Episode 23: How to Set & Honor Boundaries

The Less Stressed Lawyer | How To Set & Honor Boundaries

The Less Stressed Lawyer | How To Set & Honor Boundaries

In last week’s episode, I discussed the first of the three P’s: people-pleasing. Now, I was all ready to jump into the other P’s: procrastination and perfectionism, but I realized there was a missing piece to help you understand all of this. None of this work is possible if you can’t set and honor boundaries.

So, what is a boundary and how do they relate to people-pleasing? Boundaries are essentially limits or rules that we set within our relationships to protect or care for ourselves, whether at work or in our personal lives. When you have boundaries, you are clear on what you will and won’t stand for, and what you’re willing to expose yourself to, and we’re diving into all of it today.

Tune in this week to discover how to set and honor boundaries. I’m sharing why boundaries are decisions you make for yourself, rather than manipulating or threatening other people, and I’m showing you how to decide on and uphold the consequences in the event that your boundaries are violated.

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What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • Why boundaries are always something you set for yourself, not a way of controlling other people’s behavior.
  • Some examples of boundaries and how to structure them.
  • How to communicate your boundaries to other people, while accepting their free will as human beings.
  • The difference between a boundary and a threat.
  • Why you don’t need to explain yourself or communicate your boundaries to anyone else in order to uphold them.
  • How to decide on the consequences you will take if your boundaries are violated.
  • The importance of following through on the consequences you’ve decided to enforce around your boundaries.
  • My step-by-step process for setting boundaries and honoring them every day.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

Full Episode Transcript:

You’re listening to The Less Stressed Lawyer podcast, Episode 23. We’re talking all about how to set and honor boundaries. You ready? Let’s go.

Welcome to The Less Stressed Lawyer, the only podcast that teaches you how to manage your mind so you can live a life with less stress and far more fulfillment. If you’re a lawyer who’s over the overwhelm and tired of trying to hustle your way to happiness, you’re in the right place. Now, here’s your host, lawyer turned life coach, Olivia Vizachero.

Hey there, how’s it going this week? I hope you are doing so well. I am marvelous over here. I actually have a little bit of a course correction for this episode. I got to thinking, after I recorded the last episode, and I was ready to dive in to one of the next two P’s out of the three P’s, I was going to talk about perfectionism or procrastination.

But then it dawned on me, I was like; whoa, need to slow down. After talking about people-pleasing, and how to stop people-pleasing, I realized now is a perfect time to teach you how to set and honor boundaries, so that’s what I want to talk about today.

What is a boundary, and how do boundaries relate to people-pleasing? Boundaries are essentially limits or rules that we set for ourselves, within our relationships with other people. If you’re thinking about a boundary being an imaginary line, it’s between you and the other person. It delineates where you end, and the other person begins.

Now, boundaries are something that we create, to care for and protect ourselves. The proper way to phrase a boundary, they should always be formatted in the following way; if you do blank, so if another person does a particular action, I will do blank. If you do blank, I will do blank.

If you come over unannounced, I will not answer the door. If you email me after 8pm, I will not respond till the following morning. If you bring up politics, I will end the conversation. Notice the format here; it’s always about what you do, the action you take, after another person does something. It’s not about controlling that person’s behavior.

You always want to make sure that your boundaries take into account the truth, and the reality that other people have free will and they get to exercise it at their leisure. When you have boundaries, you’re clear on what you will and what you won’t stand for, and what you will and what you will not expose yourself to.

Boundaries are always something that you do for you. Again, it’s a way that you take care of yourself. They’re not against anyone else. It’s a manual that you follow yourself; the actions that you take, so you know that when something happens, when a particular set of facts occur, this is what you do to take care of yourself. The consequence of a boundary violation is always an action that you take, it’s not what someone else does.

Now, here are a few things that boundaries can be. A boundary can include a request that you make of someone else to change their behavior. But it doesn’t have to include that request, it just simply can. For instance, if you don’t want to talk politics with a member of your family, you can ask them to not bring up politics when you guys speak.

But again, you want to remember that a boundary always takes into account someone’s free will. Your family members, no matter how many times you ask them not to talk about politics, they get to bring up politics over and over and over again. Your boundary can be that you will not have a conversation with them, that you end the conversation, that you walk away.

Now, you don’t have to make the request, you can simply tell yourself, in your head, that under no uncertain terms will you talk politics with family members. When it happens, you can just change the subject or end of the conversation and walk away. You don’t have to ask them to be any different.

You also don’t have to communicate a boundary. You can communicate it, you can tell the person, to whom it applies, that you’re setting the boundary, but you don’t have to, it’s not required. If you decide to set a boundary at work that you don’t answer emails on the weekend, you don’t need to send an office wide email letting everyone know about your boundary. You can simply just not respond to emails on the weekend.

It may go more smoothly if you’re instituting an abrupt change in your own behavior, because you’re setting a boundary, to communicate it to other people just so everyone’s on the same page. But it’s absolutely not required.

A lot of times also, it doesn’t even make sense for you to communicate it. You know those memes where it’s like: Nobody, and then colon, and then it’s blank? And then, it’s like your behavior, what you’ve been doing. So, it’s like; nobody asks you something, or nobody does anything, and then you do something anyways. That’s kind of what it looks like to communicate a boundary, when maybe the situation doesn’t call for it.

I just want you to notice that you might have a tendency to want to be overly communicative, as far as your boundaries go. Normally, we do that, because we want other people to understand our behavior, to be accepting of it, and to not judge what we do.

If you are okay, feeling misunderstood, which I really think is a superpower for us to practice; allowing other people to misunderstand us, or to not get why we’re doing something and for us to be okay with that. If it doesn’t make sense for you to communicate the boundary, because there hasn’t even been a boundary violation, you don’t have to communicate it. You can, it’s just not required.

Speaking of boundary violations, you can also inform someone when they’ve violated one of your boundaries. But again, you don’t have to. You don’t have to tell people that they violated it, you can simply do whatever the consequence is, which is always the action that you will take when someone violates your boundary. You don’t have to explain yourself, that part is optional.

Now, what is required when you’re setting boundaries? All of your boundaries are going to be about the action that you take when there’s a violation of a boundary that you’ve set. It really is about the consequence that you’re going to enact and follow through with. When you’re setting a boundary, that is required. You want to make sure that you’re following through on what you’ve decided the consequences will be, that you will enforce.

If you set a consequence, and then the boundary violation occurs, and you don’t enforce the consequence, you don’t follow through, you haven’t actually set a boundary. What you’ve simply done is made an idle threat.

And, you make it a lot less likely that people are going to honor your boundaries going forward, because they’ve learned that there’s no consequence that they’re going to suffer if they don’t honor your boundary. So, you make it much less likely that people will honor and respect your boundaries, if you don’t enforce them and stick to the ones that you’ve set.

Now, let’s flesh this out a little bit more: What’s the difference between a boundary and a threat? A threat is always about what you want that person to do, it’s about controlling their behavior. And then, you threaten some negative consequence, in hopes that they’ll change their behavior. Threats and ultimatums are very similar this way.

A boundary isn’t an effort to control someone else’s behavior. It’s just simply always about what you will do for yourself, to care for yourself. If you make a boundary request of someone and they violate your boundary, and you do not follow through on instituting that consequence that you previously decided upon, all you’ve done is make that idle threat.

