Are you a ‘pleaser’
Inside me is a bad girl that is just longing to be allowed out. So, the title ‘Are you a pleaser’ is, or was me.
Being a pleaser is learnt behaviour and learnt at a very young age. In my case probably around 5 when I realised – unconsciously — that my lovely mum was a bit vulnerable and needed protection so when I was at infant school and being bullied (the only Jew in the school who, of course was responsible for killing Jesus) rather than sharing this with my mother, my protector, I shielded it from her thinking it would upset her.
Psychologists would say that to feel safe and secure in our relationships, we stop focusing on our own needs and wishes and put all our energy into accommodating everyone else’s. That if we can prove to others that we are willing to make them our priority, we hope that they will in turn appreciate our efforts, bask in the glow of our love, and give that love back to us. Of course, at 5 I was not aware of this but it is all about an instinct for survival.
We can’t look after ourselves so we need to rely on our ‘care givers’ i.e. parents to do this and my behaviour was a way of ensuring that they would take good care of me. We learn through the clues that our parents give us — such as their moods and behaviour — which activities will reward us best. Take babies – what kind of reaction do babies get when they smile? They are adored, loved, cooed over and it gets them lots of positive attention. These early patterns of behaviour stay with us They are unconscious memories and once we learn how to secure love as a child those lessons stick with us as we get older, even if they are no longer our best option.
So that’s how some of us become ‘pleasers’. We believe from years of practice that if we want to get love then we must give it continuously which is all very well unless it suddenly feels like a one-way street. And this is not just in romantic relationships but all relationships – friendships, office relationships etc. In fact, the more strongly is a behaviour pattern in a relationship, the more likely we are to stick to these patterns in multiple relationships, as opposed to feeling able to choose which style is most likely to work to our benefit. That said and as this article is somewhat self-focused while I am a ‘pleaser’ my relationships I am pleased to share have not been one-way.
However, it is only now that I have the time to reflect on my behaviour. After many years spent juggling 3 sons, parents, work, and friends I now have the time to focus on my needs. The time is right to move forward. This third era of my life is exciting, scary, and certainly a bit out of my comfort zone. There is a great sense of freedom after 45 years of deadlines and responsibilities but there is work to be done and it is an ongoing process. Watch this space.