We’ve talked a lot about people-pleasing in this blog.
That insidious habit of thinking that we can affect or change how someone else thinks or feels about us by trying to read their mind, do what we think they want to us, which is always a projection of our own internal landscape.
Your thoughts create your feelings, and when you’re projecting that outward, thinking you know how to please other people to create their feelings for them, you’re always on a wrong path, my tender love.
And you’re abandoning your beautiful and perfect self in the pursuit of attempting to please others.
When you stop people-pleasing and people aren’t pleased, how you can use your beautiful brain to not make that a problem?
To recap, the truth about people-pleasing is that it keeps everyone pleased with you. Well, everyone other than you.
And it can keep you out of integrity with yourself and it can keep you from being an ally, accomplice, or coconspirator with Black, indigenous, and people of color like we talked about last week.
One way people-pleasing can show up around race and racism is the fear of doing it wrong (make sure to go read last weeks blog for more info on this).
Another way people-pleasing can show up around race and racism is the fear of getting told by either Black folks or non-Black allies that you misspoke, or having this worry that other people, those who are not allied with an intersectional feminist worldview may think or say something about you that is disapproving.
For example, your racist boss or racist cousin, they might have some thoughts about you speaking up and saying Black lives matter.
The worry that people would critique you or think you shouldn’t talk politics or should stay in your own lane has kept folks silent for way too long, kept us from stepping into the fray, and can keep folks from living into their integrity.
These people-pleasing habits were survival skills when we were young and they simply don’t serve us anymore.
This people-pleasing thought habit keeps us wanting people to be happy with us because it’s linked to survival in our brains.
And can lead us to allow those small seeming racist comments, along with moments of cultural appropriation, homophobia, et cetera, to pass on by unchallenged, to not speak up.
Not to pause to step into alignment with our integrity and to say something when something is racist or otherwise problematic.
And whether you’re focused on keeping the peace or you’re worried you’ll be seen as not a good enough ally or too radical or whatever, that framing will keep you from learning and challenging yourself to grow and learn about your own racism and it will keep you from being in your integrity as a human who cares about Black folks and about other humans, about equity, equality, access, freedom.
When you call people out or call them in for being a part of enacting white supremacy, of prejudice of any kind, they are unlikely to be pleased with you.
Sure, some folks might say thank you, but many are not going to like hearing your opinion, your thoughts and feels on things like that joke they told, that critique of the Black Lives Matter movement, that story with racist undertones.
And that’s where the proverbial rubber hits the proverbial road in saying enough to the propagation of harmful, hurtful opinions, to speak up and talk back and speak the truth about prejudice and racism.
So my darling, why is this so challenging?
Let’s always remember that as human animals, we are wired to care about what other people think of us for our own physical and emotional safety and survival, to not get cast out from the village.
That thought, “They will cast me out,” can send a person right into sympathetic activation or dorsal collapse, and you know you are not in your power in either place.
And the work is not to try to completely sever that part of our brain that cares about the village as a whole. It’s just not possible. And I’ll say, not the right goal.
Instead, you get to get grounded and loving and ventral vagal with yourself, to honor yourself and to find the place of deep self-love within you where you can connect in with your true beliefs, can regulate your nervous system, and can speak what you believe to be true.
Herein, that Black lives matter. And in a broader context, for my beautiful loves working to manage their minds around perfectionist and codependent thought habits, that you matter in your own individual life, in your interpersonal connections.
This work is vital.
And I want to be very clear to say here that having dysregulation in your nervous system is super real and you get to bring your attention to it.
You get to bring love to your inner child who’s scared to speak up.
You get to bring so much care into your own bodily system and I’ll implore you to not use these things as a wall to hide behind.
As a way to say, “I can’t do this work or I won’t do this work right now because of my trauma responses.”
Instead, you get to learn to attend to your body, your inner child, your nervous system, to manage your own mind so you can hold these things in parallel.
I am learning to heal in these ways and I am learning to speak up, I’m learning to educate myself, I am reading, I am supporting Black women. I am taking action.
You can hold it all, my darling. You really, really can.
In speaking of duality and parallels, one of the things brains really appreciate, sort of pedagogically to support our learning is to hold new information alongside information we’ve been working with.
So let’s broaden the conversation to talk about how people aren’t pleased when we stop people-pleasing in general, and how that’s so important to be real about.
People will not be pleased when you stop doing things for others they can do for themselves.
When you stop saying yes when you mean no, when you tell your mom not to triangulate with you and talk badly about your dad, when you tell a coworker you’re no longer engaging in gossip, when you set a boundary for the first time or repeat the same boundary for the 14th.
