How To Manage Anxiety When You're A People Pleaser
If you suffer from anxiety, it’s an understatement to say that you need healthy coping mechanisms. If you struggle with anxiety and you’re prone to being a people pleaser, it can feel like an extra weight is on your shoulders: After all, many people who are people-pleasers simply want to be liked and feel the need to “earn” their keep in their relationships by always saying “yes” to favors, events, long talks on the phone after your BFF’s breakup, and so on. In a sense, people pleasers generally make great friends, partners, and coworkers because they’re reliable, caring, and sincere.
For people doing the people pleasing, though, it can quickly become unhealthy both mentally and physically; all of that effort going into other people and their wants and needs gives you considerably less time to focus on yourself. And remember, focusing on yourself is not a bad thing — it’s a normal, healthy, adult thing. Prioritizing yourself and your needs doesn’t make you selfish or a bad friend or partner; it makes you a regular person, just like everyone else in your life, who needs time to take care of themselves.
If you struggle with anxiety and you think you’re prone to people pleasing, remember: You have value, and you don’t need to put others first to earn your place in their lives. While everyone’s situation is different, these suggestions below may help to manage anxiety if you’re a people pleaser — because your mental health and happiness is worth it, too.
- Establish Boundaries
Yes, there is a ton you can accomplish, but it doesn’t mean you have to do it all. Seriously. If someone cares about you and respects you, they will understand you have limits. For a lot of people who are anxious, it can feel gratifying to throw yourself into your work or a project as a way to focus your energy and work towards a specific result or task. For others, it’s tempting to develop codependent relationships, where you have a lot invested in the other person and their emotional well-being.
Whether it’s in the office or a relationship, though, you can’t be the leader and caretaker all of the time; other people have to carry their own weight, too — and yes, sometimes that means letting them struggle and even fail, if it means that you have valuable time to take care of yourself and focus on your own personal needs. By establishing boundaries on what you can and cannot do for others it helps you protect yourself from burn out and exhaustion.
- Keep A Mood Journal
Sometimes it can be really hard to see outside of our own heads and identify the root of a problem. For example, are going to crowded restaurants for lunch actually a stressor for you, or is it that your coworker is dumping all of her problems on you? Writing out your thoughts and feelings on a regular basis is a way for you to express yourself without fear of judgment. In truth, it’s entirely possible many of these things coexist: Perhaps you do find busy, loud environments displeasurable to dine in, but your coworker’s love struggles on top of the stressful environment are too much for you to handle on a regular basis. You can always suggest a quieter location, or invite others along to even out the conversation. Or hey, you can always let them know you need to unwind and have your lunch solo. They’ll probably understand — and if they don’t, they’re likely a toxic person your life will be better off without, anyway.
- Give Yourself Time
It is OK to take time to respond when someone asks you for a favor. Seriously, there is no need to answer them in the moment. While procrastination may not be the answer (i.e., if you know you’re going to say no, don’t delay the inevitable), I think it is fair and reasonable to tell someone you’ll let them know by x day or time, but you can’t give them a definite answer right now. Even if the favor refers to social things like going out for drinks or seeing a movie, sometimes you need to step back and prioritize yourself and your alone time.
For instance, ask yourself: Have you gotten enough sleep lately? When was the last time you called your parents just to chat? Whatever it is about yourself that you’ve been putting on the backburner isn’t going to get done unless you make time for yourself and stick to it. As long as you give people reasonable notice and are polite, there’s no reason they’ll become mad or disinterested in you because you miss movie night to clean your apartment and call your favorite great-grandmother.
- Get Outside Perspective
If you’re already struggling with an anxiety disorder, or are just feeling especially anxious, it might be important to talk to a professional about what you’re going through. Mental health issues are real and valid, and if you feel like you’re in an unhealthy place in your life, it’s a good idea to talk things out with a trusted, objective person. Even if you don’t have an anxiety diagnosis, if you’re a people pleaser, it might well be stemming from some deep-rooted issues connecting to self-esteem, confidence, or other latent issues. Seeking out mental health help can be scary because it’s so stigmatized in our society, but there’s nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to recognizing you need help and reaching out for it.
- You Can Be Honest About Your Mood
Whether you’re prone to anxiety and people-pleasing or not, I think this is something not enough people realize. You don’t need to be happy (or pretend to be happy) all of the time. Absolutely no one is, and there’s no reason you should hold yourself to an impossible standard. Emotions are complex and nuanced, and everyone has bad (sometimes very, very bad) days, weeks, or even months.
While not every situation is appropriate to spill your soul, it is OK to answer honestly when people ask how you’re doing. If you’re having a bad day, you can tell them so, and the same if you’re in a sour or irritable mood. Of course, having a bad day doesn’t give anyone the right to take it out on someone else, but there’s a definite difference between unleashing anger and resentment on a relative stranger and letting a close friend or coworker know you’re struggling through some hard emotions that afternoon.
Sharing your genuine emotions with others also allows them into your life and may signal to them that today is perhaps not the best afternoon to ask you for advice or a favor. As frustrating as it can sometimes be, it’s important to remember that people aren’t mind-readers, and that coworker or friend who often grates on your nerves with their oblivious behavior may just be, well, oblivious, and not malicious. Opening up and reminding others that you, too, are human won’t disappoint anyone or push them away, but should instead open up opportunity to bond and support one another.