Society has instilled in our minds that we should gain the trust of others to have self-fulfillment. But with our constant pursuit of people-pleasing, our own personality and humanity may be sacrificed and diminished. Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen talk about how seeking validation from others can lead to making ourselves small, have a constant feeling of burnout, and ultimately, soul exhaustion. They discuss why it is not wrong to go according to what you think is right and good despite what others may say, the strength of embracing your vulnerability, and how it can help heal trauma. After all, it is okay to be different and not always looking for a space to fit in as long as you are true to yourself.
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How To Get Rid Of The People-Pleasing Attitude
I know we have some people-pleasers in our audience and this episode will be something relatable. Jason, I haven’t talked to you about this offline so I might as well talk to you about it right on the show. One thing I want to start doing on the show is I was reflecting on conscious language. The word should was coming up for me. We did that whole episode about the word should and I realized that there are many words that are overused, underused, improperly used, cliche. Every time they come up, I will find myself stepping back and thinking about them. I thought it’d be neat to do a series around conscious languaging. This might be part of that series, probably not. That wasn’t my intention with this episode but I would like to do that. For the readers, stay tuned because I have a feeling we are going to make that happen.
One thing I want to give a shout-out to before we begin is a tea that I tried. I had returned from my PO box and this company called Royal Leaf sent me their tea. I wanted to take one sip of it and I could not believe how good it is. It’s a bottled tea. Speaking of bottled teas, the hibiscus tea that we have both tried, Jason, I’d like to start doing shout-outs again to brands that we like. Those were two teas that wowed me. They feel special. I probably won’t be sharing the Royal Leaf tea with you, Jason. They sent me two flavors and I put my lips to the bottle. It’s not COVID friendly. Unlike the old days, remember when you and I used to pass drinks back and forth between each other.
It’s funny when you say the old days when we used to share food. Do you remember when we used to share food together? I’m looking forward to returning to that.
Some people still share food during COVID. This is not to say that everyone treats their COVID relationship differently. One thing that’s changed for me and Jason is that we don’t share food the way we used to. I will not be sharing this tea with you, Jason. I already contaminated it with my saliva but it is remarkable. I bet you that you could get some samples of it to try. Back to the people-pleasing. I started listening to a book that I’ve mentioned in some episodes. I want to talk about it as I go through it because it’s bringing up a lot of different thoughts for me.
It’s called Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents. It’s such a great book. It resonated with me. I saw someone on TikTok talking about it, which is where I get a lot of recommendations these days. If you didn’t know this about me already, I love TikTok. Speaking of which, another tangent is I got a package from TikTok. Finally, I have some official TikTok swag as being part of a TikTok program which is fun but I have not opened it yet. That’s a little side note. This shows that my love for TikTok has been a little bit reciprocated.
I found this book and it had a long wait in the free book borrowing program I use called Libby. I haven’t received the written Kindle version of it. I did receive the audiobook version of it. I want to go through this book line by line because it’s been enlightening for me. It’s helping me get some perspective on people-pleasing. Since I don’t have the written copy and I don’t have highlights to share, I pulled up the quotes from Goodreads. It brings up a lot of intense things for me. One of the first popular quotes on Goodreads is, “Remember, your goodness as a person isn’t based on how much you give in a relationship, and it isn’t selfish to set limits on people who keep taking.” That’s helpful for each of us to reflect on.
Something that’s been coming up for me a lot in the past few days is that people-pleasing desire to try to get somebody’s approval based on my actions and reflecting on setting more boundaries. I have internalized the idea that if I don’t please other people, I’m not good. If I don’t do things the way people want me to do, then something is wrong with me. I’m not good. I’m a bad person. I’m hurting their feelings. I’ve approached life from the standpoint of constantly trying to adjust myself based on what I perceive other people are wanting or needing from me. It also comes across a lot in my life as controlling. Some people see those actions or my behavior and think that I’m controlling and that was something I was thinking about. If I don’t get the outcome I want, I get paranoid and I try to fix it.
Somebody referred to me as a fixer, which I didn’t take offense to but it’s something I’ve been reflecting on is how when there’s a problem, I immediately want to find a solution. I found a lot of pride in that because, in my perception, solutions are great. Who wants to have a problem when you can fix it? The challenge of being a fixer is that I’m constantly on edge trying to find balance, trying to please people and trying to make things right and good. It’s left me with a lot of stress, burnout, juggling in life, and it hasn’t left me with a lot of time for myself.
As a people-pleaser, I tend to spend a huge part of my day wondering if I’m pleasing others. Thus, the term people-pleaser. I’m wondering if my clients are happy with me. Why? If they’re unhappy with me, the consequence would be that they might not want to work with me and I might not have the money I need to get by. That’s one of the downsides of working for myself but this was also challenging when I had a full-time job with one boss is I always worry. I’ve worked for bosses that were similar to my parents. That certainly didn’t help. It retriggers a lot of that trauma and the relationships that might not be super healthy.
