There was a time when I was eager to please everyone. I would say yes to helping anyone, sure that if I was helpful I would be liked. If I was liked by others, I would be living the life I wanted. The only issue was that I seemed to be busy all the time and never doing what I wanted to do. Instead I was eagerly trying to please everyone else around me.
Symptoms of the ‘Disease to Please’ include –
I always agreed to do whatever others asked of me. It could be helping others do what they wanted done, doing things for others or just saying ‘yes’ to whatever was asked of me. Always agreeable with others, I did whatever it took to meet the needs of others and make them happy. I thought this was how I would be happy myself.
Treating the ‘Disease to Please’
I became aware I rarely did what I wanted to do. In fact, I was not even sure what I did want. I did know what I was doing was not always what I wanted so I started there.
I began to be aware of and wrote down when I did things for others and for me. I included when I was meeting their needs and what they wanted and when I did things for me. It quickly became apparent I was out of balance, spending more time pleasing others. If I didn’t know what I wanted, how was I going to live the life I wanted?
I began to think about what I wanted. I realized there were times when I was really happy doing things for and with others. I liked being helpful and focusing my energy on others part of the time. I also recognized that I also needed a balance with some time focused on what I wanted. I began to reflect on what I would like to have more of in my life, more time to do things I loved like kayaking, hiking or reading a book.
Getting Clear on What I Wanted
I made a list of what I wanted more of in my life. I wanted more time with my family and more time just for me. I wanted less time doing things I really didn’t enjoy and yet felt I should do. These included meeting up with someone whom I no longer felt connected, maybe someone with whom I no longer had common interests. As I was busy doing things, I rated which ones I enjoyed and wanted more of and which ones I no longer was interested in.
I was becoming clear on what I wanted in my life. I was able to say ‘yes’ to what I wanted more of. It became easier to say ‘no’ to what I decided I no longer had any interest in. I began to feel more directed and focused.
Creating Boundaries to Honour My Wants
I began to create boundaries around my time, my wants. I realized that once I was clear on what I wanted, it was so much easier for me to say ‘no’ to everything else. I was able to do this with respect for myself and others.
At times, I still helped others and yet was comfortable to decline invitations or requests because I knew how I wanted to spend my time.
As I created boundaries around my wants, I felt more focused and directed. I felt as if I was living my life the way I wanted to, not the way I thought others wanted me to.
I knew I was recovering from the Disease to Please. I understood that once I got clear on what I wanted, I was able to create boundaries to protect those wants. I felt quite comfortable declining other offers or requests, those that would not bring me joy or fill me up. I also learned that I could really focus my energy on what I wanted. This could include a solo activity or time with family and friends who were special in my life, those people who brought joy into my life.
Co-Founder of The Institute Of Curiosity
Kathy Taberner is a retired occupational therapist, Professional Certified Coach (PCC) with a MA in leadership and training. With her daughter, she is a co-founder of the Institute of Curiosity and co-author of the ‘Power of Curiosity’. She is committed to supporting women to strive to become the dynamic and successful leaders they want to be. Her research project for her Masters explored the leadership styles and emotional intelligence of senior female leaders in BC.
She and her husband of many years, share their time between the Okanagan and Vancouver.