If you’ve been involved with a codependent relationship, then you’re likely familiar with feelings of resentment, perfectionism, or a strong fear of abandonment. Additionally, people-pleasing is a core symptom of codependency and one that often requires an abundance of self-reflection in order to overcome its power.
Frequently when people-pleasing is talked about in popular culture, it’s made out to be a part of a personality, a defining factor of what makes you… you. But what if I told you that people-pleasing says nothing about who you are, or about your personality? Just because you have a habit of people-pleasing doesn’t mean you are a people pleaser. It’s a way that you were trained to receive love from other people and from your environment.
When your brain repeatedly registers a need that isn’t being fulfilled – in this case, love and acceptance – it’s triggered to be hungry for that need. When your brain isn’t receiving love, it leans toward people-pleasing as a means to get the love that you crave.
And as a response to your environment, your brain depends on a more manipulative type of tactic to get what it needs.
People-pleasing is largely unconscious. We react without a full awareness of why we’re reacting a certain way. Making others feel good triggers a positive response in your own brain that makes you feel safe and secure. Keeping them content avoids conflict, right?
Keep in mind that when we’re engaging with a codependent relationship, it’s largely because we don’t want to be left alone or abandoned. Instead, we want to try to come from a place of making decisions because we want to make them. Whether or not our choices offend someone isn’t a factor in how we react to situations.
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Breaking out of this pattern of people-pleasing starts with having compassion for yourself. Meet yourself wherever you are, and have compassion for your inner child.
Pay attention to the things you say you’ll do, and think critically about why you’re saying you’ll do them. Is it so that you can maintain a relationship with someone? Or is it because you want to do it out of your own free will? Come from a place of curiosity and compassion for yourself instead of shame or trying to fix yourself. Just notice your reactivity to requests, and above all else, give yourself some grace!
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