This week I was led to make another really hard decision. I hesitate to tell you the nitty-gritty details of reforming my people-pleasing ways, but I think you might relate.
Last week, I chose to say no to an invitation for a professional gig so I could put my energy toward the work I love. This week it involved stepping away from a relationship in order to be true to myself.
The other person brought elements of chaos, struggle, and scarcity to the partnership—things I recently vowed I was done with. When you make a commitment to let go of beliefs that no longer serve you, the Universe gives you ways to practice.
Like when you say you're going to eat really healthy for the next week starting today and then come home to find your kids have made double chocolate brownies with chocolate ganache frosting. But I digress.
Anyway, I was at first uncertain what to do, so I tapped into my intuition to gain clarity on the situation. For me, my inner guidance is like a deep, quiet, internal knowing. It feels solid and right.
The problem is, I don’t always like what it tells me because it doesn’t follow the people-pleasing principles I've learned.
But if I get really honest, I know my intuition is right.
I’ve sometimes made decisions that were wrong for me because I did what someone else wanted me to do, or what I thought I should do, or what would keep me in good graces.
I can confidently say that making life choices from this mindset does not have a good track record for me. It always ends up somewhere between bad and disastrous. But still, when faced with displeasing someone, it can seem easier to just ignore that little voice inside and do what they want when you're a people-pleaser.
What I saw this time was that if I did what my intuition was telling me, what I knew deep down was right for me, the other person would be unhappy and hurt.
But if I did what they wanted and continued the partnership, I'd be compromising the agreements I’d made with myself to end unhealthy patterns.
My inner wisdom said Do what's right for you! My people-pleasing side said How can you put your needs above theirs? How selfish!
This clashing of ideas felt awful. My stomach churned and I couldn't sleep soundly.
I journaled, meditated, pulled wisdom cards—hoping there was some way that would make the other person happy and maintain my values.
But I got the same message over and over again. Step away, step away, step away.
I still didn’t like that answer, so I continued to search.
Recently I’ve been using a resource from Dialectical Behavior Therapy that promotes healthier relationships. I hoped maybe it could help me solve my dilemma.
These statements jumped off the page!
I may want to please people I care about, but I don’t have to please them all of the time.
The fact that I say no to someone does not make me a selfish person.
I can still feel good about myself, even if someone else is annoyed with me.
REALLY? Can I feel ok about myself even if I disappoint someone? Isn't it terribly selfish? Couldn’t I just ignore that little voice even if it’s not the best for me?
All these things were swirling in my head, but at the bottom there was the quiet voice of inner guidance: Say no thank you, kindly and lovingly, and then step away.
I knew it was true—that I needed to do what was right for me. So that’s what I did. I listened to my intuition. I went with my gut. Even though it was really hard to know I'd be disappointing the other person.
I didn’t hear from them for what seemed an eternity. My thinking turned fear-based and I braced for the anger and shaming words that I imagined were to come.
But that’s not what happened.
What happened followed another DBT statement:
If I refuse to do a favor for someone, that doesn’t mean I don’t like them. They’ll probably understand that too.
A message finally came back saying, I’m so sorry this won’t work out right now and grateful for all I've learned from you. You're a lovely person and I wish you all the best.
Friend, I know firsthand these things are not easy to do. I get that. But imagine for a minute what your life would look like now, if you’d kindly, gently said no thank you to all the people and things in your life that didn’t align with your truth.
Who would you be if you’d listened to the small, quiet voice within guiding you toward your purpose?
Right. We’d all be quite different people.
I also am compelled to say, with blatant discrimination against women and other marginalized folx raging in the world, that we must stop worrying about what others will think and continue to raise our voices and speak our truth.
If you feel yourself holding back out of fear, I encourage you to reach out to a sister who can help you stay connected to your vision, who will reflect your gifts and what you're being called to bring into the world.
We need you and what is uniquely yours to bring. Getting side-tracked to maintain someone else's comfort doesn't bring your gifts to fruition.
The next time you need to make a choice, listen to your inner wisdom. If you can't hear it, get with a good friend who will help you listen more deeply.
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