A Coaching Power Tool Created by Ana Friendly
(Life Coach, UNITED STATES)
“Allow yourself to be who you really are without pressure from others to be anything else.” (1)
Maria Isabel had lived her life with the perspective that the needs of others came first and that if she pleased people, she would be praised and liked by everyone. Furthermore, in Maria Isabel’s culture, it was believed that a woman was a selfish person if she would take care of her needs first.
The above perspective and belief led Maria Isabel to create a life of unhappiness and personal sacrifice. She had lived her life trying to figure out what the needs and wants of other people were at her own expense. Also, because of her yearning to gain acceptance, she lived in fear of making decisions, sharing her opinion, saying no and creating personal boundaries. Maria Isabel realized that her desire to please others at her expense had stunted her personal growth. She did not know herself and she didn’t know what her needs and wants were and how she felt about them.
Maria Isabel became aware that she had a choice in life. She decided that it was more important for her to get to know herself and like herself. It was more important to be happy, respect herself and her needs and to take control over her life by reducing her daily stress, by setting boundaries, by saying no, by making decisions that were right for her and by not overextending herself.
- Have you ever found yourself pleasing others to gain praise or approval and realizing that you are sacrificing yourself and that you are feeling unhappy and stressed?
- Have you ever thought that taking care of your own needs is a selfish act?
- Do you find yourself unsure of what your true value is?
- Do you feel that you do not love and respect yourself?
- Do you find yourself making decisions based on what you think other people want instead of consulting your inner wisdom first?
If you answer is yes to one or more of the above questions, this tool could be helpful to you in adopting a more empowering perspective rather than pleasing others at your own expense.
Describe and Define
What does being true to yourself mean?
According to www.essentiallifeskills.net (2) “To be true to yourself means to act in accordance with who you are and what you believe.”
“If you know and love yourself you will find it effortless to be true to yourself.” Also, “self-respect comes from being true to who you really are and from acting in accordance with your fundamental nature.”
“When you are true to yourself, you allow your individuality and uniqueness to shine through.”
“To be true to yourself takes courage and it requires you to be introspective, sincere, open-minded and fair. It does not mean that you are inconsiderate or disrespectful of others. It means that you will not let others define you or make decisions for you that you should make for yourself.”
In www.essentiallifeskills.net/personalboundaries.html (1) it is stated that maintaining personal boundaries, also contributes to creating a positive self-concept and self-image and, in turn, this will communicate your self-worth to others. This article also says that “to set personal boundaries means to preserve your integrity, take responsibility for who you are and to take control of your life.”
“Learn to say NO.” “Many of us are people-pleasers and often put ourselves at a disadvantage by trying to accommodate everyone. We don’t want to be selfish, so we put our personal needs on the back burner and agree to do things that may not be beneficial to our well-being. Actually, a certain amount of “selfishness” is necessary for having healthy personal boundaries.
An ICA colleague, Kyla Neill, in her Power Tool: Approval vs Self-Acceptance, (3) talks about approval being linked to a “people pleasing nature” where people obsess about what others are thinking, rather than focusing on how they feel and what they want out of life”
“Trust and believe in yourself”(1) :
“You are the highest authority on you. You know yourself best. You know what you need, want and value. Don’t let anyone else make the decision for you. Healthy personal boundaries make it possible for you to respect your strengths, abilities and individuality as well as those of others.”
Maria Isabel grew up in a small Central American country where she was taught that the needs of husbands, children and others were always more important than her own needs. Consequently, Maria Isabel grew up thinking that if she pleased others, she would be a better person because she would be liked by everyone.
Once Maria Isabel got married and had children and was working full time she realized that she was overwhelmed, anxious and unhappy. She never had time for herself or made time for herself because she felt it would be selfish on her part and that she had to attend to the needs of everyone else.
Maria Isabel realized that she was always tired, didn’t eat well and was not taking care of her health. She also noted that she was sad because she was always running around doing things for her children, husband, friends and family and she did not feel that these people would ever go out of their way for her. She started to feel resentful and grouchy.
Maria Isabel became aware of other things she was doing. She felt uncomfortable saying NO to people, this is why she frequently had more on her plate than she could handle. This situation made her very anxious because she was not able to do things well because she was overextended. It was in her nature to like to do things well. Finally, Maria Isabel realized that she was having a hard time making decisions because she did not want to disappoint anyone in her life.
Maria Isabel was being confronted with many challenges due to the fact that she wanted to please people. She was allowing herself to be pulled in many different directions because she was doing things she thought others would like. She was not taking care of herself; her health was suffering. She was feeling tremendous anxiety and was a little depressed and angry because she felt that people were not really appreciating her efforts. She felt at a loss and helpless because she felt she could not say NO to people. She felt guilty about taking care of herself. In general, she felt scared that she might disappoint people and that people might not like her.
