People Pleasing and Anxiety

People who are prone to anxiety are nearly always people-pleasers who fear conflict and negative feelings like anger. When you feel upset, you sweep your problems under the rug because you don’t want to upset anyone. You do this so quickly and automatically that you’re not even aware you’re doing it.” David D. Burns

It doesn’t occur to us. That the anxiety we feel has more to do with making sure others are ok than our own concern for ourselves. So many of us hate conflict, disappointing others or expressing our anger so much that we’d rather stuff it down inside ourselves than share how we really feel. We’ve been taught from a young age to go along and get along. Maybe we saw the look of disappointment on our mother’s face when we told her how we felt or were ostracized by friends for speaking out. Whatever the source, we’ve learned to push our problems under the rug. The difficulty with that is that our body can only store so much. Ultimately, our pain has to come out – and for many of us it comes out as anxiety. And anxiety can be particularly debilitating if it stops us from saying our peace or doing the things we most love. We might find ourselves suddenly unable to go somewhere because our nerves are so high. We focus on anxiety and just assume something is wrong with us instead of realizing that anxiety is actually the body’s way of clearing out some of the negative energy we’ve stored inside. If only we could address the underlying source – our anger or fears – we’d be able to lessen some of the tense feelings we carry. But, more often than not, we simply compound our anxiety by beating ourselves up for being anxious in the first place. It is only when we recognize the source of our anxiety as people pleasing that we can learn to stand up for ourselves in an empowering way – one that not only addresses our anxious feelings, but allows us to express ourselves and set healthy boundaries with others. When we put our feelings on equal footing with others, we can simply be stronger and feel better and happier.

Weekly Path to Peace: Speak your peace.

  • Although people pleasing can feel good, there is a difference between making someone happy and stuffing down our feelings. Begin this week noticing how often you are simply keeping the peace, stuffing down your voice or putting someone else’s feelings above your own. Notice, write it down, but don’t judge yourself for it.
  • Take action this week to speak your peace. If you have trouble telling people how you feel, write it out first. Make sure that you are able to say what you feel without the need to attack or defend. Just simply allow yourself to be entitled to your feelings. Notice how it affects your feelings of anxiety overall.

As you begin this week, rate your level of happiness, self-esteem and self-confidence on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being not satisfied and 10 being very satisfied. Notice where you are Sunday evening after you do this week’s peace practice to see if there is a change.