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People Pleasing in Midlife

The conversations I've been having lately - not surprising considering the time of year - are with women who want to dial down their people-pleaser tendencies.

Women who are ready to show up differently in their relationships with family members, friends, work colleagues.

It's got me thinking about what we crave, and the tension that lives within many of us.

I remember a tough breakup when I was dating. My heart, wounded from the rejection and grief, took a double punch when I realised I hadn't been seen, truly seen, in the relationship. Something was blocking the other person from the ultimate gift of intimacy.

And I was yet to discover what it felt like for all parts of me to be welcomed and accepted.

We crave to be seen and known. We crave to be our authentic selves.

If you're a people pleaser, you know how exhausting it is, right? But do you also notice your irritation?

Here's my theory - we loathe inauthenticity, both in ourselves and in others. I believe we can (mostly) tolerate a certain amount of fakeness, putting on a mask - think small talk - but too much? It's like a stone in your shoe. The smaller the stone, the less irritation. But you still know it's there.

Inside we know something feels off. We have strayed too far from ourselves. We're pretending and we know it.

It's exhausting to pretend, and people-pleasing is a form of pretending.

We crave to feel peace, calm and presence. To be accepted for our contradictions, uncertainty, desires, sadness, guilt, overwhelm. To have a voice.

To feel safe in our human messiness.

Instead we shapeshift, contort, pretzel, preen, smile, fuss, doublecheck, jump in.

The pull to authenticity competes with the push to be nice, accommodating, to make others happy.

The push to smooth every ruffle, clean up every mess, paper over every crack.

The longing to be real is pushed down, the dial is turned to automatic and we press Play.

It's all about others, we leave ourselves, abandon the core of who we are and place all our energy over there.

The balance tips, and somewhere inside we feel the lopsided living.

Smile. Say yes, sorry, it doesn't matter, what do you need? let me do it, of course I can.

Living an inauthentic life hurts. Carrying the responsibility to make others happy is stressful.

It's painful to be rarely home, travelling from person to person. Driven to take care of everything and everyone. Pushed by the fear of people being unhappy, mad, hungry, unsettled.

And the elephant in the room, the fear of not being wanted and loved.

Of not being worthy.

More fears pile on top. The fear of hard conversations, not trusting ourselves and others. We feel unskilled, unaware, unprepared and unfamiliar.

The stakes are too high, the risks too unknown.

We live in established roles, and people hate change. It's easier to always be the way we've been, because if we change we may lose it all.

I see when people pleasing feels like survival. The one thing we can control in a chaotic, unpredictable, unsafe world.

People pleasing is our insurance policy against losing it all. In this moment, in this relationship, in this life.

It's a premium we're prepared to pay. Until we're not.

The call to authenticity, the desire to have a voice, to trust ourselves, and to embrace courage often awakens in midlife.

I've come to realize that people-pleasing, a thread woven into the fabric of our being through conditioning, trauma, patriarchy, societal norms, and familial expectations, can be intricate to unwind.

Yet the unwinding process, like the unfurling of a tightly wound coil, often begins with the arrival of the Rebel.

When the Rebel makes her presence known, she becomes the gentle provocateur, urging us to question the status quo.

It's as if she senses the layers of societal expectations that have been imposed upon us and, with a subtle nudge, encourages us to peel them away.

The Rebel isn't about defiance for its own sake; she is the catalyst for authenticity, prompting us to rediscover our true selves.

It can be unsettling, but embracing the Rebel when she comes knocking can be the beginning of a journey toward reclaiming our authenticity and dismantling the layers of people-pleasing that may have defined and harmed us for far too long.

Robyn xx

Midlife Rebel

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