death to people pleasing
Emily Naismith has a new trick to curb excessive worrying.
Hands up if you have ever said “sorry” upon entering a lift. Or done the silent equivalent, which is just apologising with your eyes and making yourself so small that you do not exist within the realm of space–time until you arrive at your floor and slide out in a puddle and re-congeal on the outside. I basically did this every time I got into a lift until one day a co-worker said, “What are you apologising for? You’re allowed to get in,” and I died internally and have taken the stairs ever since.
My point is, if you’ve ever apologised for taking up space, or you remember every piece of negative feedback you’ve ever received, or almost have a panic attack if you feel like you’re about to let someone down, you too may be a people pleaser.
The other day I went into the service station to pay for a tank of petrol, and although my interaction with the attendant did not extend beyond my telling him what bowser I used and his asking if I needed a receipt, I knew he was mad at me. Just knew it. We only spent 11 seconds breathing the same air, yet I left wondering what I did to piss him off. Did I park too far away from the nozzle? Did I spend too long trying to get the freaking pay-from-your-car-app thing to work before abandoning it? Should I have left my toddler in the car rather than slinging him over my shoulder? It’s exhausting trying to mentally placate the goddamn petrol station guy the entire drive home.
This is why, when I was obliterating my inner thoughts via a TikTok scroll marathon, I tuned the hell in to a post about people pleasing. (Yes, the TikTok overlords have somehow worked out that I’m only happy if people like me – and that I like soap-opera style dramatisations using Sylvanian Families toys.) Basically, the TikToker said that if you’re a people pleaser, you should make it your goal to assume no one has an issue with you unless they specifically tell you they do. If they’re a grown adult, they’re capable of expressing if they’re unhappy with you; until then, you can just assume everything is peachy.
I had to watch that video 10 times in a row until I got it straight in my head. I am not responsible for other people’s emotions. Say it with me now! It’s only been a few weeks, but I feel like I’ve gotten more out of this one TikTok video than years of therapy.
When you catch yourself worrying about how a colleague responded “okay” without an exclamation mark, you can just remember that you don’t need to worry about it until they say they’re mad at you. Or when your family member shuts a door two per cent harder than usual, you can instantly send your worry into the ether because you remember they can talk to you if they’re frustrated. It’s so liberating. I feel physically lighter when I perform this magic trick in my mind.
Coming at it from the other angle, it’s also a really good reminder to actually voice your thoughts if you’re upset. It’s pretty common for people pleasers to swallow their feelings for the benefit of everyone else. But if you assume everyone else also has this magical perspective in their back pocket, it really forces you to speak up to make yourself understood.
With this new outlook in mind, the petrol station guy may have been having a bad day for myriad other reasons. But also, maybe he was totally fine and just didn’t feel like smiling at every needy customer. If he’s reading this and it was something to do with my parking though, I welcome his direct feedback.This rant comes straight from the pages of issue 107. To get your mitts on a copy, pop over to the frankie shop, subscribe or visit one of our lovely stockists.