By Ashley Reichel, Holistic Health Coach
Overthinking and people-pleasing. As I write these two things down, I feel a little discomfort as I now recognize them in myself. They are too familiar, but they also have been with me for most of my life- they are a part of me. The more I talk about it though the more I realize I am certainly not alone, and these traits tend to go hand and hand for so many people. The hardest part can be acknowledging them, seeing the physical and mental stress that these parts of us can have, and choosing to not let them define and overwhelm us. Though there can be a lot behind the desire to please others, if you really think about it, is people pleasing really making you (or anyone) happy?
Although being a kind person and wanting to please others is not a bad trait, constantly feeling the need to make others happy as a means to find value in our own lives is. People pleasers often edit themselves to say what they feel will be best received or will please others rather than what is truly on their minds. Though this could be seen as a way to avoid conflict, it can also lead to resentment down the road. Never truly voicing what we mean or what we want keeps us from meeting our own needs. We become burnt out. The people we have tried so hard to please or convince that we are “ok” may be confused by the release of suppressed emotion that inevitably will eventually escape.
When we overthink we tend to also overanalyze. Overthinking, while practical in the thought that if we think of every possible scenario, we can prepare ourselves, can be damaging to our relationships and experiences. Overanalyzing others’ thoughts and feelings can lead us down an ugly road, one in which we misinterpret and cause more hurt and drama than necessary. When we overanalyze we tend to also disrupt ourselves from just being able to experience and enjoy.
Overthinking and people-pleasing may be ingrained in our systems, but there are some simple ways we can both embrace who we are, but also release the pressure to always please and be in control.
1. Trust. Trust that your opinions and thoughts matter just as much as anyone you are trying to please. This starts by not second-guessing yourself - so go with your gut and don’t let negative thoughts creep in. This will certainly take practice, so begin by counteracting every negative with a positive until your own confidence builds.
2. Joy. Bring yourself joy first. This goes along the lines of “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” Sit down and really think about what brings YOU joy. Write it down if it makes it easier, and make it your job to take time to bring yourself a little joy every day. Happiness and joy are contagious, so if your goal is to please others fill yourself up so full it spreads to those around you!
3. Kindness. Be kind to yourself! This may be the most important of them all. Ease up on the demands you place on yourself to be everything to everyone and to make everyone happy because it’s not possible! Allow yourself the grace to have unpopular opinions, to make mistakes, and to just be yourself no matter what other people think.
People pleasing and overthinking can be hard traits to disassemble, and to be honest having these traits is not all bad. Usually, there is a lot of thoughtfulness and genuine care behind them. When we let anything good or bad overwhelm us though, it may be time to take a step back and reevaluate how it is affecting ourselves and the people around us. Like all things, change takes time; so in the meantime, take care of yourself first and know that a true and happy life is available if you let it in.