I want you to remember, that isn’t a boundary. Boundaries aren’t about manipulating someone else’s behavior. Boundaries are not about expecting someone else to change for your sake, to make your life easier, to make your life more comfortable. That’s not what they’re about. Other people don’t have to do anything that you want them to do. They certainly can, and you’re welcome to ask them. But that’s not the point of setting a boundary. Boundaries aren’t intended to control other people’s behavior.

Why are they not intended to control other people’s behavior? Because you simply can’t control other people’s behavior. People, and we can go back and forth on this, whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but people have free will. We just have to acknowledge and accept that that is the way the world works; that people have free will and they get to do with it what they want.

You also have free will and you get to do with it what you want. If what you want to do is set an honor a boundary, you’re more than welcome to do it. But we don’t set and honor boundaries, in order to control or manipulate another person. We do it to protect ourselves and to keep ourselves from people-pleasing and doing things we don’t want to do, or putting ourselves in situations we don’t want to be in. It’s always about the action we take to take care of ourselves.

Now, another huge misconception I see when people are setting and honoring boundaries, is that they mistakenly believe that it’s another person’s job to respect their boundaries. People will set a boundary, and then they will think that other people need to respect their boundaries.

That is false. The only person who ever has to respect your boundaries, is you. Why is that? Well, it has the misfortune of being true, because honestly, you’re the only person within your control. If it was someone else’s job to respect your boundaries, and they get to have free will and do whatever they want, chances are, they may not respect your boundaries. It just doesn’t work that way.

The only person who ever needs to respect your boundaries is you, because boundaries are truly about what you will do when someone else takes a certain action, or engages in a certain behavior. Okay? Boundaries are not ultimatums. It’s not about manipulating someone or controlling what they do or don’t do.

They’re also not opportunities to blame other people for your behavior. I see this a lot. People will say, “Well, this person did this. And they’re just forcing me to act this way because of what they did.” No, no, no, that’s not how it works. No one ever forces you to act a certain way.

If you’re saying no to something, or you’re refusing to do something, or you’re taking a particular action, it is not because of another person’s behavior. You’re always exercising a choice. You never have to do anything, you’ve heard me say this before, except eat, breathe, drink some water and sleep sometimes.

No one’s forcing you to do anything. You really want to make sure that you step into emotional adulthood here, and you honor your choice that you’re making. No one’s forcing you to take a particular action. You’re always making a decision and exercising your own free will.

Boundaries also aren’t escape routes. Oftentimes, people will say, “You know what? I’m done with this person. I don’t want to have anything to do with them. I’m cutting them off. I want them out of my life.”  They’re doing this, A, not from a clean space. What I mean by that, is they’re doing it from a highly emotional space, they’re really worked up. And, they’re being a little reactionary, in making that decision to cut someone out of their life.

But they do that rather than going through the trouble of actually creating proper boundaries, and learning how to navigate what may feel like a triggering relationship in their lives. Learning how to set a boundary and honor it and how to take care of themselves, rather than having to go to the extreme end of the spectrum, and just eliminate people entirely.

So, you want to check in with yourself. Are you doing that to avoid having to do the heavier lifting that comes from setting and honoring a boundary? Are you going to that drastic extreme, where you just say, “Absolutely not; I don’t want to deal with this at all?”

Can you cut people out of your life? Sure, you can. That can be a more draconian boundary that you set. But you want to make sure that you like your reasons for doing that, and that maybe you’ve tried a more subtle approach before you get to that extreme outcome.

Maybe that you’ve learned how to set and honor boundaries that make the relationship work. Where you make yourself clear about what you’re looking for in the relationship. You might ask them to do certain things for you. And then, you get to decide what you will do if they don’t follow suit, if they don’t make space and accommodate your request.

But people that trigger us can often be our best teachers. I want you to be careful with how you set boundaries. Ask yourself; have I put in the work yet to make this relationship work for me, in my life? Have I figured out what my own limitations are in this relationship? What would it look like if I believed that we could have a healthy productive relationship, rather than needing to go to this extreme?

Let’s talk about some examples of boundaries. I mentioned this earlier, but I’m just gonna reiterate it. If someone comes over to your house unannounced, and I don’t know if you grew up in a family like I did, but I did not grow up in a ‘drop over whenever you want, without letting anyone know, or without being invited’ kind of family. That was a big no-no, growing up for me.

But I know not everyone is like that. Some people think; oh, it’s no big deal. We’re friends, I’ll drop by whenever. But if you grew up like I did, and that’s not normal, and you don’t really enjoy it, a proper boundary would be; if someone comes over unannounced, I will not answer the door. A boundary is not you telling everyone in your life; do not come over unannounced.

The reason that’s not a boundary is because it doesn’t provide for people to exercise free will. People get to come over unannounced as often as they want, simply because they can come over whenever they choose to. A proper boundary here, is you deciding what you will do if they do it.

This is how boundaries and people-pleasing relate to one another. People-pleasing might be someone coming over unannounced and you answering the door, even though you really don’t want to, because you think that it would be rude if you didn’t, and you’d feel guilty not answering the door. So, you choose to answer it, even though you’d really prefer not to. A proper boundary is how you take care of yourself, if someone doesn’t listen to your request, for them to call before they come over.

Another example of a boundary would be choosing to end a conversation if someone brings up a topic you’re not comfortable talking about. Now, you can communicate this boundary and ask them not to discuss a certain topic ahead of time. But you don’t have to, that part’s optional. But if they bring it up, which they’re able to because again, they have the free will, it’s about what you will do in the event they do bring it up.

I used to date someone, and he always liked to talk to me about politics. Now, we didn’t agree on our political ideologies. It was really a source of tension in our relationship. Finally, one day, I decided to set a boundary in this area; if you bring it up, I will not respond. It wasn’t always easy, but I did start to honor that boundary.

Lo and behold, if you stop talking to someone and you refuse to engage in a conversation, guess what they stop doing? They stop bringing up conversations that you don’t want to talk about. Same thing, if you don’t answer the door every time someone comes over unannounced, chances are they will stop wasting their own time, and coming over unannounced. Because they don’t get what they want, when they do it.

Another really good example, and this is kind of just an everyday example, but this has come up in my personal life, too, boundaries with food. If you have certain things that you’d like to eat, and certain things that you would like to not eat, a proper boundary is what you will do if someone serves something that you will not eat.

You can certainly ask other people to take your dietary preferences into account, but they get to ignore your preferences, and they get to prepare whatever it is that they want to prepare. You can have a boundary that looks like; if you serve pasta, and I’m not eating gluten, or I’m not eating carbs, I will just not eat it.

If you consistently serve something that I’m not eating, I will stop coming over for dinner. If you invite me over for dinner, rather than me trying to control everything you serve, I will bring something that I can eat myself. And, I won’t worry about offending you, or you being upset by that, or feeling disrespected. I’m just going to take care of me.

An example of something that isn’t a boundary; is telling people what they need to serve and then getting mad at them if they don’t. That’s just trying to control other people’s actions, which you don’t want to do. You’ll be very upset if you do because they get to act in accordance with what they want to do. Not with what you want them to do.

Another example of a great boundary; is to not work on weekends. People will often say, “You know, I told people I don’t want to work on weekends. And clients keep calling me, or they send me emails, or my colleagues keep sending me emails. And, I told them to stop sending me emails.” That is not a boundary. That’s trying to control other people’s behavior. A proper boundary is; if you email me on the weekend, I will not respond until Monday, because I don’t work weekends.

