Do you find you’re often concerned with pleasing others? Maybe you constantly try to please friends or family members. You may even find yourself driven to please your counselor or dietitian. But what happens to YOU when your focus is on pleasing others?
It isn’t unusual for those with eating disorders to be overly concerned about pleasing others. In some cases, this tendency seems to go hand in hand with eating disorders. In some way, your concern about pleasing others may have contributed to the onset of your eating disorder. You may have ignored your own needs and feelings so much that you have a lot of unresolved emotions and issues that set you up for an eating disorder. In addition, your drive for pleasing others may hinder your eating disorder recovery. You may find yourself stuck in eating disorder behaviors if you’re too focused on being what others expect you to be instead of concentrating on the person you genuinely are and developing healthy coping skills that work for you.
If you find yourself overly concerned about pleasing others and particularly if you find it was part of what caused your eating disorder or is hindering your eating disorder recovery, please read further. Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re tempted to focus on pleasing others.
1. It’s okay to have your own thoughts and opinions. You don’t have to agree with the views of everyone else. This doesn’t mean you have to be in conflict with others over differing ideas. There’s a lot to be said about the ability to “agree to disagree” and I encourage you to try it.
2. Your feelings are important. It isn’t necessary to always downplay your feelings in deference to others. How is denying, stuffing or downplaying your feelings going to help you in your eating disorder recovery? Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to imply that you ignore the feelings of others. I’m saying that you have a right to your feelings, too.
3. There’s nothing wrong with allowing your own needs to be a priority. You may think you are weak to even have needs, but that isn’t true. Having needs merely means that you’re human. Just because you recognize your needs and try to find ways to meet them doesn’t even mean that you’re selfish. Yes, some people are selfish with their needs, but if your tendency is to please others, that isn’t likely the case.
4. It’s impossible to please everyone. Do your best to accept that and allow yourself to be you. You aren’t responsible for their expectations, their thoughts or their feelings. Consider that if others genuinely have unrealistic expectations of you and take it out on you if you don’t meet them, perhaps these aren’t healthy relationships. If they are hindering your eating disorder recovery, it may be time to distance yourself from them.
5. Consider that you may perceive that others have higher expectations of you than they actually do. Those who are perfectionists and have very high expectations of themselves may believe that others expect the same of them and that isn’t always the case.
6. You may have worked so hard at pleasing others that you aren’t even sure who you are. It may take time for you to look inside and see your own thoughts and feelings about things. It’s okay.
7. While you’ll want to follow the advice and instruction of your counselor, dietitian or anyone else in your support team, it doesn’t have to be for the purpose of pleasing them. The goal is your health and well-being. Do your best to make that your focus. They’re there to help you, not to manipulate you into being the person they want you to be. Furthermore, when the time comes that you aren’t seeing them anymore, you’ll have to focus on doing what’s best for you. It won’t be about their approval; it will be about your own well-being.
8. Remember that even God doesn’t expect perfection from us. Yes, He wants us to learn and grow and to become more Christlike, but He knows that we won’t reach perfection in this life. Ask Him to help you become the person He created you to be.
Don’t leave behind the person you are, or can become, for the sake of pleasing others. It isn’t a fair trade off for you. Your thoughts, your needs and your feelings are important, too. There is no reason you have to ignore them in order to please others. Your eating disorder recovery is going to take all that you can give it. Focusing on pleasing others will just distract you and you don’t need that. You’re a special person in this world. Focus on who you are and who you can become.
By Laurie Glass