I’ve had to set a lot of boundaries with clients. That’s tough as a people-pleaser because I’m often afraid by that setting those boundaries, somebody won’t like me. They won’t like the way that I do things and so they won’t want to work with me or they’ll fire me or they’ll find someone else. I’ve been like that in many relationships. It’s like, “Let me please my partner so that they don’t leave me for someone else.” A lot of that comes from childhood, which is something I’m realizing through reading this book and other books. I’ve read many books like this. This is my current one for perspective.Sometimes, 'not right now' is a more accurate statement than 'no.' Click To Tweet
Our culture also encourages a lot of this. Is it the chicken or the egg type of thing? This book is reflecting on how does a parent becomes emotionally immature. Has it been passed down through generations and/or is the culture supporting that? Our culture supports and rewards perfectionists. If we get things right, it benefits other people. People can take advantage of us too by having consequences, by considering things as right or wrong, good or bad. We’ve seen this through religion. That’s one of the reasons that I don’t align with a lot of religion because sometimes those rules and restrictions feel limiting and they’re judging me. I become afraid constantly about doing things wrong. That has been a huge theme in my life, the fear of doing things wrong because I don’t want to be punished. I don’t want to pay the consequences.
Much of that is part of religion. It depends on which religion. I shouldn’t make a blanket statement with Christianity in my experience. In my time that I spend going to church, what’s incredibly uncomfortable for me is hearing the framework around, “This is the way you do things. If you do things differently, you’re sinning or you’re not good.” That was stressful for me because I was constantly thinking about, “Am I sinning? Am I doing something wrong? How’s my relationship with God?”
At the same time, people would tell you, “God loves you and he accepts you.” It was confusing. If God is loving and accepting, can you do anything wrong? Is there such a thing as sin? I’m not going to get into that because I’m sure somebody who studies the Bible has a much better perspective in response to this. I’ve also learned that not every Christian or Catholic or a person that has a relationship with God is the same. I’m not trying to make a blanket statement whatsoever.
Jason, you and I have talked about how it’s tough to work for somebody else for these reasons too. It’s tough to work in a corporate job where you feel boxed-in to the way things are done. I have a similarity as you, Jason, being the more rebellious of the two of us. I also have that rebellious spirit in times because I feel drained when I don’t feel I can express myself and do what feels good to me. That’s what I wanted to explore in this episode. I’m noticing I’m almost overcompensating sometimes and getting frustrated when I feel someone is trying to push me to do something.
I know you’re similar, Jason. You don’t like to feel controlled or pushed. You resist that. I resist that too sometimes. In my head, I’m thinking, “I’m tired of being told what to do. I’m tired of being judged for being right or wrong. I’m tired of being a people-pleaser. It’s exhausting.” It’s challenging that when you’re trying to overcome that, you’re also trying to refigure out your sense of self. That’s the stage that I’m in. Who am I if I’m not a people-pleaser? Who am I if I allow myself to do what I feel is right for me versus what I feel somebody else thinks is right for me? How do I relate to people if I’m not always trying to please them? How do I relate to people when I’m either putting myself first or putting us equally? Is it more of my desire? I don’t even know if that’s a people-pleasing mentality. What I truly don’t know is does it work best in your life when you put yourself first and somebody secondary or does life work optimally when you’re both equal? All I know is I’m tired of being secondary.
There’s the risk in putting yourself first of pissing people off. That is the seed of why people don’t put themselves first is because they’re afraid. When you start to assert yourself more and you start to prioritize your well-being, your needs, and your desires over the tendency to people-please, which people-pleasing and over-giving are much tied. They’re not synonymous. People-pleasing and over-giving are not synonymous. I often feel that over-giving and overextending one’s energy is a huge part of people-pleasing.
To reflect back to what you were saying, my examination of my people-pleasing was a protective mechanism. If you’re a longtime reader, you’ve heard me talk about my abandonment issues and my fear of abandonment through my father leaving when I was young. If Jason is the good dancing monkey, the good little boy, is pleasing mommy and grandma and grandpa, and is pleasing his teachers, he’ll be safe. At a certain point, the shell starts to crack open in my adulthood and I’m like, “I’m not living my fullest authentic, true self.” Because I’ve spent much of my life protecting myself against abandonment and being left behind that I’ve created a pseudo persona in certain ways. I’ve adjusted my true self and created a different persona to make sure that I’m safe.
This takes a lot of practice in undoing if you assert yourself and a person in your life is used to you saying yes all the time, once you start to say no or not right now. We’ve talked about that in previous episodes that sometimes not right now is a more accurate statement than no. Those are two different things. Sometimes no is like, “I do not want to do this. I’m not going to do it.” Sometimes it’s like, “I am interested in helping you and supporting you but at this moment, I don’t have the bandwidth or the energy to do it. Could we revisit this a week later or a month later?” Those are different approaches. Mastering communication is a huge part of what we’re talking about in adjusting our people-pleasing default ways of being here.