Same thing with unscheduled calls. You can ask people to only call you at certain times, but guess what? They get to not listen. A proper boundary is; if you call me, and we don’t have a call that’s been scheduled ahead of time, I will not answer. That’s proper boundary there.

Another great example: is people speaking to you in a certain manner. If someone yells at you, a lot of times people think, “Well, I’m not going to let him talk to me like that. I’m not going to let her talk to me that way.” We’ll try and control someone else’s behavior, and how they act towards us. That is not a proper boundary.

A proper boundary is; if you yell at me, or if you swear at me, I will end the conversation and walk out of the room. That you’re just not going to be here to tolerate that kind of behavior.

Another great boundary example, this happens to people all the time is interacting with people who are perpetually late. This tends to be a source of great frustration for people. If you’re dealing with someone who’s late, you might think that setting a boundary is; well, I’m going to tell them that they need to be on time. That is not a proper boundary. That is, again, trying to control other people’s behavior.

What a boundary would look like, in this instance, a proper boundary would be; if you show up more than 15 minutes late, I will not wait for you. Either I will leave, or I’ll order without you. But it’s always about what you will do, in the event someone does that thing, in the event that they’re late.

My cousin once set a great boundary with friends who had wedding showers and bachelorette parties. My cousin lived out of town and a lot of her friend group lives back here in Detroit. She decided that between bachelorette parties and bridal showers and weddings, it was just too much travel for her.

So, she decided that she would only attend bachelorette parties and the wedding, that she would skip bridal showers. Her boundary was; if you invite me to a bridal shower, I will politely decline. She didn’t make people cancel their bridal showers on her account. Or, think that they shouldn’t have them just because she didn’t want to travel home for them. She simply decided that she wouldn’t attend them. It was about what she would do if a certain factual scenario arose.

Here are a couple more examples of what boundaries aren’t: Telling people that they can’t ask you for money. People get to ask you for money as frequently as they want to. And, you get to have a boundary that says; if you ask me for money, I will tell you no.

If someone asks you to take on more work. I coach people on this all the time. They’re like, “I’ve told my boss a million times, I’m too busy. I can’t take on more. He needs to stop giving me work. She needs to stop assigning cases to me.” Yet, their supervisors still assign them more work. Then, they take it and then they’re resentful because they end up people-pleasing, instead of honoring their boundary.

A boundary does not look like; you can’t ask me to take on one more case. Of course, they can keep asking you. A proper boundary would be, when they ask you to take on one more case when you’re already overwhelmed and behind, you say no; no matter how uncomfortable it is.

Another famous example of an ultimatum is when you’ve been in a relationship with someone for a long time, and you say, “We’ve been dating for X number of years or months, or whatever the case may be, by this point in time, you have to marry me.” Of course, they don’t have to marry you. Of course, they don’t have to propose.

A proper boundary wouldn’t be about controlling them and dictating what they have to do. A proper boundary would be; if you don’t propose, I don’t know, let’s say within the next six months, then I will leave. Then I will go date someone else. That would be a proper boundary, not the ultimatum of telling them what they have to do.

Those are some examples of boundaries that come up for a lot of the people that I work with. They are just different random examples, but I hope they inspired you to start thinking about the boundaries that maybe you’ve set in the past. Maybe you didn’t actually set proper boundaries, you set boundaries that weren’t boundaries; they were threats or ultimatums, or attempts to manipulate other people’s behavior.

If that’s the case, you just want to go back to the drawing board and really rethink those boundaries. Think about what you would need to change, in order to set a proper boundary. If a particular set of events or facts takes place and you encounter them, what do you want to do? How are you going to follow through? How will you react? Boundaries are always about what you will do when a particular factual scenario arises.

Now, I want to give you a framework for setting boundaries; a process that you can always walk yourself through. Step number one is to decide on the boundary that you want to set. And, you want to make sure that it fits follows ‘that if you blank, I will blank’ format. So, it is a proper boundary, and it’s not an effort to control someone else’s behavior.

From there, you want to ask yourself; what are my reasons for setting this boundary? Do I like them? If you don’t like your reasons, you want to go back to the drawing board and decide; do I want to actually set this? Do I want to not set this?

Then, I want you, if you decide that you like the boundary and you like your reasons for setting it, you want to decide on the consequence that you will enact if there’s a boundary violation. Okay? So, get really clear on that.

Now, I want you to be honest with yourself; are you willing to implement that consequence, in the event you encounter a boundary violation? Someone violates your boundary. If the answer’s no, then it’s just going to be an idle threat.

You want to decide; is this really a boundary that I want to institute? Chances are, it’s probably not. If you are unwilling to follow through with the consequences that you identified, then you probably want to give up the boundary in the first place.

If you decide that you are willing to follow through and implement the consequence, for the boundary violation, then all you have to do is wait. Again, you can communicate the boundary ahead of time if you want to, but it’s not necessary. You just need to wait and do nothing.

In the event a boundary violation occurs, then you get to decide what are you going to do? Are you going to communicate the boundary? If you are, ask yourself how? Go ahead and do that, communicate it, and then you get to wait again, for there to be another boundary violation. In the event there is another boundary violation, you get to follow through with the consequence.

Decide on the boundary, identify your reasons, and make sure you like them. Decide on the consequence for the boundary violation. Wait for there to be a boundary violation, you don’t have to do anything, unless there is one. If there is one, you get to decide; do you want to communicate the boundary and the fact that there was a violation to the person and wait to see if they violated again? Or, do you just want to institute the consequence, immediately?

Whatever you choose is fine, you get to decide. And then, in the event that there is another violation, you get to institute and implement that consequence, follow through with it, over and over and over again. Okay? that’s just the process; it’s as simple as that.

Now, the second part. That first part is the process of setting boundaries. The process of honoring boundaries is a little different and much simpler. Most people think the hardest part of having boundaries is honoring them. That makes sense. Normally, it’s going to be requiring you to change your behavior, and do something different than what you’ve done in the past.

That’s not always going to be comfortable. That’s okay, the discomfort doesn’t have to be a problem. You just want to anticipate it. If you expect setting an honoring your boundaries to be comfortable, you’re probably going to be disappointed. Normally, it’s uncomfortable.

You might have to feel afraid; you might have to feel guilty, or emotions like that. You might have to feel worried. You might have to feel judged or misunderstood. Because chances are, some people won’t like that you’re setting and honoring your own boundaries, that you’re enforcing them. A lot of people benefit when we people-please them instead of setting and enforcing boundaries.

I just want you to know that it’s okay, if going to work and setting and honoring your boundaries is uncomfortable, especially at first. You just want to identify the specific flavor of discomfort that you’re experiencing, or that you anticipate that you’ll experience, and make a deal with yourself that you’re going to allow yourself to feel that negative feeling. It can’t actually hurt you; you’ll be able to survive it, I promise you. You’ve survived every negative emotion you’ve ever felt.

I also like to remind my clients that, the truth of the matter is, that there’s discomfort both ways, in setting boundaries and in not setting them. I highly recommend people choose the route that gets them the results they want.

If you people-please and you don’t set and enforce a boundary, chances are you’re going to feel really resentful, and frustrated and disappointed in yourself with how you spend your time. Maybe you’ll feel angry with people, or very annoyed.

On the flip side, if you put a boundary in place and honor it, you might have to feel guilty or afraid, or worried or exposed, or misunderstood or judged; any of those negative emotions. If there’s discomfort either way, there’s no way to avoid it ultimately, I’d like you to decide; which discomfort would you prefer to choose? Which discomfort would you rather experience?

