There's a fine line between helping others and being a people-pleaser, and mistaking one for the other can be hugely detrimental. When we put others' needs before our own, we deplete our energy -- which can lead to depression, physical illness and feeling overwhelmed. People-pleasing also can become so ingrained that it creates a victim mentality in us: People who give too much are susceptible to being taken advantage of, and then resentment sets in. If you've felt that resentment, you might think it's directed at others. Yet, underneath it is resentment toward yourself, for giving away your power. If you're a people-pleaser, chances are that that behavior stems from your own insecurities. We can seek a sense of self-worth in our ability to take care of others.
Becoming aware of this behavior is the first step to healing it. If you think you're someone who overly people-pleases, ask yourself the following:
What am I trying to get by overly giving?
What would happen if I stopped putting others first?
Answer these questions honestly and fearlessly, and see what feelings come up for you. As you review your answers, you'll find that hidden beneath your desire to serve others is a deep desire to feel good enough. Getting truthful with yourself about your need to people-please will help you begin to change the behavior.
Next, become conscious of putting yourself first. Dr. Christiane Northrup, a contemporary wellness pioneer, says, "If you don't fill your own cup up first, you'll have nothing to give." Self-indulgence is a radical act of self-care. At least once this week, do something kind for yourself. You don't have to spend money -- bubble baths and movie marathons count. This may feel uncomfortable in the beginning, but it's important to create a new pattern of taking care of yourself first.
Lastly, start to create boundaries. If you're a people-pleaser, it's likely that folks have come to expect a lot from you. Start sharing with your friends and family members your desire to take care of yourself first. Letting others in on your shifts will help them help you.
There's nothing wrong with helping others -- but your own physical, mental and emotional health must come first.
— Gabrielle Bernstein is the author of “Spirit Junkie.”
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