In setting boundaries with people in my life, I have noticed that it takes a lot of repetition at times to get people to become used to the fact that you’re not going to say yes to things all the time. I’ve chosen to do this in my romantic relationships. For example, my girlfriend wants to come over after work and I know I’m spent. I’m depleted from work, podcasting, taking care of seven animals at the house and working on my music. I know I want to see her but I’m not energetically available for that. As an example, “I want to see you.” I want to see you too. It’s not for lack of wanting to see you. It’s that I don’t have the energetic bandwidth in my being to be able to have a meaningful interaction with you. It’s not that you have to.
The other thing is some people want an explanation. I don’t believe you owe anyone an explanation. No or not right now. If you feel you have the bandwidth to give an explanation, great. Another challenging aspect is I feel some people are like, “You have to tell me why. I need an explanation.” It’s like, “I understand that you want an explanation but I don’t owe you one.” That’s my personal wheelhouse with this. The other thing too, Whitney, in our relationship as friends and business partners, you know this because we’ve talked about it in years past. When I had set a boundary or a no or a not right now with you, you would push and you wouldn’t accept it. We’ve had fights where I’m like, “Whitney, you have to accept my no.” If you don’t, I’m going to pull myself out of the situation. You and I have had that friction before.Being strong often doesn't leave you room to be weak. Click To Tweet
It’s great that you’re bringing this up. It’s not that I want to dig up things from the past but there are times when I still feel old triggers come up with you around like, “I’m not going to do this right now.” Sometimes, you and I have different frameworks on priority in our lives. We have different frameworks for our business and how we prioritize things. That still comes up. Sometimes you’re like, “I want you to get this thing done.” I’m like, “I’m going to get it done but I’m not going to get it done right now.” For me, whether it’s you and I, whether it’s romantic relationships, whether it’s anything in life, the communication issues come down to having loving and open communication about things. If we come from situations where we had challenging things growing up with our parents, we tend to bring those into our adult relationships. It requires a lot of communication. How do you want to steer this conversation, Whitney?
Part of what’s challenging and something else I’m examining is that it’s either as a people-pleasing mechanism or a coping mechanism, I’ve also noticed I have a tendency related to people-pleasing and perhaps not. I tend to constantly be trying to fix myself to change. There’s only so much feedback I can receive. Sometimes, somebody’s intention is not to shame me. In general, we have a certain capacity each day or each period of time, whatever length it is. I’ve noticed I have decision fatigue.
The last few days, I hit a wall. I’m like, “I cannot make any more decisions.” I don’t have that ability anymore. I’m too drained. Every time a decision comes up for me, my brain cannot function. It can’t make the decision. We’ve touched upon this before. It was around the subject of willpower. Similarly, there’s only so much feedback I can receive in a day for myself. As a fixer, every time someone gives me feedback, I want to change. I have to set a boundary with receiving feedback.
An important thing for each of us to know is we should always ask somebody before we give them feedback if it’s the right time. We don’t know the context. We don’t know what fatigue they’re facing. What you don’t know, Jason is I got feedback from another friend in my life. I am already overloaded. My brain is still processing the feedback I got from somebody else. I can’t respond to everybody all at the same time. Many of us know what that feels like. It’s like standing in a room and having a bunch of people trying to get your attention. You can try but you are best when you’re focused. It’s like multitasking. You are best when you’re focused on one thing, one person and one thing at a time.
Especially as women, we are encouraged to multitask. We are told that multitasking exists. We’re expected in a lot of ways to juggle everything and balance it and do it with ease and grace, but that is exhausting. No wonder parents are so exhausted. For the reader and for you, Jason, I’m dealing with a ton of things in my head. I don’t have the capacity to take anything further. That’s where boundaries come into play. This is why each of us has to be sensitive and mindful because we don’t know what somebody else has been dealing with.
Part of the communication I had with a friend, I found myself getting a little defensive because I’m feeling sensitive. Reading a book like Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents brings up a lot. When you start to examine your parents and your childhood and try to understand who you are and how you became that way and how do you want to operate differently, it’s a sensitive and vulnerable time. It’s a wound that you’re reopening. Perhaps you want to reopen it to heal it, to remove or reduce the scar. One of the big reasons that people avoid looking at their traumas is because they can’t handle dealing with their traumas in daily life.
I try not to talk about my parents too intimately because I don’t have their permission. Not that I necessarily need their permission, but I am protective of my parents. I love my parents. I respect them. I am open that there are things that have happened in my childhood that are not beneficial to how I developed as a human being. This book has also given me perspective on what my parents might have been going through. One of the big points in the book is that their immaturity is based on their experiences too. Who knows what trauma they’ve handled? A lot of them never learned how to deal with trauma.
We are privileged in 2021 that trauma and vulnerability are acceptable. Working on yourself is a huge thing in our lives that many of us are doing. Therapy is something we’re generally less embarrassed to talk about. Years ago, I don’t think most people would openly talk about going to a therapist. That felt shameful to people to work on themselves because they were admitting they were flawed. A huge issue that the older generations have is they were trying to be strong. With that perspective, being strong often doesn’t leave you room to be weak. Weakness is often what comes up when you’re feeling sensitive, when you’re feeling vulnerable, when you’re opening up old wounds. I don’t think our brains can fully process trauma and hardship and continue to be strong at the same time. Something’s got to give.