My hope for you is that you choose the one that has you spending your time in the way you want to spend it. To have you choose the option that feels most loving and caring to yourself. Okay? I promise on the other side of setting and honoring your own boundaries, you get to live the life you want to live.

If you’re a chronic people-pleaser, and you’re ready to put an end to it, because you really want to live a life that is in integrity and in alignment with your preferences and what you value, and how you want to spend your time, think about the boundaries you want to set and honor. Decide ahead of time, that you’re willing to feel the discomfort that comes from setting and honoring them. And, get to work curating the type of life you want to live.

That’s what I’ve got for you this week. Get out there, identify the boundaries you want to set. Remember, it’s always; if you do blank, I will do blank. It’s always about what you will do. Boundaries always take into account that other people have free will, and get to do whatever it is that they want. You don’t have to like that they do whatever it is that they want, but you do have to acknowledge that they get to.

Alright, have a beautiful week, my friends. I will talk to you in the next episode.

Thanks for listening to The Less Stressed Lawyer podcast. If you want more info about Olivia Vizachero or the show’s notes and resources from today’s episode, visit www.TheLessStressedLawyer.com.

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Episode 22: How to Stop People-Pleasing

The Less Stressed Lawyer | How to Stop People-Pleasing

The Less Stressed Lawyer | How to Stop People-Pleasing

Are you someone that’s always self-sacrificing and putting everyone else’s needs before your own? If this resonates with you, you’re a people-pleaser, and you’re not the only one. It’s okay to be thoughtful, helpful, and altruistic, but if you’re altering what you say and do because of guilt or fear of another person’s reaction, that’s where we run into trouble.

In my past life, I used to be a huge people-pleaser. However, since I found coaching, all that has changed, and I’m excited to share everything I’ve learned about how to stop people-pleasing, so you can break this habit in your own life. And if you don’t think you’re a people-pleaser, I invite you to listen closely because what I’m giving you this week might just surprise you.

Tune in this week to discover how to stop people-pleasing. I’m showing you how to identify your own people-pleasing behaviors, see the areas where you’re sacrificing yourself for the sake of others, and most importantly, how to decide what your life would look like if you stopped people-pleasing.

If you’re interested in taking the coaching topics I discuss on the show a step further, get on the waitlist for the Less Stressed Lawyer Mastermind. This is a six-month group coaching program where you’ll be surrounded by a community of like-minded individuals from the legal industry, pushing you to become the best possible version of yourself. You can get all the information and apply by clicking here

If you enjoyed today’s show, I would really appreciate it if you would leave a rating and review to let me know and help others find The Less Stressed Lawyer Podcast. Click here for step-by-step instructions on how to follow, rate, and review! 

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • What people-pleasing is and how it might be showing up in your professional life.
  • How people-pleasing used to show up in my life before I discovered the world of coaching.
  • The justifications we try to use to show cause for our people-pleasing behavior.
  • How to question yourself and decide whether your kind, thoughtful, helpful behavior is actually people-pleasing.
  • The small ways we ignore our own preferences or desires in our personal lives.
  • Why we people-please and why it actually feels good… in the moment.
  • How to handle the discomfort of saying no and break the people-pleasing cycle in every area of your life.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

Full Episode Transcript:

You’re listening to The Less Stressed Lawyer podcast, Episode 22. Today I’m going to teach you how to stop people-pleasing. You ready? Let’s go.

Welcome to The Less Stressed Lawyer, the only podcast that teaches you how to manage your mind so you can live a life with less stress and far more fulfillment. If you’re a lawyer who’s over the overwhelm and tired of trying to hustle your way to happiness, you’re in the right place. Now, here’s your host, lawyer turned life coach, Olivia Vizachero.

Hi, how’s it going? I am so excited for this episode; this is one of my absolute favorite topics to talk about. A big reason that I love it so much is that I used to be such a horrific people-pleaser in my past life, before I found coaching. I have made so much progress in my own life in this area. I’m excited to talk to you about people-pleasing, and to teach you how to stop doing it, so you can make that same kind of progress yourself.

When I learned the concepts and the tools that I’ve been teaching you throughout all these podcast episodes, I really transformed my behavior. It allowed me to break this habit that I had of people-pleasing. Hopefully, by listening to this and applying what I teach you in this episode, you’re able to start doing that for yourself, too.

Now, before we dive in, I’m going to ask a favor of you. Chances are, you may know a people-pleaser. It’s probably pretty likely that you know someone that’s always putting themselves last, self-sacrificing, putting other people’s needs before their own. If you do know that person, someone like that, if that sounds familiar, I want you to do me a favor and just send this podcast episode to them.

Send it to someone who you think would really benefit from listening to today’s content, just go give it a share. Honestly, I just want to tell you, a podcast episode changed my life. I’ve told you guys that before. So, you sharing this episode with someone could totally transform someone else’s life just by you doing that. You can shoot it to them in a text or an email. Or, if you really want to share the wealth, share it on one of your social media channels and help lots of people not just one person.

I really want to get this podcast into the hands and ears, I suppose, of as many people as possible. I just love thinking about the ripple effect of the work that I do when people share the content that I produce with the people closest to them, the people that are really important to them in their lives. It’s just so incredible for me to think about. Please, and thank you very much, in advance, for turning someone you know on to this episode.

Now, let’s get down to business. Last time we talked, I laid the foundation for the next several episodes that I’m going to release. Right now, we’re talking about the three P’s: People-pleasing, Perfectionism, and Procrastination.

I told you in the last episode that before I dove deep into each one of these topics, I wanted to talk and tell you all about the three qualities that you want to make sure that you exhibit, as you approach each one of these topics. You want to make sure that you are resourceful, patient, and coachable.

Now, if you haven’t listened to that episode, yet, I want you to make sure that you go back and tune into it. You don’t have to drop what you’re doing right this second, finish this episode first. But that episode really is helpful. It might be actually one of my favorite episodes to date, that I’ve done so far.

I want to make sure that you get that foundation, and you’re able to check in with yourself, make sure you have those three qualities: Resourcefulness, Patience, and Coachability. So that you’re able to apply those skill sets, those qualities to the topics that we’re about to cover.

Now that I’ve laid that foundation, it’s time to dive in to the first P: People-pleasing, which I suppose it’s technically two Ps, but work with me here, we’re talking about people-pleasing. What is people-pleasing? People-pleasing is when you say or do something at your own expense, in order to gain favor or approval from the person on the receiving end of your words or actions.

Normally, you’re engaging in whatever behavior that you’re engaging in, out of guilt or fear. You feel guilty, you think that you should be doing what you’re doing. Or, you feel afraid that if you don’t people-please the person there’s going to be some negative outcome.

Ultimately, when you do this, when you’re operating out of fear and trying to avoid the guilt by doing what you’d rather do, and you people-please instead, you ultimately put that other person’s needs and desires above your own.

Now, when you hear me say that people-pleasing is putting another person’s needs or desires before your own, it may sound kind of altruistic to do that. People-pleasing might not sound all that bad. After all, what’s wrong with being nice to people and trying to help them out or make them happy? Right? It sounds like a pretty good thing that you might want to do.

But people-pleasing generally goes beyond being thoughtful, helpful, or kind. Instead, it involves editing or altering what you say and what you do for the sake of another person’s feelings or reactions. You’re doing it at your own expense, making yourself more uncomfortable in order to make someone comfortable.