People tend to hate it when you stop putting their comfort, their happiness, their desires and wants above your own.
Especially when they’re used to seeing you as a person in the role of yes person.
And when they’ve seen you as historically putting people ahead of yourself, namely them.
It takes dedication to self to stand in your power, to take back your life from your own codependent, perfectionist, and people-pleasing thought habits.
And because I know you can do hard things, I know you can do this too. And it starts with getting real about the thoughts you have on autoplay in your mind. Those old cassette tapes, and recognizing that they’re just that. Thoughts you were taught along the way. They aren’t facts.
And nerd alert, from there, you can engage your prefrontal cortex, the executive function part of your perfect mind to decide two things.
One, you’re going to shift those thoughts that say that keeping people pleased with you is vital, important, or even a worthy exercise. And of course, there are tons of details on how to do this way back in this blog.
Two, you get to decide with your smart evolved brain that it’s not a problem if folks aren’t pleased with you and your self-care choices, that you’re not going to call yourself selfish or bad or anything harmful to you for taking care of you, or for speaking up about racism.
You get to decide ahead of time how you’re going to think and thus feel and you get to do the work to really retrain yourself around this new thought, to bolster you when someone inevitably has a criticism of you.
Again, it’s not the goal to be a sociopath who doesn’t care at all about what others think, but rather, to not let it mean anything about you that someone else is having a thought, because it doesn’t.
It literally never does.
Their thoughts are just sentences in their own mind.
And remember, your thoughts are always changeable because, science. Brains are amazingly plastic, moldable, changeable, and you can rewrite your own mental and somatic, bodily stories about yourself and the world.
You can put yourself first and you can let other people have their own reactions, their own feelings, their own experience.
You can remember that your thoughts create your feelings, and so too their thoughts create theirs.
And if they’re upset that you will no longer, for example, drop everything you’re doing to take care of them, that’s okay. Truly, it really is just fine if they’re upset.
And I know, I know it takes lots of work and practice to put it into action, and I know you can do it.
I always remind us that when we’re talking about things like stopping people-pleasing and people being upset with us and that being okay, I must always give the caveat that if you are in a situation of actual abuse and where there’s a threat of violence or aggression, that may not be the moment to stop people-pleasing.
It may actually make sense, and people-pleasing is a survival method.
In those situations the work is to recognize that you are doing it and to work with a counselor and support folks one-on-one. I generally say in person, but I am writing this still in the time of ‘rona and so, that’s not real.
The thing to know when we’re talking about changing our brains is that you can use the thought work protocol to give yourself a new thought to work on believing, remembering that a belief is a thought you have thought over and over again until your neurology decides it’s real. And thus, is a belief.
So some new thoughts to consider include, “I can put myself first, other people second, with love. What other people think of me is none of my business.”
I get to attend to my own healing.
And I can listen to others with love while staying in integrity with myself.
I can speak up against injustice while staying in integrity with myself. I can set healthy boundaries for myself, and when I do, I am saying yes to loving both me and that other person and I am saying no to their request, not to them as a human.
And I can detach from other people’s opinions of me.
They’re just their opinions. Not fact.
And they have no meaning in my life until I choose to give them meaning. I am getting to know myself and to honor my imperfections, my slip-ups.
I am learning day by day to radically love and accept myself, to learn and grow, and to honor myself just as I am.
The way we turn these kind of thoughts into beliefs in our brain is by thinking them on repeat. So I would suggest you pick one thought, maybe two to practice, and write it out in your journal.
And I do recommend writing longhand versus typing, if your abilities let you.
One to two thoughts, write it out.
When I’m practicing a new thought, I’ll write it out five, 10, 15 times, once, twice, three times a day.
Really helps to make it concrete in my brain.
I know you can value yourself in these ways.
And I know you can use your voice for your own good and that of Black folks and all marginalized peoples.
I know you can be okay if someone is upset with you or displeased and can focus on staying true to yourself and what you believe in. I know you can release your desire to people pleasing, to engage in the false control fantasies of thinking you can control how other people experience you, think about you, feel about you.
And in so doing, you can learn to fully step into your power, your wholeness, your truth.
You can speak your mind and let the rest go.
And you can remind yourself, you can say into your own heart that you matter. Your healing matters. Not just in your life but for the world.
Collective healing is the healing we need, my beauty. Start within yourself, speak up as you’re able, learn to get more able, and let it all ripple out to change the world. You got this, my love. One little kitten-sized step at a time.
Thank you for taking the time to read Feminist Wellness. I’m excited to be here and to help you take back your health!
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