I like to refer to myself as a recovering people pleaser. It was a couple of years ago when I started out on a journey of self-knowledge and became aware of this nasty little habit. Since then I’ve discovered a new way to live and it’s been so freeing and empowering! Building self confidence is a huge part of combating people pleasing because the more confident you are, the less you seek approval from others. But even having done all that inner work, I remain on guard as I don’t want to allow this tendency of mine to creep its’ way back into my life.
One way I do this is by being on the lookout for signs of burn out, something people pleasers are very susceptible to. I’ve been there, a couple times, and I never want to go back. I know that it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s gradual and it’s the result of many choices over time. If you learn to notice the early signs in yourself then you have the power to correct it before it’s too late.
A few days ago I noticed myself feeling incredibly irritable while I was teaching BODYPUMP. All the little side conversations going on in the room were like nails on a chalkboard to my senses. It was making me lose my focus. Normally I barely notice these types of distractions, they don’t even phase me. But on that day they made me angry in a way that was totally unjustified for the situation.
Later on that day, in another class I was teaching at the university, I became incredibly annoyed by the way students were laying out their yoga mats. I suddenly wanted to forget about yoga and teach a lesson on spatial awareness. It was like I was personally offended when a student walked into the room and didn’t park themselves in the space that seemed the most “feng shiu” to me. I’m not even kidding, I was bothered to the point of being hostile.
That’s when I knew. I was getting burn out. It’s normal to feel annoyed when you’re in line at the DMV. It is not normal to be agitated while doing the activities that normally bring you joy.
Several years ago, my life coach, Diana Gabriel, taught me about “reframing”. Basically, we all have stories that we tell ourselves, our own realities. To reframe means to question those assumptions and change the story. You can read more about reframing in this article by the great Diana.
I use this trick in my life all the time, in small ways and big ways. I’ve found that it’s KEY when it comes to changing habits – and people pleasing is a habit.
So here’s my sneaky little “reframe” that I use to up my self-care game.
I remind myself that I’m a person that has needs too. Even beyond that, my future self is a person and I think of her as being separate from my current self. She is a person that I want to please.
It was actually this “reframe” that has led me to the brink of burnout in the first place. When I found out I was pregnant, I committed to teaching a handful of extra classes outside of my full time job as a favor to my future self. I knew she’d appreciate the extra cash when baby arrives. But the problem is, I’ve been so focused on pleasing the “me” 6 months from now that I’ve forgotten about the “me” tomorrow and next week. She’s the one that’s getting cranky. I need to do her a few favors too.
It’s okay to focus on the future and we all have it within us to push harder for defined periods of time in order to reach a goal. But self-care along the way is still essential (especially when extra caffeine isn’t an option).
It’s in all the little decisions we make every day. Here are examples of decisions I’ve made just this past week, all with my future self in mind, in order to improve my self-care and guard against burn out.
- When I was asked to teach “Snoga” at Mount Kato this weekend (that’s yoga in the snow), I wanted to say “yes” because that’s what people pleasers do and hey, it’d make for a cool Instagram pic! But then I thought of my future self who already teaches yoga at the winery that same day and would really enjoy the morning off. Plus what the heck am I going to wear that will keep me warm but I can also bend in? Nah, my future self doesn’t want to stress over that on a Sunday. She will want to chill. So I said “no thanks” for her sake. Some things aren’t worth the extra money.
- When I got home at the end of a long day needing a shower but feeling too exhausted to stay vertical, it was so tempting to put on PJ’s and crawl right into bed. But then I remembered I hate showering in the morning. I have long, thick hair. I would have to be up an entire hour earlier just to make sure it’s dry before I leave the house. Plus I like to linger in a hot shower, it’s relaxing. So with my future self in mind, I remained vertical a little longer and took my night shower knowing that she’ll appreciate the extra hour of sleep and waking up with clean, dry hair.
- When I noticed those little “red flags” of instructor burn out mentioned earlier, I forced myself to reach out and ask someone to sub my classes next Tuesday (my longest teaching day). It’s easy to think “oh I’ll be fine by then” when something is several days away but I know my future self will be so thankful for the day off when it rolls around. It doesn’t mean you don’t love something just because you occasionally need a little break from it.
- When my husband asked, “do you want me to pick anything up from the store on my way home?”, I actually thought about it and responded with a request instead of my usual automatic response of “no thanks I’m good.” Hey, he wouldn’t ask if he wasn’t willing and my future self, as in the “me” 30 minutes from now, will be very happy when he gets home and her request is fulfilled.
What do you think of my “reframe”? Would it work for you? Can you think about your future self as another person whom you want to please? The way I see it, it’s like taking a weakness (the tendency to people please) and turning it into a strength.