Updated: Mar 20
When I tell people, I help People Pleasers to set boundaries and say No, most of them say “That’s me that is, I need that”. It’s something that a lot of people identify with doing or being.
So, what is a People Pleaser?
“A people pleaser is someone who tries hard to make others happy. Usually going out of their way to please others, even if it means their own precious time, energy, or money is given away. People pleasers act this way because of their fear, their insecurities and lack of self-esteem.”
But where does this behaviour come from? You weren’t born this way, you didn’t pop out of the womb needing to say Yes, being fearful of saying No because it made you feel guilty, selfish or you were afraid of disappointing people. So, how did you get this way?
You won’t get to it thinking logically, the answer is in your subconscious and for every single person the reason is totally unique to them – even if you come from the same family or household.
Start of by thinking of your brain as a lightning fast supercomputer and each human computer needs a program to run so it knows what to do, say and think. We all create our own individual program and it’s based on the unique lives we've led up until this point. This program is kept in your subconscious.
The sole purpose of the subconscious is to keep you safe and alive; it uses its lightning fast responses to initiate your Fight, Flight, Freeze or Fawn responses - your inbuilt safety mechanism. It's never offline and always scanning for danger. Scientists are now saying it reacts in BILLIONTHS of a second.
The bulk of the program you’re running now was created when you were little, between 0-7 years to be exact. That's because when you first arrive in this world you need to know how to survive - and FAST! You need to create your operating program or there's a danger you won't survive. It's part of your primal survival instincts. How we evolved when man first walked the earth was to simply download as much information as possible from the people around you. This way you'll know how to behave in your tribe, so they won't abandon you and leave you to die.
Even though this is a highly evolved mechanism, it's outdated. It worked really well for primitive man with a harsh but simple life, it's not really great for us in today's world and this is where the problems lie.
Because between 0-7 years you're only in download you’re saving precious time and energy, something has to be left behind – conscious reasoning. To go through a trial and error learning process using your conscious mind takes too long, you need to know this shit NOW – or you die. So, you download information from your caregivers and people of influence in your life. They’re the ones you trust so makes sense that what they do is the right thing. Plus, there’s the whole primal instinct of mirroring them, so they’ll bond to you and want to keep you alive too. This is stage 1 of your program creation.
Stage 2 comes from the experiences you had as a kid – the traumas. This isn’t only horrific things like violence, abuse, death, major accidents, or even divorce, it’s ANYTHING that makes you feel powerless.
As a kid with zero power anyway it can be as simple as:
Being told to stop talking
Made to share everything with your siblings
Told No over and over
Being shouted at by mum / dad for getting in the way
Feeling neglected because they’re both at work
As it’s only your subconscious that’s active, your brain won’t reason that Mum or Dad:
Have had a shit day at work and feeling low
Suffering from anxiety or depression
Is running late so is short tempered or tired
Are trying to teach you to share and be a nice person
Teaching you right from wrong
Don’t have the money to buy you everything
All that gets registered is …
I’ve been shouted at, I feel unsafe this could be dangerous, I rely on them to keep me safe, so I’ll keep quiet from now on otherwise they’ll abandon me and leave me to die.
I have to share everything, I can't have anything just for me like other people do, maybe I'm not good enough?
Maybe you got praise for sharing, so now your program is the only way to get continuous praise is to share - time, money, or energy.
I keep being told to be quiet, it’s not safe to speak up
I always get told No, maybe I'm not worthy of having anything
I’m never bought anything new, perhaps I’m a bad person
The permutations of how your subconscious perceives what happened in a particular instance and the subsequent coping mechanisms it then creates to keep you safe are endless.
People Pleasing, the inability to put yourself first or say No is a coping mechanism created in response to a childhood trauma – big or small who knows, that’s your individual story.
Your traumas are the final part of creating your internal operating program.
Fast forward to adulthood, so now, when your subconscious has a whiff of anything that IT THINKS is remotely similar to that experience as a kid - the one where it decided you were in danger and needed to be saved - it fires up its chosen coping mechanism – in billionths of a second – you can’t stop it, and it’s based on something that happened to you or around you as a kid many years ago.
My personal responses of either Fight, Flight, Freeze or Fawn all come from my fear of rejection and abandonment. It affected every single part of my life. Some of it started when my brother and sister were born when I was three and half years old. I was no longer the centre of attention; I wasn’t the important one anymore, I felt I was being ignored. My little three year old self felt pushed aside, abandoned, and rejected. There was zero comprehension of the fact that twin newborn babies were a handful and took up a lot of time and focus – it wasn’t part of my capacity at this age to have conscious reasoning. That starts to develop around the age of eight or nine.
More things then built on top of this just to really deeply entrenched this fear, such as being told when I was around six or seven years old that I was going to be sent to the children’s home if I didn’t behave – mom actually pretended to call them in front of me. I think she was just at the end of her tether. I was acting up, I wanted attention, the attention that was taken away from me when I was three.
It doesn’t end there, just to add more fuel to this belief all throughout the seven years of primary school I was bullied. Repeatedly being left out, picked on and fallen out with, being left with no friends – the most influential time in a person’s life when it comes to developing emotional trauma!
I sometimes think that maybe the bullying played the biggest part in my People Pleasing because if I didn’t speak up (my bullies didn’t like that) or did all the things they wanted me to they’d like me and not leave me alone, rejected and abandoned. Of course, that didn’t happen, it wasn’t until I went up to Secondary school that I was able to find some nice people to be friends with. But it was too late, the program had been created.!
So, now as an adult when you respond negatively to something, it is a form of protection against something you felt as a kid. It may have helped you once, but it’s outdates and is holding you back. We’re all running on outdated programs, it’s like we’re asking our six year old self what to do in every situation in life.
Every emotion and subsequent thought and response is routed in your 6 year old self subconscious programming.
Subconscious program = your emotions = your thoughts = your responses = your life.
Thankfully, for me, I found the secret to re-writing that program I’d learned over 40 years ago and was able to put a halt to my People Pleasing. That secret was and still is with Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) or Tapping as it’s more commonly called.
This surprisingly powerful but seriously weird technique turn my life around. I gradually stopped asking my child self how I should feel, think, act and live.
Piece by piece I’m re-writing my subconscious program. I’m a work in progress, always will be, but the difference in my confidence, self-esteem, priorities, growth, and life in such a relatively short amount of time are incredible and immeasurable.
I’m now a practitioner in this amazingly simple powerful technique, and it’s the back bone of my work as a coach. It is hands down the quickest and most effective way to release the fears of putting yourself first and being ok with saying No when you don’t want to do something. I’ve seen behaviours in clients created over 50 years ago disappear in just a one hour session!
The scientific world is starting to sit up and take notice of EFT, many clinical trials have been and are continuing to be conducted all over the world and the results are astounding. The most recent two year follow up trial showed that the effects of EFT from the initial trial are still as strong as ever.
If you’d like to know more book in a free trial coaching session here and see what EFT can do for you.