Not long ago I came across this article discussing the issue of women and people pleasing. Niceness and the detrimental long term effect that has on us. How the focus on pleasing others affects our health in all aspects–physical included.
As a recovering people pleaser, the article hit home.
Throughout my life I’ve chalked my people pleasing up to loyalty or trying to do what’s best for others. Try to keep the peace. Be nice. Show kindness and generosity through deference.
The problem is, I didn’t realize that my actions were destroying my own peace. With every ‘yes’ to someone else, I was often saying ‘no’ to myself and losing my voice in the process.
According to the American Thyroid Association, 1 in 8 women will develop a thyroid disorder during her lifetime. Women are also 5-8 times more likely than men to have a thyroid condition. Eastern practices suggest that these thyroid issues might be partly due to our greater inclination to repress our own voice and/or needs for the sake of others. In doing so we repress the throat chakra–the seat of the thyroid.
I don’t fully subscribe to all Eastern beliefs, but the concept is worth considering, especially in light of other evidence. And while I don’t think it’s just one thing that contributes to this issue, women’s tendency to not use their voice is a consideration that needs to be made.
There’s something beautiful and fascinating that happens in your late 30s and early 40s where you begin to awaken to the fact that you’ve gotten a little lost. Maybe some wake up sooner, I don’t know. I hope so for their sake. What I didn’t realize all these years is that sometimes kindness to others means putting kindness to yourself aside. And that’s NOT a healthy thing to do to yourself over and over and over.
So this holiday, a few days before Christmas and when kids were partly in school and partly not and the schedules were shifted due to finals and concerts and class parties, I found myself (last minute no less) waiting in line at the store buying crafts for a class party.
I had one teenager, one toddler, and one rambunctious elementary age child with me. Three. Three kids. All boys.
With a full cart and already 20 minutes late to pick up my other teenager at school, I stood in line with toddlers/boys that could melt down or disrupt the peace of the store at a moment’s notice. Thankfully there was only one person ahead of me. So far, so good. I’m counting the minutes and moments between the boys, hoping they hold it together for our few remaining minutes in the store.
Full of generosity of spirit, the lady behind me asks if I’d be so kind as to let the lady behind her go ahead of the both of us, because well, said lady has only two items in her arms. And it is the holidays after all and wouldn’t that just be so nice? To do that for her?
“Would you mind if we let this woman behind me go ahead of you? She only has two items.”
And in a split second so many thoughts flooded my mind. Yes it would be nice to let her go ahead. But yes, I’m also late and I’m also with children. And yes, that would require me to deny her request. At the end of that split second, I was able to reply,
“Oooohhh, that’s so kind of you, but yes, yes I would mind. I’m already late to pick up my daughter. Thank you for asking though! That’s so thoughtful!”
She didn’t really know how to respond, and that’s ok. She didn’t expect me to deny her request. I didn’t spend another second thinking about it though and went on handing my items to the cashier. The boys did great; they held it together. The ladies behind me survived. My teenager called to make sure I hadn’t completely forgotten her–I assured her we hadn’t, and I.kept.my.peace.
In that split second I found my voice and USED it.
SEEING THE CHANGE
I really did think it was kind of her to ask. And I responded to her in kindness. But I said, “NO.”
I spoke up for myself, for what I needed to do for me and for my family, and I didn’t seek to please the woman behind me or the woman behind her (who I might add were both without children in tow.)
A small shift? Maybe. But I think this is huge.
I knew how to be kind to me, and I did it. I knew how to respond kindly to her and I did that too. I didn’t lose my peace and I didn’t lose my power either. And that was glorious.
Here’s to keeping your peace and your power in 2020 and if you’re a recovering people pleaser like me, here’s to finding YOUR OWN voice a little more each day.
What’s one step you can take today to know your voice and use it? I’d love to hear it.