You know, I used to do this constantly, prior to me finding coaching. But I don’t know that I always had a term for this behavior before I found coaching. I don’t think I would have identified myself as being a people-pleaser, I just thought that I was being dutiful, dedicated, a really caring employee and a caring friend. I would have kind of chalked it all up to that.

But that wasn’t what was going on. Instead, I was people-pleasing. I was constantly sacrificing myself and my own well-being, for the sake of others. That’s a really great way to figure out if what you’re doing constitutes people-pleasing or not. I want you to check in with yourself and see, how does what you’re doing feel to you? Does it feel like love? Like you’re being helpful? Like you’re doing a great thing? Or, does it feel like self-sacrifice? Does it feel like self-abandonment?

That’s a really good way to identify whether what you’re doing is intentional, and serving you, and a great thing. Or, if it really is people-pleasing, and it’s not setting you up for success. It’s not you exhibiting self-care towards yourself.

Another really good litmus test here is for you to ask yourself; does doing what I’m doing feel like a lie? That’s what people-pleasing ultimately is, it’s lying. You’d prefer to be saying or doing something else entirely. And, if it was solely up to you, and you weren’t exposed to someone else’s reaction or judgment, you’d behave differently.

But because you have a perception of how someone else will think or how they’ll feel and what they’ll do as a result of that, you do what they asked you to do. Or maybe, they didn’t even ask you, so you just do what you think that they would want you to do, if they haven’t asked. You’re doing it, again you’re lying, in your words or actions instead of saying or doing what you would if no one else had an opinion about it.

Now, you may be listening to this episode and as soon as you saw the title of it, you knew this one was for you. You’re like raising your hand, “Olivia, I’m a people-pleaser,” and if that’s the case, that’s awesome. You’re in the right place, and I’m going to teach you how to stop.

But maybe that’s not you. I have quite a few clients who don’t realize that they’re people-pleasers; they don’t identify with that label. They were kind of like I was before I found coaching, they just thought that they were being a good employee, or a good friend, or a good spouse, or a good sibling, or a good daughter or son, right? They don’t identify as people-pleasing.

But during the course of our work together, they really do learn that they are a people-pleaser, and they start to gain some awareness that they may not have had prior to our coaching relationship. If that’s you, if you’re like, “I don’t think I’m a people-pleaser. I’m not totally positive. Maybe I am,” I have a couple questions for you that I want you to answer, that may help you identify some of your people-pleasing tendencies.

Here are the questions: When do you have a difficult time saying no? When do you say yes, when you want to say no? Where do you martyr yourself? Where do you ignore your own needs?

Where are you sacrificing yourself for someone else’s sake? Where aren’t you doing what you want to be doing in your life? What do you keep doing because you feel guilty? Where do you fear that by turning people down, you’ll make them think that you’re mean or selfish?

When was the last time you agreed to do something that you don’t like to do? Or, that you didn’t want to do? Where in your life are you doing things to earn other people’s approval? Where’s your behavior apologetic?

Where are you taking the blame even when the problem isn’t your fault? What are you doing that’s causing you to neglect yourself? Where in your life are you pretending to agree with people even though you feel differently?

What conversations are you not having right now, that you know you probably need to have? Where in your life are you avoiding conflict? Were in your life would you do things differently, if no one had an opinion about what you did?

It’s kind of a long list of questions, but I really wanted it to be a comprehensive list that allows you to see certain scenarios in your life from a different angle, a different perspective.

A lot of those questions seem pretty similar to one another, but they’re just ever so slightly different to introduce some nuance. and allow you to identify some more subtle people-pleasing in areas where you may not have otherwise spotted it.

Now, if you came up with some answers that you think might be examples of instances of people-pleasing, that are coming up for you in your life, I just want to offer one small caveat; it may not be people-pleasing. Like I said earlier, people-pleasing is always a lie.

And, it’s always going to feel like a lie. It’s always going to feel like self-abandonment and self-sacrifice. Where you’re putting yourself at a detriment for the sake of benefiting someone else.

You want to start there, check in: Does it feel like love, or does it feel like a lie? Does it feel like love, or does it feel like self-abandonment and self-sacrifice? Now, if you have a hard time discerning whether what you’re doing feels like that or not, here’s one more question you can ask yourself.

When you catch yourself saying or doing something, and you think you might be engaging in some people-pleasing, ask yourself; what are your reasons for doing whatever it is that you’re doing? Or, saying whatever it is that you’re saying?

Identify your reasons for why you’re taking that particular action, or why you’re refraining from taking a particular action, and then ask yourself; do I like my reasons? If the answer’s yes, you like your reasons for taking whatever action you’re taking, then it may not be people-pleasing.

If you don’t like your reasons, it probably is people-pleasing. So, that’s another hard and fast way to check if what you’re doing constitutes people-pleasing or not.

Now, let’s talk about some common examples of people-pleasing. I think the most popular example of people-pleasing is when you do stuff that you hate, in order to avoid other people feeling uncomfortable. Whether you think they’re gonna feel disappointed, or angry, or frustrated, or annoyed, or hurt, whatever the case may be, you say yes to stuff when you really want to say no.

Maybe someone asks you to go to their two-year old’s birthday party, and you’d rather not. I’m putting it nicely, right? Instead of saying no, and not going because you really don’t want to go, you go anyways. Or, you go home during the holidays to see family, even though you really don’t want to because you don’t get along with your family, or whatever your reasons are. You do things that you don’t like to do.

Maybe you’re involved in your kid’s school organizations because you feel like you should do those things to be a good parent, but you really don’t enjoy it, and it just takes away from the quality of your life. So, you’re doing some stuff that you hate.

This is also going to come up for you at work. Maybe you take on tasks or assignments because a client asks you to or a supervisor asks you to, and you hate working on those types of projects, but you keep taking them and you keep saying yes, because you’re afraid of how the other person will respond. That is textbook people-pleasing.

Another example of this is where you overcommit yourself when you don’t have the bandwidth to take something on. This can happen at work. If you say yes to an assignment that you really don’t have time to tackle, people will also come to you and maybe they seek out your help, and you feel guilty telling them that you don’t have the bandwidth.

So, you drop what you’re doing, and you help them instead of helping yourself. You overcommit yourself and say, “Sure, I can help you,” even though you really don’t have the capacity to do that.

Maybe you volunteer, when someone asks you to host Christmas or Thanksgiving, and you really don’t have the capacity to do that either, but you overcommit yourself and agree to do it. Or, you just pack too much into a weekend; maybe you get three different invitations, and you agree to do all three activities even though it’s a little bit of a stretch, and you don’t quite have the capacity to fit all three things in.

Speaking of volunteering for things, a lot of times my clients will people-please by volunteering themselves to help with something, even when they haven’t been asked. They do it because they’re telling themselves the story that the person wants them to volunteer or that if they were a good employee, or a good friend, or a good family member, they would volunteer, they’d help out.

They think just because I could it means I should pitch in and lend a helping hand. Even though, if no one had an opinion about it, you’d probably say no; they wouldn’t do it, they wouldn’t volunteer, they wouldn’t offer up their time. That’s a little bit sneakier type of people-pleasing, there.

Another example of people-pleasing is lying about what you want, or you’re like, “Sure that sounds great. Absolutely.” But in the back of your mind, you’re like, “Oh, my goodness, this sounds terrible. I don’t want to do this at all.” But you’re not willing to be honest about what you want, because you fear the repercussions of your honesty. Right? That’s people-pleasing, too.

