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A while ago I wrote a blog post about overthinking and I was bombarded (and happily so) with so many who could relate and how they too are struggling to shed this pattern and move on. I had friends who couldn’t get why it was this much of a hassle. No one could give me helpful coping tips and I was often told that I am making my life difficult. And I couldn’t really fight them with a rebuttal! They were all right but unhelpful.

Today on Mondays with Madhu, I am going to talk about overthinking’s younger sibling – people pleasing!

For far too long, we have been told that good kids have certain attributes that make them good and if they do anything opposite, they are bad. I for one always wanted to do the right thing but no one ever told me that doing the right thing doesn’t equal doing the things that work in everyone’s favour. Sometimes, you have to take stands, hold your ground and in that process you may ruffle some feathers.

Now I wasn’t the feather ruffling kinds. I was obsessed with coming across as someone who is sweet, who is always unbelievably good and who could never really come across as opinionated (what would the other person think if I said I don’t really like the color of clothes they picked for me and who are happily agreeing to exchange it for something I actually like? *Cue gasp!*).

This all sounds like the textbook version of being a good girl, doesn’t it? I won’t hide, so many times especially when I started attending college, I was put in sticky situations wherein I had to either stand up for myself or for things that were blatantly right. I could never fully say no to the girl who used to yank at braided hair just because she felt like it. I could never look her in the eye, tell her to just BACK OFF and never do it again because of how painful it was. I didn’t know the concept of maintaining healthy boundaries. I would much rather laugh and flinch than tell her to let go! I have also had occasions wherein I was in my rights to tell this person that she was completely unreasonable and she shouldn’t expect this sort of blind support from me but again, I was too scared to lose my good girl charm to even broach this topic. I let this suffering (bold word, I know) continue because it was much easier to be quiet and nice than to be loud and right!

Before you all feel too bad for me this Monday morning, I want to mention that these last few months I have been working on how to stop being likeable ALL THE TIME! I mean, I want to ask you guys, isn’t it annoying if someone is sweet and maybe too nice 24/7? You may wonder what am I hiding? What am I compensating for? Right? Tell me, I won’t be upset! I have actually been snarked at and called “too nice to be true”, “miss goody-two shoes”!

So, let’s see my WIP journey – from being someone super likable to someone who you will actually respect:

  1. Step 1 is to actually acknowledge how unfair you are being against the real person inside you who is waiting to blossom. Recall all those times when you could just cut toxic friendships, bullies, emotional tormentors from your life if you had just spoken up. These characters know you all too well. They know that you’re someone who succumbs to pressure of being liked! Never underestimate the opponent.
  2. These days, it is super easy to get these things into practice. Your biggest helper is your mobile phone. If you think you are not ready to confront face to face, start noticing a pattern wherein you just know that they are going to walk all over you and politely give it back over a text. Trust me, not seeing someone face to face helps a ton especially if you are a beginner just like me! I recently had to cancel a plan because that person kept mentioning how it would have been great if we could have met earlier. I had mentioned my reasons for why I couldn’t but that wasn’t enough apparently. I cancelled the meeting over a few texts explaining how I didn’t appreciate it and moved on.
  3. But HOW did you move on Madhu? Full disclosure I did overthink in phases about me canceling that plan. Maybe I was too harsh, maybe I wasn’t adjusting enough, maybe I should have given some random excuse instead of confronting her. So many maybes, right? You know what remained certain in all of this? The fact that I had no way apart from meeting this person even after hearing the snide remarks, it didn’t really affect her. For her, it was in her rights to stand up and say we should leave early! I had to exert mine then, right? And I did while being nice. Equating negativity with saying what you feel needs to gradually get out of your system. Start today.
  4. Start prioritizing yourself and repeat “I am making my life easy by doing this”. You would see the magic happen. You would see that you are not bending over backwards by trying to manage it all. More often than not, your efforts aren’t even being taken into account. What is the point of being liked when you are invisible to the people you are doing all this for?
  5. Be more than fine with losing people from your life. I strongly believe that this deterred me from stating my opinions and where people went wrong. What if they hate me and decide to call it off? I never knew the satisfaction of standing up for myself to even yearn for it. If you think you speaking up will end your friendship then that friendship was never worth holding onto! You work on equations that are workable, right?
  6. Tell yourself that you are important, your plans are important, your time is important. Let’s stop romanticising empathy and unconditional support. I have often pushed my errands to accommodate late minute requests or meetings with friends, and suffered later because I couldn’t do what I set out to do for myself. I don’t know why I also always thought making a believable excuse than to come out with the actual reason for my absence would make me look better. These days I am much more open to sharing my schedules and working a way to make something happen.

**Disclaimer: I am not saying you should be outright rude and condescending. Prioritising yourself doesn’t give leeway to be selfish, it just makes you aware of what you are capable of and how you can be a better person! Be empathetic, kind and draw boundaries at the same time.

Last example before I conclude, I once committed my college notes to two different people and obviously I had to choose whom to give it to. I chose the person who asked me first. The other one walked up to me and said “What Madhu, you could have just told me your notes weren’t available. I would have asked someone else!” I always wondered how difficult was that to convey?

What do you do to not be a people pleaser? Comment below, let’s chat!

Madhu Narayan
Guest blogger, Plant Life Meals

Plant Life Meals