Dear Candy Q & A: People-Pleasing & Peacemaking
Oct 31, 2022
3 min read
Updated: Nov 1, 2022
When discussing the typical characteristics that often play a role in limbic system dysfunction, the focus is generally on the overachieving, perfectionist, and Type A tendencies that are so common. And it's true, a lot of people doing brain retraining can relate to those characteristics. There are other characteristics, however, that can contribute to the maladaptive pathways and that can slow our recovery if they go unchecked. These include people-pleasing and peacemaking. They are the tendencies to want to ensure that everyone is happy and that everyone likes you. They result in not wanting to rock the boat or state an opinion that might be opposite to what others are saying (even if that is how you truly feel), in not saying "no" to things that you don't want to do because you might disappoint someone, in being "nice" all the time, in not setting boundaries when appropriate, and in valuing peace above being genuine and honest. Often people-pleasing and peacemaking characteristics are the result of early life experiences and cultural conditioning. They can be linked in the brain to survival, so not engaging in these behaviours (for some) can trigger a stress response. Those who experience this learned early on that by pleasing people and keeping the peace they were more likely to have their needs met by the adults in their lives, and to feel loved. And so now in present day, even though that logic is no longer applicable, the brain still responds as though it is a necessity for survival to engage in these behaviours.
The cost of doing so includes feeling disempowered and unimportant. It can contribute to fatigue, it can affect our feelings of self worth & value, and it can lead to resenting those around us. People prone to these tendencies feel like their needs are continually not being met (which they aren't), but fail to recognize that it is their ways of interacting with others (and themselves) that are, in large part, leading to this outcome.
Changing these patterns can be challenging, especially when they trigger survival responses. Awareness of the patterns and acceptance that they are happening are the first steps towards change. Using rounds of practice regularly and consistently to change the brain's patterns of association is the next step, along with practicing self- compassion and understanding that it may take time to undo the lifetime of conditioning that created these tendencies. Then, start in small ways to speak your truth, say "no" or "not now" when you don't want to do something, and put your own needs first. You may have to do lots of rounds, self-reassurance, and redirecting initially with these acts in order to change your brain's association with them and to teach your system that it is safe to be genuine and true to yourself. Little by little, it becomes easier, you start to feel stronger in yourself and more empowered to be the genuine version of you. Your relationship with yourself becomes stronger, you learn to love who you are and others begin to see and love and accept you as you are. This in turn fuels your quest for authenticity in your life and you continue your journey towards uncovering and embracing your true self. And at this point, you realize that the initial struggle to create these changes in your life was well worth the effort.
Until next time!
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Candy Widdifield is Registered Clinical Counsellor, Wellness Coach, and Registered Reiki Master Teacher in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. She has a background in nervous system regulation, trauma, grief & loss, mindfulness, somatic therapy, & positive psychology. She taught the DNRS in-person program for 5 years, has over a decade of experience coaching brain re-trainers & provides mentorship to other coaches. Candy works with people all over the world, helping them to optimize their wellbeing and thrive in their lives. More information about Candy can be found at www.candywiddifield.com