This title might give you some mixed messages, but this isn’t that kind of blog. In an effort to give you a little more of my immature silliness, I thought of it and I left it.  

So— are you a pleaser or a giver? These two things are not the one in the same. 

Givers, or servers, give from an abundance of their own physical, mental, emotional, or financial resources. They give from an emotionally mature heart of full willingness, out of love. Pleasers give from a place of scarcity in themselves, whether that is being so compassionately driven that you ignore your own needs, or that you have your own agenda of insecurity or low self esteem that you are trying to fulfill. We might be inclined to people please for many visibly selfish reasons that can include avoiding conflict, fearing rejection, codependency, or using manipulation in order to get something in return. Often, we fall into this habit through wanting to fit in, lacking self awareness and love, or defining our self worth through external validation. 

Even though we can convince ourselves otherwise, the desire to people please is not for the other person, but for the pleaser. 

In 2008 I ran the Green Bay Marathon. It was a magical experience, happily having fun chatting with an eclectic group of new friends— an older man who had run several marathons, a friend of a friend who I happened to bump into at the start line, and a 16 year old first timer who had attended her prom the night before. As I navigated the fringe of our newly formed running group for a moment, I happened to overhear a conversation between two runners that were clearly at a crossroads in their racing experience. 

Woman #1: “Just go. You are feeling better than I am. I want to see you succeed.”

Woman #2: “That’s okay. I don’t want to leave you behind.”

Woman #1: “I want you to go. We never decided to do this whole thing together. I would feel better if you ran the race you can run.” 

I don’t know how this ended up, but from what I saw they ran silently together for the next several miles. I obviously cannot be present in their bodies and minds, but it is my best guess that woman #1 was most likely silently riddled with negative guilt and woman #2 struggling with feelings of worry that her friend really would be mad if she left her while secretly wanting to go ahead and run her own race. 

Who benefited from this scenario? Alternatively, woman #2 could have believed and trusted her friend, gave her a quick hug or high five, and went on to run her race. In the end she could’ve felt satisfied in her effort and built up in the honesty of her friendship. And woman #2 could have enjoyed her own personal moment, happy for her friend and focused on her own race. If woman #2 was lying or was testing her friend’s loyalty… well, that is her problem. And, if you can’t have honest and trusting communication then you need to evaluate those relationships. 

So, how do we become givers and walk away from the “disease to please”?

  • Realize you have a choice. You are not a victim of your life. If you choose to so something for someone out of obligation, but secretly harbor feelings that it doesn’t honor your needs or breeds resentment, it is not the best for them either. 
  • Know your needs! Establish your values and priorities so you become less reactive, and stop thinking that if you just make everyone else happy you will feel better too. You can never make anyone else feel anything. We cannot control others, but we can control ourselves. If you pull a veil back on the most influential givers ever, you will see that they have strong commitments to daily self care practices and a foundation of self love and security.
  • Take time to think about how decisions to give will affect you and honestly establish time limits and other boundaries. If RIGHT NOW doesn’t work, then offer other times that do. This will allow you to fully show up in a place to give out of a heart of full service and not be distracted or bitter.
  • Consider how you would feel in the situation. Do you want to be pleased by someone? Or do you want to receive their time, attention, gifts, and service from a place of love? A good friend calls being people pleased being “handled.” I despise the feeling of being handled— being lied to for “protection” (including lies of omission), being manipulated, or being told “yes” in order to please me when the best answer for the other person is “no.” I know that I never want to be pleased, and so I aim to not be negatively motivated to please others.
  • Have self compassion. If someone is demanding things of you in order to prove your love, only do so if it honors your values. Speak and act out of truth and love. And have compassion for others as life is not about right versus wrong. It is about honoring you and not acting out of fear of how others will perceive you. 

To GIVE is amazing and a vital contribution to living well in this world. It is so important to do regularly. And I am not suggesting that you only do so on your terms. My hope is that you see and understand the importance of operating out of a place of knowing and loving yourself enough to stand clear in your convictions and in each decision. Then you can whole-heartedly give and be present for others. You won’t aim to please the other person while truly secretly and selfishly avoiding your own personal discomfort. 

You cannot please everyone. And you cannot please anyone if you are doing so out of the need to protect others or deflect from yourself. If you feel like you are “doing everything for everyone else,” then it is time to cure that disease to please and search within to change your perspective or change your actions. 

There isn’t much more pleasing than giving from a full cup. 

Be a giver.