Traversing The Double-Edged Sword: On Releasing The Need To Please Others

Throughout 2019 I’ve been using DRIVEN’s blog page to explore with you the different mindsets, attitudes and actions that professionals get caught up in, but that no longer serve them. The goal has been to demonstrate that we can release them, and then re-lease our lives to truly serve our best interests. Some releases have been general, as in releasing resistance, releasing living in the past (guilt, regret, shame and blame) and releasing the threat of the future (anxiety and stress).

Additional monthly release topics have been more female-focused, because in general, women are the ones battling perfectionism and the impostor syndrome in their careers. With that said, this month’s release—the need to please others—may resonate more deeply with women than men. However, that’s not to say that men are immune to this attitude and mindset.

On a personal note, the composing of these articles has been eerily synchronized with my personal journey. In July, I lost my mother. That also happened to be the month I was scheduled to explore the release of guilt, regret, shame and blame. My personal journaling was the ideal space to look at these emotions in relation to my mother. It was liberating not to suppress, but to instead investigate their genesis, how they’ve manifested in my life, and how to best release them.

Then, just as I began to frame out this month’s scheduled articles, I attended the National Society of Compliance Professionals (NSCP) conference, sitting on a panel with two highly accomplished compliance professionals. The audience of about 150 people was 90% women, and the topic was “supporting women in compliance”. Co-panelist Hope Brown of Calvert Research & Management mentioned that a difficult part of her career journey was accepting that not everyone was going to like her. It reminded me of a song from I Love Lucy: “Nobody Loves The Ump”, and how baseball umpires just can’t win— regardless of their calls, someone is always angry at them. It seems that compliance officers battle similar personal struggles. And although we all understand that “business isn’t personal”, things are still taken personally. We humans have a baked-in need to be liked and accepted as part of the group.

The Grand Paradox

It continues to be the case that professional women must manage a double-edged sword. We want to be liked, and thus we are tempted to be “people pleasers”, giving our time, energy and attention to the matters of others, usually to the detriment of our career goals and a healthy mindset.

There are four factors that position us women to err on the side of “need to please”. For starters, our society and culture have influenced our thinking since we were little girls, without us realizing it. Before we even had words to attach to the notion, we were urged and thus wanted to be “good girls”. Some of us rebelled, while others took the bait— hook, line and sinker!

Then, there’s the overachieving woman. This perfectionist goes out of her way to do it all, because she CAN have everything. She’ll sacrifice her own wellbeing to make sure everyone else is accommodated, simply to be seen as the “perfect” mother/wife/daughter/employee. But she’ll hit a wall when she realizes there’s limited energy available to her, especially when she deprives herself of proper diet, exercise and recharge time, convinced those minutes are better spent on something else.

Then there’s the personal values factor. After interviewing thousands of women, I’ve learned that, whereas men are motivated by money and title, women (to a large extent, but certainly not all of us) are motivated by a sense of contribution.

And finally, there’s the double-edged sword we all handle. It’s a quagmire of a double standard: We want to lead, but we don’t want to offend. The problem is that a crucial aspect of leading is being tough. For women, it’s an impossible standard to meet, since we all want to be liked, and being a bitch is seen as the only alternative to being too nice. It’s branded into our minds: Aggressive = Bad.

So this month, join me as I wrangle with the concept of releasing the need to please and re-leasing our lives by setting boundaries and interacting with others for mutual benefit. The goal is to be sure that when you do go out of your way to please others at work, it’s for the right reasons and helps advance your agenda.

If you enjoy what you’re reading and are considering living life more fully, schedule a complimentary consultative session with DRIVEN HERE.