She had never asked herself, what do I want? And how do I feel about any particular situation? She started to open her eyes and to realize that she needed to meet her own needs and that only she could do it for herself; that she needed to know and love herself and that by becoming true to herself she would lighten the huge load she had created and which was weighing her down.
How do we become true to ourselves and stop pleasing others at own expense?
One way is to create awareness around those circumstances where we are pleasing others or putting our own needs aside or not saying no or being afraid of making a decision or not setting healthy personal boundaries.
A second way is to begin a journey of self- discovery to understand who we are and what our strengths and values are. Also, we need to learn to love and respect ourselves. According to Kyla Neill (3),
progressing away from feeling trapped in approval-seeking and toward self-acceptance, takes dedication and commitment to changing our inner thoughts and behavior.” “The most essential aspect of self-acceptance is acknowledging that a part of you may always need external approval, but that the opinions and thoughts of others are not as important as knowing yourself and accepting yourself for who you are and who you want to be.
Thirdly, it is helpful to start practicing the following exercise on a regular basis: ask yourself what do I want? And how do I feel about this particular situation? Finding the answer to those questions from your inner voice or your gut feeling will enable you to live your life from your true self. It will also help you live your life with integrity and to take responsibility for who you are and to learn to set healthy personal boundaries.
As coaches, we have the opportunity to invite our clients to reflect on how the perspective of pleasing others is serving or not serving them. Also, we can support them as they become aware that being true to themselves is a more empowering perspective than pleasing others at their own expense.
- Allow the client to get to know themselves and their value system.
- Have the client write out their strengths and praise himself/herself for them.
- Have the client do a daily exercise of asking himself or herself whenever he or she is confronted with any situation, what do I really want? What does my inner voice is saying? How do I feel about what I want?
- Ask your client how she or he defines self-care and identify any obstacles that are getting in the way to implementing a self-care routine.
- Ask the client about his/her feelings about self-praise vs outside recognition. Ask the client to reflect upon the rewards of self-praise vs outside recognition.
- Explore, in depth, with the client the reasons why they are having a hard time saying NO to people. Work with the client on creating a shift that will enable him/her make a behavioral change and start saying NO when they feel it is appropriate and supportive of their well-being.
- Implement practice to say NO, do role play and have the client feel comfortable saying NO. Have the client practice saying NO in his/her everyday life. Have the client ask themselves what is the worst that could happen if I say NO?
- Have the clients reflect on what are healthy personal boundaries for them and have them start practicing to set boundaries with people in their lives.
- How is “pleasing others” serving or not serving me in my life? Be specific please.
- What is getting in my way of being true to me?
- If you are having a hard time saying no, and it is affecting your well-being, explore in depth what is driving this behavior. What do you need to do to allow yourself to say NO and stay true to yourself?
- Ask yourself, would I feel less stressed and resentful if I say no and only take on what I can handle realistically? Think of an example.
- How do I define healthy boundaries in my life?
- What is getting in my way of setting healthy boundaries between me and other people?
- What would happen if I make a decision from my inner wisdom and I feel it is the right thing for me in this particular moment, but not so great for my child? (Example: I have these responsibilities at work and for my family and it will work best for me and those parties involved if I get them done instead of taking my child to a play date this afternoon. It actually would work better for me if I take my child to her play date on Friday instead).
- What would happen if every time I am confronted with a situation, I ask my inner voice/gut first, what is it that I want to do, how do I feel about this particular decision and does this decision align with my values?
Note: The above power tool is my attempt to help people find a more empowering perspective when they find themselves being driven by the need to please others and in the process sacrificing their well-being. It is not my intention to suggest that if you please others that you are not true to yourself. There will be circumstances in our lives, e.g. at work or when we are with family, where we might choose to please others but still remain true to one-self.
“Be true to the very best that is in you and live your life consistent with your highest values and aspirations.”(2)
Knowing who you really are and trusting yourself will help you become true to yourself. By allowing your inner wisdom guide your life you will also allow your true self drive your life.
“When we are authentic and are aware of our values, beliefs and strengths, our desires and our purpose, and base our goals on those things -who we really are- we create alignment and momentum to move toward those goals. When we set aligned goals for ourselves, goals that fulfill our purpose and make us better versions of who we already are and who we want to be, we can use our true self and our best strengths to accomplish them”. (4)
“Achieving goals that are aligned with our core self brings more happiness and fulfillment to our lives”. (4)
Power Tool: Approval vs Self-Acceptance by Kyla Neill, ICA colleague.
Power Tool: Alignment vs Forcing by Shaun Ellsworth, ICA colleague.