I mentioned in an episode the Megan Markel and Prince Harry special. One of the parts that most resonated with me was when Megan Markel talked about how she was suicidal but had to show up or chose to show up at an event to put on a happy face. As soon as she found that no one was looking at her, she was crying. She was falling apart. She was trying hard to be strong. She was trying hard to be camera-ready. She was trying hard to look like she had everything together but simultaneously, she’s falling apart. When you’re trying to be strong all the time, it does you a disservice when you’re trying to heal from something.
If you break a leg, it doesn’t help you to try to stand on it all the time. You’re recovering from your shoulder injury, Jason. This is not the time for you to be working out and building your strength. This is the time for you to recover. We also need to set boundaries to allow ourselves to recover because doing work on ourselves is draining. It’s a sensitive process. We need to protect ourselves so that we can move through it in effective ways and not move through it and brush over it. It’s like, “I’m fine.” Another thing that we have been trained to do is to not cry. Many men have been ashamed of crying. They have been ashamed of showing their feelings. That’s a horrible thing.
It’s horrifying that men have been raised that way. Men should be allowed to express themselves and deal with their traumas. They should be able to be acknowledged for being complex human beings like women. The fact that has been brushed over so much and passed on from generation to generation, strong men don’t cry or whatever the terms are, is far from the truth. In general, we need to stand up for ourselves. It’s okay to feel weak, sensitive and vulnerable. We don’t have to be strong all the time.
It’s hard to find the balance. It’s hard to find the room to heal when there’s so much pressure on you in life. If we’re working on healing our psychological trauma or physical injury or both at the same time, it’s hard. There’s an instinct in me to want to cocoon myself and cut off from the pressure of my responsibilities, work and the pressure of everything in life. It’s not that we couldn’t make that choice but it also feels like there’s a maintenance that has to happen in life to a degree. We have to pay the rent or the mortgage. Everything is a choice. We could say, “Screw it,” give up the house and go into default. There’s nothing in life that’s a have to. If I go back to my father as an example because we’re talking about trauma, he didn’t have to stick around and be a dad. He was like, “Screw this. I don’t want this. Bye.”We don't need to be good or great. Sometimes, we just want to feel okay. Click To Tweet
Have to is almost in the same echelon as should. That’s one of the things we kicked off in this episode. It’s almost in that same echelon, “You have to pay your mortgage. You have to pay your bills. You have to take care of your kids.” You don’t have to do crap. People leave relationships and families, and let houses go into foreclosure. People do it every single day in this world. There’s not a have to if you’re a human being who acknowledges that you have deep trauma and deep physical psychological soul healing to do, and you want to maintain some semblance of balance or normalcy in your life. You don’t want to live on the street. You don’t want to default on your mortgage. You don’t want to not take care of your kids and your animals. To your point, it’s hard to do this.
There are days I don’t want to do crap because I’m exhausted. I don’t think I communicate to the extent of you. I’m not saying this crap to get pity from anyone. I don’t give a crap about that. It’s real. There are days from doing physical therapy for four months on my shoulder and my clavicle and working with my psychotherapist, working through my mental trauma, working through a body that’s learning how to function again. There are days I’m tired. I don’t want to do anything. There are days I don’t want to show up for the show. There are days I don’t want to do the work. There are days I don’t want to see my girlfriend. There are days I don’t want to see any human beings. I want to lay and bawl and do nothing. I feel guilty for it sometimes. There’s a mechanism where I’m like, “You have these responsibilities. People are counting on you.” There are days I’m sad and exhausted that I don’t want to do anything.
It goes back to people-pleasing in a way, which is the original subject. I’m like, “You need a week off, Jason.” The mountain of things that I need to do that I’ve agreed to do when I get back from that week is going to be daunting and stressful. I can’t allow myself to take a week off. This is the challenge, whether you and I are running a business that we do, people who are working in a corporate setting, people with families, people with animals, people who are counting on them. There are some times where I’m like, “Am I ever going to feel better? Is it just you do a little bit of healing or a little bit of psychotherapy?” I don’t know that I even have an accurate response to this but there are days I’m physically tired. I don’t even know how to describe this. In the center of my being, it’s like soul exhaustion. I don’t know what to do about it.
I’ve talked to my therapist about this subject and it’s like I don’t know what to do. Do I go away for a week and know that the pressure of coming home, that I’m going to be faced with all this stuff that I’ve put off? Do I need to simplify my life and go live in the woods somewhere? I don’t know. I wrestle with this every single day. It’s what you’re talking about. I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t know how to balance the pressures and the responsibilities of modern life with healing. To your point, maybe it’s because the awareness and the access weren’t there. Maybe it’s because our parents and the previous generations felt overwhelmed that they were like, “I’m not going to do that. I don’t have the bandwidth for that.” It’s tough. This is not easy. Anybody who’s working on themselves and doing deep work, props to you. You have our respect.
