The dangers of people-pleasing, with Sally Hardie

My guest today is Sally Hardie, a certified life coach who specialises in working with successful women who feel unfulfilled in their lives. Sally and I met while we were both studying for our coaching certification, because we were assigned to coach one another. This meant that our friendship began, as Sally puts it, “inside-out.” We got to know one another’s deepest feelings, hopes and fears before either of us had any idea about the other’s families, hobbies, or their preferences for tea or coffee.

In today’s conversation, Sally and I talk about a challenge I’m sure many people will be familiar with: people-pleasing. And, more to the point, why this habit can be so damaging, how it holds us back, and how we can overcome it.

Let’s dig in!

Things we talk about in this episode

  • The malaise or dissatisfaction many successful women feel when they achieve something they’ve worked long and hard to achieve, only to feel exactly the same as they did at the very beginning, no more “valid” than they felt before
  • Being open about our challenges (such as mental health dips) as well as our successes in public, which in turn helps people in our community recognise that the two need not be mutually exclusive
  • Showing up in public with an attitude of inclusivity
  • Sally’s definition of people-pleasing (and this might be a difficult pill to swallow but the medicine is worth taking): “Lying and manipulating situations in other people to feel better about yourself”
  • The difference between people-pleasing and being considerate: “If whatever you’re doing produces a result that you make mean something about you, chances are you’re people pleasing.”
  • The ways in which people-pleasing leads to imposter syndrome (and how Instagram can be a breeding ground for this!)
  • A simple question to ask yourself, in order to recognise if you are people-pleasing or just being thoughtful, “Am I choosing my feelings for myself? Or am I delegating them?”
  • Another useful tip: if you are feeling resentment, it is a good indication that you’re doing something that is out of alignment with what you believe
  • External validation isn’t bad in itself: only when it becomes our only means of self-worth does it turn toxic (because we can’t control all the people all the time!)
  • Sally’s top two tips for overcoming people-pleasing: 1. Awareness – look at your life and start to recognise your people-pleasing patterns 2. Find your voice – begin to establish the values you want to have, and how you want to show up in the world
  • And finally, one of Sally’s own biggest examples of people-pleasing (it involves eating an entire meal of food she knew would make her extremely ill, in order to try and manage her host’s emotions)

Links from this episode