Listen. I do not think of myself as a selfish person. I choose to show up for a lot of people in a lot of different ways -- and not always because it is easy, but because it is important to me that I show up.
What I don't do, and what I teach my clients to stop doing, is show up for things that I don't really want to do --either because they don't interest me or because they don't align with my values/time/energy level right now.
So many of my clients, when they first start working with me, are doing many, many things out of a sense of obligation or because they think it will make other people happy. Now, don't get me wrong, there are people I choose to make happy even when it requires personal sacrifice. Still, I refuse to completely sacrifice myself on any altar for anyone. And, I definitely refuse to do anything just because someone else might get mad at me if I don't. Or judge me if I don't. Or think negative thoughts about me.
This is because I've done a lot of work on what it means to live in emotional adulthood.
I understand that I am the only one responsible for my own feelings. My thoughts about any circumstance create my feelings. I get to think and feel how I want to think and feel. That doesn't mean I'm always positive. It doesn't mean I'm Pollyanna. It just means I hold myself accountable and responsible for my own emotional state.
And, I hold others to the same standard.
If someone feels disappointed that I don't do something they really want me to do, I let them feel disappointed. That is a feeling they are choosing and they are completely allowed to think and feel however they think and feel. I can love someone completely even if they don't think and feel the way I might want them to. I respect their autonomy as much as I respect my own. I don't always practice this perfectly, but I am getting better and better all the time. The more I own my own thoughts and feelings the easier it is to let others own their own too. If I do something that I don't want to do, while pretending that I'm okay with it, I really believe I don't give enough credit or respect to the person I'm people-pleasing at that moment. I know I feel pretty awful when someone is doing something for or with me out of obligation. Like, I wouldn't want to go on a Friday Date Night with my husband and feel like he was just checking a box. I want him to freely choose to be with me. That is when I enjoy our time together. I know he feels the same way. He may THINK he really wants me to do something, but I guarantee if he becomes aware that I'm just phoning it in--the hockey game, or the dinner with friends--he doesn't really enjoy it.
None of us do any favors for anyone by lying and saying "sure, I'm happy to do that" when in fact, we're seething with resentment/exhaustion/boredom somewhere inside.
It really is better to be honest with ourselves and honest with others. We can love people enough to let them have their reactions. We can love ourselves enough to know that their reactions are not our fault or responsibility.
If you want to learn more about how to stop people-pleasing and start loving unconditionally, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to chat with you about how having a Life Coach can truly help you transform your life.