To your point, Whitney, as a man in society, there’s this conditioning of we’re not supposed to show vulnerability. We’re not supposed to show fear. We’re not supposed to cry. I want to cry every single day because I’m in pain. I’m in emotional pain. I’m in physical pain every day. It’s showing up for life when I’m in physical pain every day. Also, the sympathy and the compassion I have for people who are in pain every day of their lives and they’re going to be in pain every day of their lives for the rest of their lives. I don’t know that I have a point. I’m ranting. I don’t know that I have an answer. I don’t know how to effectively heal in the midst of the insanity of modern life. I don’t know how to do it.
Maybe nobody knows how to do it. If anything, we’re learning how not to do it. It’s going to be different for each of us. Something that came up in a conversation that I had with my friend is that her perspective is different from mine. I found myself wanting to change my perspective to match her or fuse it together. That’s the people-pleaser. That’s part of my desire to control and find balance. It’s like, “Let’s make both people happy. Let’s meet in the middle.” I love that perspective. Sometimes, people don’t want to meet you in the middle. They want you to come to their perspective.
It’s uncomfortable too, Jason. Being around other people-pleasers is tough. It’s messy but that’s okay. What I’m learning as part of my process is that it’s okay to disagree. That’s a big thing. It’s okay if you don’t agree with somebody. It’s okay if you want different things. It’s okay if it doesn’t align. Even saying that out loud gives me relief. I don’t know about you, Jason. This came up for me in the last few days. The term “It’s okay” is one of the most relieving statements for me. It feels good to say it. Does it feel good for you to hear it, Jason? Can you relate to that before I continue sharing?
Yeah. In a lot of ways, when we disagree or we don’t see eye to eye with a person, whether that’s friends, business partners, lovers, family members, oftentimes people will subtly or not subtly try and make you feel like it’s not okay that you disagree and it’s not okay that you are in a different perspective of life. By you saying that, it’s a good reinforcement of I don’t have to capitulate or give up my sense of self and my truth to make it okay for you. Sometimes people want to make it okay so they can feel better and they don’t care about how you feel. They want to feel okay.
That’s part of it. The words it’s okay are relieving because a lot of us want to be okay. We don’t need to be good or great. Sometimes we want to be fine. Sometimes we want to be okay. Sometimes that’s the best that we can do. It was on one of my Beyond Measure community calls. For those that don’t know about this, I run a private community called Beyond Measure. My big aim there is to have a safe and supportive space for people to be the full expression of who they are without external judgment. It’s hard. I’m not saying there’s no judgment because that’s part of how we’re conditioned. It’s been an amazing place. It was in there that we were talking about apologizing. How many of us have this tendency to over-apologize? That wasn’t an episode. Was it, Jason? It’s funny because Beyond Measure and this show sometimes feel similar that I get the two confused. That wasn’t an episode we did about apologizing, right?
It must have been a Beyond Measure call or some other call I was doing. They all start to blur together sometimes. Regardless of the origin, it was interesting because through this conversation I was having with this group about apologizing, we each found ourselves apologizing in unexpected ways. It wasn’t Beyond Measure. It was Clubhouse. It was with Michelle Perry who’s an upcoming guest of ours. She has an incredible new theme in her life about being unapologetically unpolished. In that Clubhouse room, there were Beyond Measure members in the Clubhouse room. That’s where the overlap was.
We found ourselves struggling not to apologize in an hour-long session. Many of us are used to apologizing. We’re used to trying to control people’s reactions to us. We’re used to trying to please them that we end up apologizing if we don’t feel like we’re pleasing them. On a Beyond Measure call, somebody was apologizing because they didn’t feel like they were making sense. They were expressing themselves. I thought, “That’s relatable.” I have felt uncomfortable at times when I’m trying to express myself. While I’m trying to get out my thoughts, I’m also thinking, “How am I making this person feel? Is this person uncomfortable? Is this person bored? Do I make sense to them?” I’m trying to manage it. I don’t want to get into a fight. That’s a big thing.
Disagreements are uncomfortable for me because I associate them with being unpleasant. I avoid conflict a lot. It’s uncomfortable for me. Whenever I sense that someone’s going to disagree with me, I’ll start to change what I’m saying to try to show them that we’re balanced. I don’t want you to think that I disagree with you. I respect you. That’s important to me. I don’t want to offend anybody. That’s the whole thing. I don’t want to make anyone mad. I don’t want to offend them. I’m constantly assessing somebody’s reaction to me. That’s exhausting.
Part of this point that is coming out from both of us, Jason, is this desire to constantly stay balanced all the time. It truly is a balancing act in life, especially as a people-pleaser. It’s like, “Let me keep things even all the time.” We don’t get used to becoming a priority. Honestly, I don’t think I felt like a priority that much in my life. I don’t think I prioritize myself very much. I get uncomfortable when I feel like a priority. This might be why I feel uncomfortable when I’m in the spotlight because I want things to be balanced all the time. Any time I’m in the spotlight, I start to feel uncomfortable. I’m like, “Let me pull somebody else in so I’m not alone. I don’t want to be the only one up here.” Maybe there’s a part of me that feels like I don’t deserve it. Maybe I’m uncomfortable because I’m not used to it. I’m used to being equal or secondary or less than secondary. That’s a fascinating thing. I’m having a lot of that realization here.
