When Good Girls Go Bad - Breaking the Cycle of People Pleasing
Updated: Jul 17, 2022
I went to a Business building retreat a couple weeks ago in Victoria. I knew it was going to be a beautiful opportunity to gain clarity on my mission, start strategizing for my coaching career and honestly, taking a break from the hullabaloo of nursing and Covid-19. It was a beautiful couple of weeks. When you are able to clear the slough of self-doubt, judgement and fear from your nervous system, it's amazing the insight and the power that lies in the wait. I have learned over the course of the past couple of years that to be a successful healer, to be an honest coach, to be an empowered and dependable women... you have to do the damn work.
Throughout my coaching program I learned and attuned to the conversations in my body. Did you ever play SIMS on the computer growing up (non-nerds: It's a virtual doll house that was socially acceptable for all ages)? Well there is the feature in the game where if you don't meet the vital needs of your character, they will not obey, will not do anything that you command them to do until those basic needs are met. With practice, with dedication and from a place of nourishment and safety I have been able to see the parts within myself that need comfort and validation in the same way. Leaving these parts unchecked has been the root of a lot of disordered behaviour and suffering over the years. As I embody, as I move, as I continue to breathe into these inner spaces different parts/characters make themselves known. The biggest and baddest b*tch I ever did see was Mrs. People Pleaser. She's taught me a lot. She's soft and supple. She doesn't make a fuss. She's quiet and dependable. But when no one is looking, she is unrelenting, needy and in a lot of pain.
I spent 27 years worrying and believing that if I were truly, authentically myself I would not be loved or accepted. I morphed myself into smaller, bite-sized, acceptable versions of myself in order to belong. To a community, to a religion, to a partner, to friends and patients. The cycle starts small, perhaps as a child it can begin simply as a response to hearing 'no' from a parent. For me it was the constant battle of upkeeping the 'good girl' label. Dress pretty, sing when you're asked and never, EVER throw a tantrum for risk of losing your toys. This conditioning progressed to serving at church, eating even when you think you're no longer hungry, having sex because you think that is what your partner wants, feeling your heart stop when people are selling or asking for donations at the front of the grocery store... It manifests in a lot of ways. Certain people and situations have continued to trigger this cycle and I still continue to unpack these behaviours, the root-cause and the needs. I am proud to say that I am moving further and further away from the cycle and I have learned a few things along the way.
The truth comes out eventually
Being quiet and never stirring the pot worked for a fairly long time. External peace could amount to inner peace and I was cool with that. Until the heartburn, abdominal cramping, generalized fatigue, debilitating binging and purging, crippling social anxiety and back pain set in. Suppression resulted in physical and emotional repercussions. So every time I told my husband I was fine with the outcome of an argument, every time a family member said something I didn't agree with or each time a patient talked to me unjustly the cost of quieting my voice allowed my people pleaser's aggression to grow louder.
Listen to your body
It was difficult to decipher my wants and needs from the people around me (*Did I want to sing in choir? Did I actually need that extra helping of pasta? Was I tired or numbing with a nap?). What was my inner truth vs. the lies I had been fed? A simple first step is listening to the physical desires of your body. Sleep when you are tired, dance when you want to and eat food when you're hungry. The more we practice listening to the simple cues in our body, the easier it will be to listen to the more complex desires when they arise.
Oof. Big term, big moves. Truth be told, I'm still learning this one. It's no surprise that I became a caregiver. People pleasers take care of others because it gives them a sense of value. Caring became part of my identity, along with dependable, a good listener and big-hearted. When there is no solid foundation of self love, of being able to take care of yourself before others, caregiving becomes selfish and fills that need to be needed. Learning to speak and treat myself the way I do all those I serve makes my intentions genuine, meaningful and impactful. I do it because I love them and not because I need something in return.
Boundaries vs Rules
At the height of my disordered eating cycle I created a subset of rules to be able to curb my appetite and my weight gain. 1. Soda only on Wednesdays + Saturdays, 2. No carbs. 3. Bring a small meal to school so your classmates don't witness your appetite, etc,. What do you think happened when these were implemented? I broke every single rule because they were designed to be broken. What is the difference between a rule and a boundary? Rules are explicit regulations we put on ourselves out of fear whereas a boundary is created out of a deep desire to keep us safe and feel loved. The energetics are very different. The intent is different. When we can make that shift, suddenly drinking 3200ml of water a day and turning off texts after 9:00PM becomes a way of protecting your energy as a oppose to something you HAVE to do.
Releasing yourself from the confines of a social system that has perpetuated a deep-rooted fear of being seen, disappointing others or seeming selfish can unleash the truest expression of your deepest desires. What would you do differently if you weren't [in that relationship, that job, that religion, that city or home]? Not everything that weighs you down is yours to carry. When we flip to a blank page in an old story book, we get the opportunity to write a new chapter.
Give yourself the permission to suspend reality, to dream big and imagine the possibilities. What perpetuates perpetuates so imagine the magic that can happen when we focus our energy on how it can all get better as oppose to catastrophizing or propagating the fear of the unknown.
Lately I have been feeling unsure of myself, doubtful of my capacity and anxious about moving forward for fear of losing everything. Healing is non-linear but coming back to the body through movement, breath, sounding and conversation I create space away from the anxiety that is riddling my body. I begin to again see the SIMS avatars that need their basic needs met. It's a lot of listening, it takes a lot of patience, but to clear the slough is to transcend your own expectations.
If you want more information on how to end people-pleasing cycles, remember your sovereignty and rewild your heart feel free to message me and let me know how I can support you!