It’s such a lovely thing to make other people happy isn’t it? But what if it’s getting in the way of you giving up alcohol?
To know that you’ve done something that’s pleased another person is so good for the soul. Thoughtfulness is one of those human traits that shows us that there really are good people in the world, however, if you are drinking with others to please them then clearly that isn’t going to help you achieve your sobriety goals.
Learning to Please
I’m sure, like every baby, I learned the first pleasing rules in toddlerhood, laughing and clapping at the right moments when anyone demanded. I perfected it over the years, needing to play my part in keeping the peace at home. If I was a good girl and did good girl things my parents might not fight or shout at me for…well, whatever. By the time I went to war with my hormones, pleasing had become confuddled with a desperation for love and an ingrained habit that meant everyone was served before me.
I Put Myself Last
I was last. For everything. Love, attention, time off from babysitting my sisters – blah blah blah. If you’re a woman reading this I don’t need to fill in the blanks. You know. You’ve lived my life just as I have yours.
Those relationships that I never used to be able to examine too closely without shame, guilt and a heavy dose of ‘oh my god WHO WAS I?!?!?!’. I complied and made his life easy while doing the opposite to mine. Those friendships where I kept telling everyone I was happy to go with the flow but had to neck a bottle of wine to stop feeling I was always in the wrong place, all of the time.
I Should have
I looked the other way when I should have walked away. I travelled to support a friend when I should have told her ‘I can’t afford it, sorry’. I put my colleagues career ambitions before my own when I should have taken the credit for the good work I had done. I served my mother tea and homemade cookies when I should have refused to open the door to her.
Being taught to be last created a habit that made me choose to put myself last.
We should celebrate every time we do something that makes someone else happy. It’s a truly beautiful thing to do a good thing for another – as long as you are doing it for the joy of doing it – not to avoid negative consequences.
Putting Yourself First
This is where drinking becomes a thing isn’t it? Even if you don’t consciously know that your pleasing activity is being done for the wrong reasons, your subconscious is always nudging you down the booze aisle because you know in your soul that you don’t have anything left to give yourself.
Once your drug of choice becomes ingrained and stuck in your life you’ve created two bad habits that feed each other.
The fear of not pleasing the people in your life is that you will be rejected and rejection is death. When we lived in caves, being rejected from our tribe meant certain death, so we learned very quickly to conform and to make sure that we were seen in a favourable light and could continue to eat and live.
Whilst our physical circumstances have obviously changed, our brains still operate in the same way. The fear of being rejected holds us in relationships we shouldn’t be in and has us pleasing people that are actually taking advantage of us.
The answer? You know the answer. Stop drinking. Simple, right?
I know for some of you changing the habit of drinking can be difficult, however, it is possible. There are thousands of women in Sobersistas who have given up with a variety of different tools that suit their lifestyle and the support of the amazing, non-judgemental women in the group.
How To Stop Pleasing and Drinking
Here are 12 way to help you quit your pleasing habit so that you can stay sober in the long term.
- Identify where you’re doing it – it may be that you only please one particular person to stay on their good side or it may be a day long activity. Do you do it when you’ve had a drink and your defences are down? Getting clear about when you’re doing it will help.
- Remember you have a choice – you choose to please others and you can choose not to. No-one is forcing you to run around after others and do everything you can to keep them happy.
- Create a vision for your life – if you know what your goals are for your life and you are working towards them, then if pleasing others fits in with that goal then great, go for it. If it doesn’t, ask yourself how much of a diversion you are willing to tolerate. When you have a vision of living a sober life, ask yourself what it is you’re doing in your life for others that is keeping you drinking? Are you drinking with others just to please them?
- Set boundaries – if you’ve never set boundaries for yourself and others then now is the time. It’s incredibly empowering to sit and think about what you want your boundaries to be and live by them. If you have a partner who waves alcohol under your nose and you drink to keep the peace, telling them a firm no and sticking to it will make you realise just how strong you really are, which will lead to you making other good changes in your life.
- Set the clock – if you want to wean yourself off pleasing instead of going cold turkey, start telling people you are happy to help them but it will have to be later/tomorrow/next week. If it’s drinks with friends, put them off for another night and see what happens. Commit to offering to help others when you are sober and not when you’re drinking – see if there is a difference in what you agree to.
- Ask yourself if you’re being manipulated – people only do what they can because they are allowed to. Ask yourself if you have allowed yourself to be manipulated into pleasing someone. Spend a week watching others and listening to what they say and see if they are getting you to help because they really need it and love being around you or if they are doing it because they can’t be bothered to do it themselves.
- Say no with love – ‘no’ equals rejection so we avoid it all costs but we can say no to others with love. When we say no to others it doesn’t have to be done aggressively or defensively. You can feel the love you have for that person and say no anyway – try – “Sorry darling but I can’t right now.”, “I love you but no.”
- Accept the weirdness – doing something new for the first time might feel weird. It’s a bit like sobriety – if you’ve never achieved it before you have no idea what it will be like to live every day sober. But you can accept that it all might feel a bit weird but like everything new we do, eventually you will become comfortable with it.
- Make a Missing Out List – make a list of all the things you will be missing out on if you say yes to helping. What else could you be doing instead that you would enjoy? If drinking with others to keep them happy is your thing, make a list of all the things that you are looking forward to about being sober.
- Ask yourself just how much you are helping – in helping out others we stop them from learning how to do something for themselves. If you cook for your teenage kids every night to keep them happy, with a glass of wine in your hand, you aren’t giving them a chance to learn to cook for themselves.
- Journal it out – use these journal prompts to help you get clear about what’s going on:
- I people please because…
- The worst that would happen if I stopped helping others all the time is…
- If I put myself first…
- Affirmations – use these affirmations every day to remind you that:
- I am allowed to say no.
- I am the only person who can protect my time and energy.
Focus on Sobriety
Focussing first and foremost on getting sober is the best way to free yourself of your people pleasing (and lots of other bad habits too!). The clarity that sobriety brings will enable you to see yourself and your habits for what they are and the real reasons you’re doing them.
I Don’t Lie To Myself
Since becoming sober I have been more honest with myself than I have in 40 years. I don’t lie to myself about anything anymore and whilst sometimes that can feel a little brutal (and at times a little irritating) there are always good and wonderful things that follow.
You should never give up being kind to others or helping someone who needs it but if you are drinking to mask your unhappiness about always pleasing others then it’s time to stop. Isn’t it?
The people who truly matter will still love sober you.
When you stop people pleasing some people might not like the fact that you aren’t there for them 150% of the time. If they stop ‘loving’ you because of it, your clear sober mind will be able to see their actions for what they are.