to the delivery person.

But I notice when he’s not home when I’m getting a delivery, I’ll leave just as early as always.

This isn’t the only way my people pleasing still shows up of course. But one I notice a lot.

So yeah. I still have a tendency to try to do more than my fair share — but on a smaller, less personally harmful scale.

I consider that progress.

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Books by Page Turner:

Dealing with Difficult Metamours

A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory 

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