I’m reading the book, The Girl with the Louding Voice. It’s about a young Nigerian girl who longs for education so she can find her voice to stand up for herself. She stops being a people pleaser so that she can please herself. Unlike the protagonist in the story, I was born of all types of privileges and am far older than her. However, sometimes I still have a hard time finding my voice, louding or not.
I, sadly, am a product of American people pleaser culture.
Where is My Louding Voice?
Despite my education, I still acquiesce and bend to those around me, shoving my own needs in a back dark corner as I try to please the universe. And on those chance times I do stand up for myself, I worry that I have offended someone.
A few months ago I was in mediation with my ex partner where the mediator called me out. “Why are you using passive language, Heidi?” he said. “Why are you asking if it’s okay for you to want something?” Afterall how could he properly do his job if I just gave in all the time?
He then told us he had been going through training to understand how women communicate due to societal pressures to not seem overly aggressive. His job, he said, was to draw out real needs and wants, aggressive or not.
I hate this passivity in myself. Why on earth do I need an old mediator man to draw out my needs?! Where did this come from? I have a graduate degree. I have a successful career. And I can negotiate a great internet bundle with ATT. (or so I think…)
According to Harriet Braiker, Ph.D., author of The Type E Woman: How to Overcome the Stress of Being Everything to Everybody, women are conditioned to be people pleasers and put others’ needs ahead of their own.
“Women are raised to take care of other people—and to seek their approval and love by doing so,” she says. We want to be seen as “the nice girl.” We prefer that everyone else gets their needs met without any conflict. But what people pleasers don’t understand is that no matter what they do to make others happy, they are still left feeling empty.”
That totally contradicts my claim to lead a FULL legacy type of life. Aren’t I strong and charismatic? So what’s going on? I could look at all the types of systemic biases I personally went through. In my 20’s I had been called too aggressive at work before I learned to quiet down. In my early 30’s I was told I was too wanderlust and Type A for marriage. Or I could say to hell with all the rationales and work to change myself now, in my early 40’s.
How to Stop Being a People Pleaser
I sat very still and listened to my gut. No not google. No, not a friend. Myself. What I want before anyone else’s needs interfere. Many were the same things I wanted at age 18, before society interfered. The first step after all, is to KNOW what we believe, want, and think. The second step is to stand firm by it.
My good college friend May (also a bonafide people pleaser) had a bakery revelation. May used to walk into bakeries smiling and jovial no matter what. People took advantage of this. She would order a scone or a cookie but the staff would always give her the smallest one, or the burnt one, or the day old one, knowing she never complained. Then one day she decided to point out the exact scone she wanted. They were shocked at her brazenness, but they gave it to her. Starting with that scone learned to always point out the exact item she wanted, and NOT just take whatever was given to her. She still aimed to please people, of course, But only after she pleased herself.
I am going to start pointing out more scones in my life. For me, that’s the butter flakey, fruit infused one. Don’t you dare try to give me a stale crummy one.
What is your scone in life? And how did you decide to go after it?
“We’ve become conditioned to compromise and shrink ourselves in order to be liked. The problem is, when you work so hard to get everyone to like you, you very often end up not liking yourself so much.”
― Reshma Saujani, Brave, Not Perfect: Fear Less, Fail More, and Live Bolder
**picture by Monstera at Pexels.