Going back to this idea of being okay, my point in bringing it back to that is sometimes we apologize. This person was saying, “I know this isn’t good that I’m doing this.” That was part of their statement. It’s like, “I know it’s not okay that I’m doing this.” What they were describing that they were doing was not that big of a deal. All I wanted to do is reassure them that it’s okay. It was something silly. It was some little thing that’s subjective. A lot of the times, things in life are subjective. We end up apologizing so much for, “It’s not okay that I slept until 10:00 AM.” That’s what this person was saying. In my head, all I wanted to do was tell them that it’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with that.
We get used to things not being okay all the time and that’s why when I hear the words it’s okay, I feel relief. Part of that relief is that somebody else has given me permission to be okay. I want to be the one saying it’s okay. I don’t want to have to rely on somebody else giving me permission to be okay. That’s a huge part of my journey too. I’m constantly wondering, “Is this okay for somebody else?” I have to ask myself, “Is this okay for me?” If it’s okay with me, I can ask them if it’s okay with them but I’ve had it backwards. I ask other people if it’s okay. If they say it’s okay, then I determine if it feels okay for me. If they say it’s not okay, I would probably be like, “You’re right. It’s not okay.” What if it’s okay with me and not okay with them? Isn’t that allowed? It’s a legitimate question that I’ve been grappling with. This also came up with another friend.
Going back to me overcompensating, that’s what feels unsettling. As I’m processing this, I’m worried sometimes that my boundaries are too firm. I’m having trouble trusting my internal compass because I’m not used to trusting my internal compass. For example, there’s a situation with a friend and we both want the same thing but we both have preferences and we’re both stating our preferences. I feel uncomfortable every time I state my preference because I’m terrified that my preferences won’t line up with my friend’s preferences and that’s going to lead to conflict. I tend to always ask my friends, “What’s your preference?” Once they tell me, maybe I’ll tell them that I disagree. A lot of times, I’ll be like, “That’s exactly what I was thinking.” Was that what I was thinking? Is that what I wanted?Don't live in the dark in the sense of walking through life as an unconscious automaton. Click To Tweet
I have to practice and I am practicing it in my life stating what I want. Being assertive and staying there. This might get uncomfortable because sometimes when you state what you want, somebody is going to disagree with you, and then it doesn’t work out. It’s like relationships. Sometimes you say, “This is what I want.” Someone says, “I don’t want the same thing.” The relationship is over. It sucks because maybe you wanted the relationship, but do you want a relationship where you’re pretending that you both want the same thing all the time? Probably not.
Stating preferences gives an opportunity for creative thinking into how people can get their needs and desires met. One of the things that are challenging about human relationship and how it relates to hierarchy is that when you think about leadership in this context. People that are in positions of power and influence. Let’s say parents are in a position of power and influence. Teachers are in a position of power and influence. Celebrities, CEOs, people who have lots of wealth and politicians, we can name a lot of roles that human beings have that. In many ways, if we look at what they receive in our society, it’s tremendously imbalanced in some ways.
This is something I was thinking about. Why is it that some people receive more than others? What is it about a human relationship where a person has the ability to convince other people of a vision, a thought process, a worldview? Other people are like, “I agree with that worldview. I agree with that.” It’s interesting because why is it then that some people reap more benefits in a relationship than others? Think about someone who’s got a multinational corporation, a juggernaut huge business, or someone who’s a celebrity who gets lots of money, materialism, wealth and privilege thrown at them. Why do we do that as human beings?
This may be a tangential conversation. It’s difficult to navigate this. We see a person who is on the receiving end of the buy-in of lots of other humans. The only reason that someone becomes wealthy, the only reason that someone has an advantage in a relationship is because the other people in that relationship look at that other person and go, “They’re worthy of that. Let’s give them more money. Let’s give them more attention. Let’s give them more privilege.” Sometimes it’s at the expense of what they want. Let’s talk about that. That happens in romantic relationships. That happens in a business context. It’s almost like a spell that people have that they cast on other people like, “This person is smart, talented, and worthy of wealth, privilege, love and success.” They get more and more of it.
It comes down to the dynamics of how we relate to one another. You see this a lot. You talked about our parent’s and grandparent’s generation. I remember growing up and I remember looking at the adult relationships in my life. In most cases, the adult relationships I grew up mirroring were tremendously imbalanced in the sense that there was one person in the relationship who had the power, controlling the money, had the decision-making abilities on the house, the cars, the food, etc. Most times, it was the man in the relationship.
Generations past, man held that power and wielded that in society but why do we as humans capitulate to that degree? Why do we give so much power to other people and say, “That’s the way it is. They deserve it. I don’t deserve it. Let’s give it to them.” We do this all the time in human society. The real question is why do we do that? Is it because we feel safer doing that? We want to be led by someone. It’s easier if they figure it out. Let them handle the taxes, the money, the big decisions. I don’t want to think about that.