This came up for me when I decided to take a job in big law. I really had no genuine interest of going and being a commercial litigator. That wasn’t why I went to law school. I never had any interest in working for a big firm. I’d always just wanted to do criminal defense.

But I started to get in my own head about the opportunities that were available to me, and that I was going to miss the boat on OCI’s and summer associate positions, and all that good stuff. And then finally, when I got an offer for both a summer associate position and a full-time offer, after I took the bar exam, I said yes.

Even though I was kind of lying to myself about wanting that job. I didn’t want to go there; I wanted to do something else. I wanted to be a criminal defense attorney. But I had strong opinions about other people’s opinions. I really didn’t want to disappoint some people that were really close to me, family members, friends of mine, who thought it’d be really foolish of me to turn that job down.

So, instead of being really honest with myself and the other people in my life about what I wanted to do, I just people-pleased them. I cared more about not making them uncomfortable, and what their opinions of my decisions were, than I did trusting my own gut.

Maybe you’ve done that yourself. A lot of my clients actually went to law school because they were people-pleasing parents who told them, “Hey, you got to pick between being a doctor or a lawyer. You get to pick, but you got to choose one of those two.”

Maybe they wanted to do something completely different, but they ultimately people-pleased because they were afraid to disappoint their parents, or they were worried that there would be some other negative repercussion. They lied about what they actually wanted.

Another instance where people-pleasing comes up is when you don’t advocate for a preference. You have a clear preference in your head, but you don’t speak up about it, you don’t advocate for yourself. This can be on a grand scale, or it can also be on a really small scale.

A small example of this is when you have a preference about where you go to dinner, or what you eat for dinner. Instead of speaking up about it, you just act like you don’t have a preference, and you keep the peace, so to speak. You just say, “I’ll have whatever you’re having. I’m fine with whatever you choose,” even though you’re really not fine.

You just want to be agreeable. You don’t want to be “difficult” because you think people will judge your being difficult, and that they’ll be uncomfortable or put out by it. That’s another example of people-pleasing.

A few less obvious examples of people-pleasing: One includes going back on a commitment that you’ve made to yourself, because you’re prioritizing someone else’s needs or desires, and you want to make them more comfortable. You minimize what you’ve already committed yourself to.

A great example of this would be like, deciding not to drink or you’re on a diet. Instead of sticking to your plan to not drink at an event, or to stick to the food that you decided earlier that day you were going to eat, you deviate from your plan. You go back on that commitment that you made to yourself, in order to prioritize someone else’s comfort.

Maybe you committed to yourself that you would go work out at the gym, and someone asks you to do something, and you drop that commitment that you made to yourself, in order to attend to their needs instead. So, that’s another example of what that might look like.

Ask yourself: Do you do that? Does that come up in your life? Do you pack out on commitments you make to yourself, in order to prioritize other people’s needs? If so, do you want to keep doing that?

Other small examples of people-pleasing: Not voicing your opinion when you disagree with someone. Or, avoiding conflict. Or, avoiding “difficult” conversations you know that would probably be really beneficial, if you were direct and had a conversation with someone, about something that you have some tension around.

But instead of speaking up and clearing the air, and having the disagreement and flushing all of that out, you just keep quiet; you avoid the conflict, you try and maintain the peace, you just want to be agreeable, and you never have the discussion.

Some other really specific examples of people-pleasing, just so you can see some of the micro ways that we people-please: Not taking a vacation because you’re worried that someone else is going to be angry if you do, or disappointed. Or, they’re going to feel overwhelmed because you’re not around to do the work. That’s an example.

Not asking for help is another example of people-pleasing. If you’re doing it because you feel guilty or afraid that there’s going to be a negative repercussion if you ask for help.

Underbilling and undercharging are two more great examples of the micro ways we people-please. We feel guilty, we’re worried about what we’re billing so we underbill or undercharge. And not marketing yourself, so you don’t make other people uncomfortable is another big one.

I hear from clients all the time, when I’m working with them on developing their books of business, that they don’t want to post on their social media feeds, maybe on LinkedIn™, like I do, because they don’t want other people to be annoyed with their content and to clutter someone’s feed.

They don’t want to just make anyone else uncomfortable by their marketing efforts, with their marketing efforts. So, they choose to not show up, they choose to not do it because they want to avoid that other person’s discomfort. Meanwhile, they’re ignoring the fact that there may be other people who are desperately waiting for them to show up and talk about what they do. Because there are people that need their services.

Those are a bunch of examples. I wanted to give them to you so you could start spotting your own people-pleasing behavior. That is not an exhaustive list of people-pleasing. We do this in so many different ways.

Now that you know what it looks like, I want to talk about why we do it. Why do we people-please. Here’s the big picture: Ultimately, you’re people-pleasing because you’re trying to control how other people feel. You might be trying to keep the peace, to make sure that everyone stays comfortable. You want people to like you. You also want to avoid conflict. Those are the main reasons that we people-please.

I also want to highlight for you, people-pleasing is a bit of a survival mechanism. Now, it’s a dated one; it served us when we were hunters and gatherers. It was a way to make sure that we were well-liked, and we got to stay in the circle of trust, so to speak, with our tribes. It kept us safe. It was a way that we didn’t get ousted from our groups, and it kept us in everyone’s good favor.

We just haven’t evolved past the point of having this be ingrained within us, for that survival mechanism. It also serves us a lot when we’re younger. When we’re growing up, with our parents and other authority figures, people-pleasing normally serves us really well. We get rewarded for it; we get praised for it. Again, it’s feeding in to people-pleasing being that survival mechanism, or having that survival instinct that we’re acting from.

It’s also really important to note that people-pleasing feels good. Just temporarily, usually, but it does feel good temporarily. That’s important to pay attention to, as well. People-pleasing really does feel amazing in the moment, because you get to tell people what they want to hear or what you think they want to hear, and then you get the response that you want to get from them. So, you get that praise, you get that reward.

Your brain releases just a little bit of dopamine, a little bit of adrenaline; it feels good to you. You get to feel needed, and significant, and helpful, and accomplish, and all of those positive emotions that we really crave as human beings. You’re trying to control how other people feel. You want people to like you, part of that is a survival instinct, but good news is we get to override it. It does temporarily feel good when we people-please. Those are the big picture reasons why we do it.

At a more granular level, though, this is what’s actually going on. You’ve heard me say this a bunch of times already, but the reason that we do anything that we do, that doesn’t serve us, the reason that we’re ever engaged in a negative behavior, is always because of one of two problems: A thought that we’re thinking that doesn’t serve us, or a feeling that we’re unwilling to feel, and so we resist, avoid, or react to it. Instead of, just allowing it to be with us and come along for the ride.

When it comes to people-pleasing, the problem thoughts that come up for people look something like the thought; I could help so I should help. If you’re thinking that thought you might feel obligated, and then you will help, you’ll offer to help. You might think thoughts about what a good blank does; what a good employee does, what a good lawyer does, what a good supervisor does, what a good friend does, what a good spouse does.

You might have a lot of rules for yourself, or manuals about what a “good” fill in whatever role you’re identifying with in that moment; what good versions of those roles do. So, a good friend would say yes, when someone asks them to go to a birthday party, or go to dinner, or come over and help them move.

