Fears of isolation, rejection, loneliness, and pointlessness lie underneath even our most seemingly surface fears. These are the fears that drive our people-pleasing behaviors. Part of us believes that if we can just keep people happy and earn a place in their lives, then we will be protected from being unwanted or insignificant.
A big reason we work to shift out of people-pleasing into self-trust is that we don’t want to live our lives dominated by those fears. Moving away from what we don’t want, however, is only part of the equation. When we trust ourselves we can stretch toward our greatest hopes.
This is about more than being able to decline an invitation to the party our family insists we attend or to wear the clothes that make us feel amazing, regardless of how they fit with our friends' style. Honoring your needs, wants, preferences, and opinions is important. I want you to feel free to express yourself in the little things as well as the big things.
Trusting ourselves is key for being able to do our part to create the world we want to live in. Growing our self-trust doesn’t mean our fears will disappear, that we’ll know exactly what to do, or that it won’t hurt if someone disapproves . Rather, it’s about staying with ourselves with compassion as we stretch our comfort zone, figure things out, learn from our mistakes, and take responsibility for any messes along the way.
When we’re less focused on how we’re measuring up, we can be more focused on what we care about. The more we trust ourselves, the more we act on what matters to us…even when doing so is uncertain and uncomfortable. In turn, the more we act on what matters to us, the more we grow our self-trust.
Among my clients and among those of you I’ve talked with, there is a desire to serve others in many different ways (and what I’m talking about here is different from the ways our fear drives us to make ourselves needed ). I see hope that the work we are doing will not only bring more satisfaction, enjoyment, and sovereignty into our individual lives, but that it will ripple out to benefit others as we learn to trust ourselves to do our part to make the world a better place.
Worries about whether we’re focusing on the right things or working toward them in the right ways can land us stuck back in those people-pleasing patterns. This might look like investing our time, energy, and resources on working towards something that doesn’t really matter to us and neglecting what does… Doing the things we think we’re supposed to do and then monitoring to see if our performance is earning approval… Freezing in inaction, avoiding, or giving up when there’s no way to make everyone happy…
When we trust ourselves, we can move toward our hopes with integrity , even if that looks different from what the people around us are doing. We choose our purpose and our steps along that purpose by looking within instead of without.
Now, that doesn’t mean we refuse to listen to anyone else. While what we hope for and how we are uniquely positioned to act toward that hope will differ from person to person, we don’t have to do it on our own. We can trust ourselves to work in connection with others.
Trusting ourselves does not mean we are always right or that we always know what to do. Trusting that our worth is not based on external approval opens us to learn from feedback. It frees us to listen to and learn from other people’s perspectives and experiences without assuming that different has to mean wrong.
Part of recognizing and moving toward our hopes is moving away from the isolation many of us turn to people-pleasing to protect against. The actions we take ripple outward to impact others. As we learn to listen to ourselves, let’s also listen for the voices of others telling us what is helpful and what is hurting.
I want to live in a just world where a person’s intrinsic worth is not a question and where no one has to change or hide pieces of their truest selves to be valued, included, or safe.
My work centers around supporting fellow humans shift from people-pleasing to self-trust. While I come to this work with my own particular lens and life experience, it’s not enough to me to work only for the benefit of those who look like me or come from a similar background.
When we don’t do what others want or expect from us, we risk being criticized, shamed, or rejected. We might find ourselves in a conflict we’d rather avoid. We risk losing relationships or being excluded from community. Most of us are familiar with these risks, but they are only part of the conversation.
That doesn’t address the reality that for many the cost of not looking or acting a certain way is a very real threat to physical safety, freedom, and well-being due to institutional forces and systems. It doesn’t account for pressure to change or hide parts of one’s identity to lessen the gap created by privileges I can take for granted.
When I consider that in light of what I want for the world, it’s clear to me that I have a lot of listening and learning to do as I take imperfect action in the direction of my hope.
Here are a few questions I’m reflecting on this week. I’d love for you to join me.
What do you hope for? What if you dared to hope for even more? What do you want for yourself? For others? For the world?
If you could set aside all the worries about what people will think or about doing it right, what is a step you would take toward what you hope for?
Moving toward hope doesn’t mean we won’t feel fear or that everything will go perfectly. How will you support yourself with compassion along the way?