In many cases, we give away a lot of our power and relationship. With your situation of figuring this stuff out with your friend, it’s not necessarily that there is a power struggle but maybe there is subtly so. Maybe there are these subtle power dynamics in every relationship if we get into it, whether those are sexual power dynamics, financial power dynamics, ego power dynamics or social status power dynamics. Without even consciously thinking about it, I feel like there are these little dynamic tensions that play out in every relationship in our life. It comes down to the hard work, which you’re doing and the reason you brought this up, Whitney. It’s like, “Does this work for me, giving this much power away through people-pleasing, through capitulation, through being like, ‘It’s okay. You can do it. You can have that. You can have the money. You can have the thing. You can make the decision.’”
Maybe sometimes we don’t want to make the decision. I observed in human relationships, we give certain people tremendous power, wealth, influence and privilege at the expense of making ourselves small. We make ourselves small, why? It feels safe. It feels good. Maybe as kids, we were told to be quiet. Good children are quiet. Good children don’t make a fuss. Good children don’t ask too much. Good children don’t resist. They capitulate to what their parents tell them.
In many ways, when we speak up for ourselves, when we state a preference, when we go against the grain, when we see leaders or people in influential positions and say, “I don’t want to listen to you. I’m not going to do it the way you’re telling me to.” We pay a price for that. Some people don’t want to pay that price because we can be shamed. We can be cast out. We can be pariah. It’s like, “He’s a problem. He’s the troubled child.” Think about that.
In school, this is a pattern that is hammered into us. As an example, I would wear certain banned t-shirts in high school. I remember being asked by certain teachers not to wear those shirts because they found them offensive. I was like, “Fuck you.” I got sent to the principal’s office because I had no capacity for some fuck head to tell me what I could and could not wear. We’re talking about rebelliousness. For me, rebelliousness comes out through rage. Some people are like, “Rage is a bad thing.” No, it’s not. When people want to oppress you and tell you what you should be doing, their moral code should be your moral code. You shouldn’t wear that Nine Inch Nails t-shirt. You shouldn’t wear that Pantera t-shirt. You shouldn’t wear that Deadeye Dick t-shirt because it’s offensive. It’s offensive to you and I don’t care.
Some readers would be like, “Jason is a real dick.” No. I have no tolerance in my life for people trying to oppress me and have me align with their sense of morality and convince me that my morality should align with their morality. In school and as children, it’s pounded into us, “Be good little children and you’ll get the carrots. Be bad little children, you’ll be punished.” That’s one reason why humanity does not rise up against the powers that be because many billions of us have been conditioned to be quiet and obedient. Quiet and obedient people, human beings don’t challenge the status quo, do they? We’re conditioned to be quiet, obedient people and grow up to be quiet, obedient adults who don’t question and don’t rise up against the bullcrap that we face in this world. The rant is over.
This is all important. There’s a lot to untangle here. A lot of what you’re saying, Jason, is addressed in the book, Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents. I was going through some of the quotes because there are parts that talk about why we play small. One that addresses what I’ve been expressing is that children who have these parental figures will do whatever is necessary to make some connection with their parents. They learn to put other people’s needs first as the price of admission in a relationship. Instead of expecting others to provide support or show interest in them, they may take on the role of helping others, convincing everyone that they have few emotional needs of their own. It’s exactly what I was describing. I wonder how many people this resonates with. This is why it’s important to talk about it.
Emotionally mature people may tell you how they feel about what you did but they don’t pretend to know you better than you know yourself. I have felt like other people know better than I know better. I had to start to stand up and say, “I know my needs better than anybody else. My whole life, I’ve been conditioned to believe that somebody else knows better than I do.” A lot of our society is that way, Jason, as part of your point. Self-trust becomes a huge issue. I grew up also wondering, “Why don’t I trust myself? Something must be wrong with me. I must be doing something wrong.” The more I look into this stuff, it’s like, “Of course, I don’t trust myself. I was trained not to trust myself.”
Trust is my word for 2021. It keeps coming up for me. It’s not easy to trust when you’ve been conditioned not to trust yourself. When you’ve been conditioned to trust somebody else, but deep down, you feel, like, “I shouldn’t fully trust them. I deserve to trust and have a say as much as they do. How come what they say goes?” That question is incredibly important. It’s like you realizing, “Just because someone says that my shirt is offending somebody, it doesn’t mean that I have to take it off.” That’s why corporate jobs are tough for many of us.
I remember when I used to work for Apple, which was an amazing company as a whole. I have little negative stories to share about my time at Apple. One that comes to mind was I got in trouble for wearing shorts that they perceived were too short. I remember thinking, “This is such bullcrap. This is the style of shorts these days.” They were concerned with them being revealing. I felt so much shame for wearing them to work. They almost sent me home. They wanted me to go home, change my shorts, and then come back to work. I was like, “The time that’s going to take me, my shift is going to be over. I have important things to do.”