You also might be thinking ‘have to,’ ‘need to,’ or ‘I can’t’ thoughts; I have to do this, I need to do this, I can’t say no. Those thoughts are always going to drive you to say yes and people-please, because you feel really constricted, like you don’t have any say in the matter. Now, I’ve mentioned this before, those thoughts are never true.

There are only four things you ever have to, or need to do; Eat sometimes, drink some water, breathe, and sleep infrequently. I’m all for the more sleep, the better. I’ve really pushed the limits on sleep in a past life, and I don’t recommend doing that. But those are really the four things you ever have to do.

Everything else is optional, but we’ll tell ourselves; I have to do this, I need to do this, I can’t say no, I don’t have another option. Then we feel really limited and we act in accordance with that limiting thought. Even though it’s a lie; you do have agency, you’re just blinding yourself to it. Those might be the thoughts that you’re thinking, there might be other ones.

What I want you to do is start to mind your brain when you’re people-pleasing, or right after you people-please, and you catch yourself and say, “Oh no, I just people-pleased. I see what I was doing there.” I want you to track it back and find the problem thoughts that drove you to take that people-pleasing action.

Were you thinking: I could help, so I should help? I can help, so I should? Were you thinking a good blank would say yes to this? A good blank would do X, Y and Z? Were you thinking; I have to do this, I need to do this, I can’t say no?

If you were, we’re going to need to change those thoughts, in order to get you to not people-please. You can just flip some of those thoughts around. You can choose to think instead; just because I can help, doesn’t mean I should help.

I also like to think about it this way; I like to think that you’re in the best position, the most appropriate position, to decide whether or not you should do something. Oftentimes, we’d like to outsource this to other people. But really, it’s your job. You’re the person who’s well positioned to decide whether you should say yes, or say no to something. I like thinking about this as; it’s my job to decide whether I should do this or not, no one else’s.

I also love believing that you can be both; you can be a good friend, a good employee, a good lawyer, a good spouse, a good sister, daughter, brother, son, whatever, good parents, you can be a good whatever and say no, those two things aren’t mutually exclusive. Both can be true.

I love reminding myself that I don’t ever have to or need to do anything. I absolutely can say no. I have all the agency in the world; I always get to choose. Those are some really impactful powerful thoughts that helped me not people-please.

I want you to think what would you need to think, in any given scenario, in order to not people-please? In order to do what you want to do, instead of doing what you don’t want to do for the sake of other people’s comfort?

Sometimes I just choose to tell myself that it’s not my job to make other people comfortable. That’s their job. My job is to make myself comfortable. It’s other people’s jobs to make other people comfortable. I’m supposed to worry about myself, they’re supposed to worry about themselves. Nothing has gone wrong if I choose to do that, it’s totally okay.

Now, there’s always problem thoughts that you’re thinking, or the second part, negative feelings that you’re unwilling to feel. With people-pleasing, we definitely see discomfort avoidance come up here. Right? You start to feel a negative emotion when you think about not people-pleasing, when you think about saying no, when you think about doing what you want to do, instead of doing what you think the other person wants you to do.

And, feelings like, feeling guilty, or worried, or selfish, or irresponsible might come up. Your natural tendency, your natural inclination is to run for the hills, and avoid those emotions. We avoid feeling guilty, we avoid feeling afraid or worried, we avoid feeling selfish and irresponsible, by people-pleasing.

We take those people-pleasing actions and engage in that behavior, instead of just feeling our negative emotions, and taking the intentional non-people-pleasing action that we want to take. Right? So, what’s the solution there?

You’ve got to gag-and-go through the discomfort. I know I’m always bringing it back to that concept, but it really is so ubiquitous in our lives, that the answer is you just got to feel your feelings. You’ve got to feel guilty, at least at first, and say no, anyways. You’ve got to feel a little worried, scared, apprehensive that there might be some consequence from you pushing back and saying no, and that that’s okay.

You want to just take intentional action and feel these feelings, anyways. Now, if you’re a horrific people-pleaser, I really want you to just take a second and think about your answer to this question. What would be different or better about your life if you were willing to feel guilty, worried, afraid, selfish, or irresponsible, and not people-please, anyways? If you were willing to feel that discomfort, and do what you wanted to do, regardless of how it feels?

If you’re anything like me, your life would probably be completely different. Now that I’m on the other side of this, and I’ve learned how to feel my negative feelings and take intentional action in spite of them, which means I don’t people-please, I just feel uncomfortable, and I do what I want to do anyways, everything has changed significantly for me.

Now, I also want to add, the discomfort is just temporary. When you stop people-pleasing, and you start living your life the way you want to be living, it instead of living it how you think other people think you should be living it, you get the reward of living a life that you actually like. The guilt, the worry, the fear, feelings of selfishness or irresponsibility, they tend to dissipate pretty quickly.

Because instead of doing shit you hate, you get to do what you want to be doing. The guilt comes on the front end, the worry comes on the front end, but then you get the reward of spending your time how you want to spend it; being in integrity with yourself. And that, feels really good. It’s just a little discomfort in the beginning, that you have to gag-and-go your way through. Once you do that you get the reward of living in alignment with how you want to live.

Now, again, we’ve got problem thoughts and negative emotions we’re unwilling to feel, you want to take some time and just look for and become aware of the thoughts that you’re thinking that caused you to people-please, and the feelings that you’re unwilling to feel that also drives you to people-please.

With that awareness, you get to decide if you want to keep maintaining the status quo. Do you want to keep being a people-pleaser? Or instead, do you want to change those thoughts and think something else? Do you want to allow yourself to experience those negative emotions, and not people-please in spite of and despite them? Once you have that awareness, you get to decide if you want to change.

If you do want to change and you want to stop people-pleasing, let’s talk about some best practices for you to go about doing that. First and foremost, you’ve got to change your thoughts and feel your feelings. That’s always the foundational answer.

But you also have to get rid of the mistaken belief that you control how other people feel. That is the primary reason we people-please; because we give ourselves a little too much credit, and we think that we control other people’s emotions.

This is a big breaking news flash for you, if you believe that you control how other people feel. I want to be the one to tell you, that’s not true. You actually don’t control how other people feel. Now, this was absolutely transformational for me when I learned it.

I really believe that thought work, which is the kind of work that I’m teaching you throughout the course of this podcasts, the coaching work that I do with people. We identify the thoughts and how they create your results, and what we need to think instead, and how they impact our feelings and all the action we take. We call that thought work.

I believe that there are layers to thought work. The entry level layer is learning that circumstances are neutral, and that our brain serves us up thoughts about them. And, that our thoughts are what cause our emotions, all of the feelings that we feel. And then, they drive our actions and produce our results. Thoughts create results.

When you learn that, you become so empowered because, the best news ever, you get to control what you think, you get to curate what you think. That’s the entry level to thought work: You become aware that circumstances don’t cause your feelings, you cause your feelings with your thoughts.

Now, the next layer of thought work is when you start to realize that if that’s true for you, you are not a unicorn; that is also true for every other person on the face of the earth. That circumstances don’t cause their feelings; their thoughts about circumstances are what caused their emotional experience.

Your actions, what you say or do, is just a circumstance in their model. Your actions, your behavior, what you do or don’t do, doesn’t cause that other person’s emotional experience. It’s their thoughts about your actions that cause their emotional experience. And, it’s their responsibility to manage their thoughts, to manage their emotional experience in this world; that is not your job.

