The problem with being a …


… people pleaser.


Yes, I said it. My name’s Victoria and I’m a people pleaser.

Nothing gives me more satisfaction than making other people happy; friends, family, clients, friends of friends, extended family, client’s families, the neighbours, people I meet out and about. The list goes on. I have always liked making people smile, making them feel loved and wanted and knowing that I have brightened someones day in some way or another. Be it sending a surprise card in the post if someone needs congratulating, bigging up or a hug from a distance, popping round with homecooked goodies or a pick-me-up present if they’re run down or recovering from an illness or a surgery, sending fun little messages out of the blue and giving my time and attention. I always go over and above with my clients too; getting to know them and their children personally and remembering the things that matter to them, working for free to enable them to attend shows, competitions and performances, putting extra time into a struggling child and replying to out of hours messages to put people’s minds at rest.

Would I ever want to change the way I am? No. I like being this way and wouldn’t want to compromise or become a less giving and affectionate person.

Do I sometimes find it hard when things are taken for granted, expected or even if it’s just that no thought has been put into some words or an action? Yes.

Whether it’s a badly timed message, received just before I go to sleep, that sets my mind racing and gets me worrying about how that person is thinking or feeling or a request for me to do something that I can’t fulfill, there are multiple times that I feel like I can’t do enough, no matter how much I do. And I’m sure I’m not alone!

I come from a long line of people pleasers. I’ve learned from the best.

The silly thing is, I know how to say ‘no’ and I exercise that right when I need to. But does that make me feel any better about it? Absolutely not!

I wish I had the time, energy and desire to be there for absolutely everyone, absolutely all the time… to do all the little things that make everyone happy, whenever I felt that way inclined… and to be able to pre-empt negative situations occuring that upset people and lead to negative exchanges and messages that are hard to interpret being sent.

The reality is that nobody can do this. But why do I then end up feeling so bad about it and how can I stop that from happening?

Well, I took the first steps to this when I was in hospital earlier this year. I received a very harsh email from one of my clients. I, of course, hadn’t shared widely that I was in hospital. Consequently when my business wasn’t run quite to the exacting level I normally achieve, there were questions she wanted to ask and statements she wanted to make. I received her email shortly after a very traumatic incident with an attempted cannulation and just before I was meant to be settling down to sleep for my first night in the hospital. Suffice it to say I was not in the best place to look rationally at this email and completely took it to heart, having quite a panick over it. This lead me to realise that I do not have to be available to my clients 100% of the time. Whilst I cannot be perfect, I strive to be. I decided there and then that business emails would only be handled in business hours; my email account was deleted from my phone and I check emails when I’m sitting at my desk (and of course at selected other times as necessary), but certainly never when I’m getting into bed or feeling a bit vulnerable.

Work hiccups still upset me, but I think that’s because I’m passionate about what I do and I just want to give my best to everyone at all times; staff, clients, suppliers, etc.

My challenge for 2016 was to be able to say ‘no’ or ‘I’m busy’ if asked to do things when I couldn’t or didn’t want to. Not wanting to is rare – I’m a social bunny and love to be surrounded by friends and family as much of the time as is possible. The problem I have is that being self employed, I’m ‘around’ during the week. Yes, I know that I’m working and no, I don’t expect people to understand what day to day life involves when you’re a self employed business owner who isn’t based in an office. So why do I struggle so much to say that I’m busy when people want to meet up or pop by? Don’t get me wrong – I allocate time in the week to see people – it’s one of my favourite things about the flexibility of the job I do, but I always, without fail, feel guilty if I say to someone that I can’t see them because I’m busy. I feel like I’ve personally let them down and that I should somehow be able to put on my wonderwoman cape and get all my jobs done, run my home and fit in every cup of tea!

I do know how silly this sounds. Once I’ve told someone I’m busy, they probably don’t even think twice about it! But I can spend hours stewing over whether I did the right thing, did that person need me and have I in some way upset them!

So, 2017, this is how I plan to conquer you:

I will be even busier than I was before and I will have a tiny little human being who needs plenty of attention from me!

I still want to see all my friends and family, meet up, do my job, run my home and bring up my baby. But I’m going to be realistic. If I’m too busy (or too tired!) to do something, I will say. I will then do everything I can to not spend the rest of the day justifying to myself why that was an acceptable decision.

There are a few ways I think this can work:

Offer an alternative – if I can’t do what’s been suggested, suggest another option.

Explain why – I’m completeing xyz for work, I’m tired, baby needs some down time, etc.

Distraction – when I’ve said no to something, put my phone away and don’t stew on how that person’s feeling!

Put myself in their shoes – would I hold this against someone? Never! So why do I think my lovely friends and family would?

I’ll be giving this a go from tomorrow! If you are one of my lovely friends and family reading this… STILL ASK ME OUT FOR COFFEE!!!!!!! Just know that if I can’t make it, I’ll be going over the steps above to not feel guilty about it 😉

And if you’re someone who, like me, is a people-pleaser with a somewhat irrational guilt complex, try this with me! Let’s see how we get on.

Happy prioritising!