It was towards the end of my Apple career, but at the time, I had the highest role I ever did at Apple. I was a teacher there. I instructed people at Apple and gave presentations. I was like, “I have a presentation to give. You can’t send me home.” It was one of those moments where I’m like, “What matters more, my shorts or the things I have to say? You hired me because of my intellect and personality. You didn’t hire me to box myself into what you think looks a certain way.” Granted, I understand that’s the way corporations work. I’m not saying they were out of line. I’m saying where are the priorities here? I’m never going to wear shorts like that to work again. It’s not worth it.
When I put on those shorts, I wasn’t thinking, “These are inappropriate.” It’s like when you put on that shirt, Jason, you weren’t like, “I’m going to go piss off my band teacher.” That’s what you want to wear. You are trusting yourself to wear something that felt good. It’s all these little moments that add up where we start to doubt ourselves because other people perceive things differently. That’s why there are some jobs we don’t feel suitable for. I don’t want a job where I have to examine every article of clothing and how I do my hair. In Apple, I’m sure it’s not even the most critical.
I was also seeing this on TikTok how people sometimes wear wigs to their job because they’re not allowed to show colored hair. If they want to have pink hair, they’re not allowed in a job. There’s this woman on TikTok who wanted purple hair. She’s a blonde woman. She had it hidden. The hairdresser hid it in the back of her head. It was purple in the back but when she put her hair down normally, all you saw was blonde. If she lifted it up into a ponytail, you could see her purple hair. She did that so she could have the best of both worlds. At work, she wore her hair down. When she was out and about, she would do her hair in different styles and you can see the purple in it, which was creative I will say.
It’s that freedom that we crave. It’s that boxed in that can be challenging for us. For some people it’s easy but I wonder, why is it easy for you to be boxed in? I’ve been watching that documentary Persona on HBO, which talked about an episode we recorded. What’s fascinating about that documentary is the part about the workplace and how a lot of jobs will evaluate you. If they see parts of your personality that don’t fit into their culture, they won’t hire you, which makes logical sense. It’s also a form of discrimination. Going back to what you say, Jason, it’s that control. It’s like, “Can we control you? Can we mold you into the person that we think you should be to be successful, to make money, to fit in?” We want to people-please. As human beings, it’s our nature for survival to try to fit in. Sometimes it’s a little too extreme. That’s the big point here.
I’m going to continue reading Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents to try to understand some of the ripple effects that I had on my life, either directly from my parents but also indirectly from other people’s parents. A whole other level of this is other people’s parents or other people, in general, have big impacts on you, your teachers, your friends’ parents, the boss that you had. I’ve had all sorts of interesting experiences with bosses. It’s a relief to be my own boss for that reason but that also comes with a whole another level of responsibility. This is a complex thing and it shows up in many different facets of our lives. For me, I’m working on setting boundaries. I’m working on developing more self-trust. I’m working on being assertive. I’m working on putting myself first which even saying that out loud. I still feel unsure about putting myself first. It’s a lot to examine.
I commend you, Whitney, on doing this and examining yourself and getting uncomfortable with some of these things that are coming up for you. This is not easy work. This is hard work. It’s painful work. It’s uncomfortable work. Sometimes we can be shocked by what we find within ourselves. This is a quote from someone maybe you know, “An unexamined life is not one worth living.” I don’t remember who said that. When I heard that quote years ago, it resonated with me. I don’t want to live in the dark. You don’t want to live in the dark. Hopefully, you, dear reader, don’t want to live in the dark in the sense of walking through life as an unconscious automaton doing what you’re told and never questioning what’s inside your own heart. Let’s be blunt. There are billions of people living that way on this planet. It’s not that I’m saying they’re less than us or worse than us but I don’t want to live that way.
Whitney, you’re committed to examining your life and looking at who you are. If that disappoints, angers, confuses, confounds people, if we want to live and be in a process of evolving and finding out who we are and what we are constantly changing into, there’s going to be friction. There’s going to be disappointments. There’s going to be people who are like, “Who are you? I don’t even know you anymore.” If we are going to live an authentic, meaningful, examined, soulful life, these are the risks that we need to choose to take. One of the reasons why we do this show and continue to show up and have these conversations is to try and peel those layers back and get to the heart of who we are. There’s no endpoint to this discussion. There’s no endpoint to this journey.
We encourage you to share your journey with us. Sometimes we get these deep, long, open, beautiful emails with people sharing their life experiences and the tough things they’re going through. If you’re in a process of trying to heal and find out more of who you are as a being and you’re managing family, business, career and whatever healing work you’re doing, we want to hear from you. Sharing stories with each other and sharing our life experiences is part of the healing process. You can always shoot Whitney and me a direct email at [email protected].
That being said, Whitney, I love you and appreciate you. This was a good episode, a necessary episode. I’m sure it’s not the end of this conversation about people-pleasing and setting boundaries and speaking our truth. Until the next one. We love you. We appreciate you. Thank you for your support. If this episode resonated, please do share it with your friends and family and maybe even people you don’t like. Maybe they need it too. Maybe if you’re in conflict with someone in your life, send them this episode and maybe it’ll spark a more loving conversation. Who knows? Until next time, thanks for getting uncomfortable. We’ll see you with another episode soon.
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- Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents
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