We know this is true because if you’ve ever tried to cheer someone up, and you haven’t been able to do it effectively, it’s not because you weren’t well intentioned, it’s because the other person didn’t change their thoughts. When you took whatever action you did, in order to try and cheer them up.

So, they still felt the exact same way, despite your best efforts to change how they feel.

This was mind blowing for me. This, when I learned it; that other people’s feelings are not caused by my actions, that it’s their thoughts that cause their feelings. It was as if someone came down and wrote me a permission slip, to go live my life the way that I wanted to live it.

Because I finally got to put down the fear that I felt that I was going to disappoint people. That my actions, that certain behavior I was going to engage in by not people-pleasing, was going to disappoint others. When I learned that their thoughts are what caused their feelings, I realized, it very well may be true that they feel disappointed, but not because of my behavior.

They feel disappointed because of their thoughts about my behavior. Because they have some expectation that I act a certain way. It’s their expectation that causes their disappointment. It’s their expectation, that causes their frustration. But for that expectation, they wouldn’t feel whatever negative emotion they feel.

It’s their job to curate their expectations of other people. It’s not my job to live up to their expectations. Once I started to really internalize that message, everything started to shift for me. I started to give myself permission to stop people-pleasing, be honest about what I wanted in my life, and to start acting in accordance with that.

If this seems very striking to you, if you’re like, “What in the world is she talking about? We don’t cause other people’s feelings of disappointment?” I promise you, that’s true.

I just want you to take a second and think about a time where you were recently feeling disappointed. Identify the circumstance; what were the facts? Strictly, the facts that everyone would agree upon in that scenario? Maybe someone said they would do something with you, and then they canceled. And, you felt disappointed. It’s only because you were thinking a thought that made you feel disappointed.

What’s another thought you could think about that exact same set of facts? Maybe something happened in the world. A scenario that you encountered, and you felt disappointed about that situation, because you were thinking a thought that it should have happened differently, or it shouldn’t have happened to that way. Again, it’s your thought, it’s the expectation that you had, that it go one way when it went the other, that causes you to feel disappointed.

I want you to think about friends of yours or family members, or colleagues that you encounter; think about a time where one of them felt disappointed, and they communicated that to you. I want you to identify the facts; what’s the circumstance that they were encountering? And, what were their thoughts about it?

You want to get good at separating the facts from the story that you’re telling about them, so you can see how you create your own disappointment, how you create your own anger, or frustration, or annoyance. Then, you can start to see how other people do the exact same thing. Their emotional experience in the world, is on them, it’s not on you.

Now, not everyone is going to do a great job of curating their emotional experience. They might be blaming their circumstances. They’re allowed to blame their circumstances. Regardless of whether they blame them or not, does not mean that their circumstances are what are causing their feelings. That’s not the case. It’s always their thoughts causing their feelings.

But they’re allowed to blame their circumstances, and you’re allowed to let them and not people-please, even when they do that. I want you to think about those thoughts that cause disappointment, and really embrace this concept that; you don’t cause other people’s disappointment, ever

From there, here’s what you need to do: Once you’ve embraced that truth, that your thoughts cause your feelings, and their thoughts cause their feelings, and that your actions don’t cause anyone’s emotional experience. Once you’ve embraced that, from there, I want you to always acknowledge, when you’re presented with a situation where you’re tempted to people-please, that you always have a choice.

I want you to acknowledge your agency, and then identify all the choices that you have, list them all out. What do you want to do in that moment? Identify your choices, and then identify why you want to choose any of those particular choices.

You want to get really clear on your reasons for taking any particular course of action. Then ask yourself; do I like those reasons? If you do like your reasons, amazing. Sounds like you’re not people-pleasing. Go ahead and act in accordance with that decision, with those reasons, follow through on that.

But if you answer no, you don’t like your reasons for taking whatever action you’re inclined to take, it’s because you’re probably people-pleasing. You want to go back to the drawing board, and identify what you actually want to choose, authentically.

If you’re being really honest with yourself, then choose that, and identify the feelings that you would have to be willing to feel, in order to take that action and not people-please. And then, do that. Take that action. Don’t people-please; follow through, feel your negative feelings, allow the discomfort, and do what you want to do regardless.

Couple other things that you can do if you’re really prone to people-pleasing. This is a great area to practice making decisions ahead of time, and to practice constraint. You can also, if you’re prone to a knee-jerk yes, when someone asks you to do something, memorize a phrase or a response that you can say every time someone asks something of you, to buy yourself a little bit of a time buffer.

Instead of a knee-jerk yes, say, “You know what? I probably can, or I might be able to, but I need to check my schedule. Just let me get back to you. I’ll call you right back.” Just say whatever you need to say to buy yourself a little bit of time, in order to make a decision, without all of the pressure that comes from being in the moment, as soon as you get that request.

I also want you to redefine the meaning of “good,” when it comes to those roles that you have, those identities that you have. So, what does it mean to be a good lawyer, a good friend, a good family member, a good spouse, son, daughter, a good partner, a good associate, any of those things?

Can you redefine “good” to be more inclusive of what you want to do, so that you don’t have to people-please, in order to qualify as a good insert, whatever the blank is.

Make sure and catch yourself that you’re not conflating ‘could’ with ‘should.’ That’s another easy hack. If you think, “I could do it,” that doesn’t necessarily mean you should do it. You want to make sure you interrupt yourself if you tend to conflate the two.

Last but not least, I want you to remember there’s always discomfort both ways when we’re people-pleasing. There’s the discomfort that we feel from saying no and not people-pleasing; that guilt, worry, fear, selfishness, irresponsibility that we experience.

Then, there’s also the discomfort that comes from people-pleasing. Normally regret, resentment, frustration, annoyance, anger, all of that. FOMO: missing out on what you actually want to do.

Remember, there’s discomfort both ways. I highly recommend, if you have to experience discomfort either way, you choose the route that gets you spending the time how you want to spend it. Do what makes you happy in the long run, if either way, you’re going to be required to feel some discomfort involved.

Now, final note for you; I want to just turn you on to this: If you want to become someone who does not people-please, I want you to ask yourself; when the roles are reversed, how do you respond? Do you like it when people, people-please you?

If you answered, “Yes, I do like it. I appreciate when people, people-please me.” I, myself, used to be a little bit of a pusher if someone would tell me no and I really wanted them to do something with me, like go to dinner, or go on vacation, or help me out with a project at work, or stay late. I used to expect them to people-please me, and I would be pushy, in order to get them to cave.

I would try and attempt to guilt them into doing something. People can’t ever guilt us; we guilt ourselves. And, that’s why we people-please. But I would make every best effort to guilt other people. Sometimes they would cave, and I would love it.

If that’s you, you’ve got to be really honest with yourself here. If you want to become someone who does not people-please, you need to be willing to accept when people, don’t people-please you. It’s how you operate from a place of integrity.

If you’re more accepting and nicer when people don’t people-please you, you’ll be kinder to yourself when you want to resist the urge to people-please, and follow through with what you ultimately want to do. Instead of what you “think” you should do.

Make sure you’re willing to be on the receiving end of someone’s no, if you want to get better at communicating no’s yourself.

I hope this was helpful. That’s what I’ve got for you this week. We will continue talking about the three Ps in the next episode. Have a beautiful week.

Thanks for listening to The Less Stressed Lawyer podcast. If you want more info about Olivia Vizachero or the show’s notes and resources from today’s episode, visit www.TheLessStressedLawyer.com.

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