The Need To Be Needed

Day 1: People Pleasing


I just want to help...

It sounds like a pretty thought. Until you find yourself accomodating others at your own expense.

What do I mean by that?

If you love being able to help others, but find yourself panic-stricken, stressed out, overthinking things, worrying about how you may come across, and ignoring your inner voice, you may want to dig a little deeper.

If you worry about how someone else will receive your message, or what they may think about it. You may want to dig a little bit deeper.

If you think “helping” is creating an environment where someone else is able to feel safe, secure, loved, connected, and supported. You may want to dig a little deeper. That’s an impossible goal. How people feel is ultimately up to them. It’s based on all of their past experiences and their thoughts.

You can contribute to how somone feels, but you’re never responsible for it.

Let’s say that louder for the people in the back.

You can CONTRIBUTE to how someone feels, but you’re never RESPONSIBLE for it.

That goes the other way too. Other people can contribute to how you feel, but they are never responsible for it. Only you are.

Doing a good deed and helping out can feel really good. It's when it starts to feel bad that we want to take a closer look.

When we have a strong need to be needed, we can overlook our own needs.

Feelings of resentment, anger, frustration, and anxiety can indicate that deep down you may feel like if those around you are happy, then you can be happy. But you’re pushing aside your own needs to do so.

This is an age old message that many of us learned in childhood.

As children, we may have learned that if we behaved in a certain way, we would get the love and affection from our parents that we desired.

When we were "good girls and boys" they seemed happy. When we misbehaved, they'd get angry.

Monitoring our behavior became a way of guaranteeing that we could earn their love and affection. We learned that we were responsible for how our parents felt. That we actually could make them happy.

The thought was simple "do whatever we could to keep them happy. To keep the peace."

For some of us we carry that message into our adult lives.

We believe that the main way to interact with people is to be pleasing to them.

The problem is what pleases one person will not please another person.

We all have different likes and preferences.

We can become so busy pleasing others that we forget to please ourselves.

We may not even know what it is that we like, because we've never paid attention to that. We've made it our habit to only notice what others like and follow suit.

So how might this show up?

Maybe someone's...

  • having a rough day.

  • needing a favor

  • wanting to vent about something

  • just living their life when you suddenly see a way to make things even "better"

  • figuring things out

What do you do?

You may...

  • jump in to help

  • roll up your sleeves and get to work

  • rearrange your schedule

  • ignore your preferences

  • suck it up and keep your honest opinion to yourself

Why? Because you know, they're upset. Why not just keep the peace? It's not that hard to do.

Over time “keeping the peace” can chip away at you until you are a big ole bundle of nerves.

When I dug a bit deeper, the first step for me was noticing when I felt that small familiar flutter in my chest.

It happened in situations that for many people would seem like no big deal.

With friends when they’d say:

“That doesn’t work for me, can you come earlier?” then once I’d agreed to come earlier they’d ask at the last minute “I’m running behind, will a little later work?”

With bosses if they said:

“Why couldn’t I reach you yesterday?” or “What have you been working on?”

With family when they questioned:

“Why wouldn’t you want to (fill in the blank)?” or “What do you mean that’s not how you remember it?”

It was almost never about the words that were said, but rather the way in which they were spoken.

My brain would hear the tone with which they said something first, that implied that someone was upset with me. The tone sent a message to my brain that I was in dangerous territory and had better tread carefully. Or else.

Or else what?

That is the question I began asking my brain. What is the worst that can happen here?

In some cases, there would be tension, a disagreement, conflict. All of that is uncomfortable for me. I like smooth sailing. I mean, can’t we all just get along?

When I really asked myself what am I actually afraid of here? It was a feeling. It was the discomfort of disagreement, disappoinment, anger, judgement, dislike and conflict.

It was the fear of “what if I’m not expressing myself clearly and they misunderstand?”

It felt like at all costs, I needed to keep them happy. Because if they were happy I must be doing something right. It was proof that I was doing a job well done. That I was getting that A on my paper. Hearing clearly what was requested and responding accordingly.

I think when we have adhd tendencies one of the things that can happen is we distrust ourselves. We can be unclear on expectations. It can be hard to pick up on subtle social clues, so we can become oversensitive to ALL clues. We have our antennae up for when we might be headed for trouble and we try to avoid it at all cost.

Over time, when we hold peace as the end all be all, over the truth (our truth), what’s true for us that is, the conflict that we’re trying to avoid shows up as internal conflict.

We think we’re avoiding it, but we still experience it, it’s just within ourselves and feels just as bad if not worse.

Step one is just to notice when you feel uncomfortable. Notice where you feel it first. Like I said, for me it is a little flutter in my chest. My heart skips a beat or two and I feel a little light headed. So subtle.

Once you notice it, just breathe in and exhale slowly. Try not to judge yourself or the other person. Just notice what you’re feeling and name it.

I’m feeling nervous. I’m feeling anxious. I’m feeling scared.