The Need to Please

When I was a teenager in the early 70’s, it was a time wedged between two schools of thought. The newer “women’s liberation” movement and the views of the women who came before me, generations of women who accepted their lot in life and fulfilled their womanly and motherly requirements without question.

It was a time when opportunities were opening up, but a lot of us weren’t sure if we wanted to take them. Babies and husbands, little clean houses with well manicured yards, that should be enough, right?  For many women it was, and then again, for many women, it wasn’t.  But true liberation comes when you can make this choice, or any choice for that matter, for yourself, and not feel pressured into choosing one over the other. No one should make you feel guilty for whichever path you take, and in this case, especially other women.  Either choice is a good one, and the right one, as long as it is your choice.

But I was thinking more about how women (I’m talking about myself here, and many women of my generation) as liberated as we’ve become, still have the need to be the “yes” girl. No rocking the boat, wanting to be liked, never asking for the raise they so deserve or even thinking to negotiate. Women who feel it is their role to please, that it is their duty to make everyone else’s life around them better, more comfortable, even if it comes at the expense of their own health and happiness. 

As important to our health as any food we eat, is the reduction of stress in our lives. Too many women are trying to do too many things.  Working outside the home long hours and still coming home to the same role of caretaker, endless household chores, good mother, the good wife or partner, and it has taken a toll.  Women are exhausted.  Enter IBS, digestive issues, depression, headaches and numerous other stress related physical ailments.

We are pleasers by nature. We bend over backwards to fill everyone’s needs, whether it be our children, spouse, friends, family, boss, or co-workers.  Now, when women are asked to do something and they don’t want to do it, they usually end up doing it anyway or they feel they have to make up a thousand excuses (some are downright lies) to get out of it.

For example, it could be something as simple as a friend calls and asks you to go to dinner with her on Thursday night.  You really don’t want to. You’ve had a busy week and all you want to do is go home after work, get in you pj’s and watch a movie.  But instead of telling your friend that, out of fear of hurting her feelings, you will concoct some sort of story, make up something that indicates you are already committed.  

One of the many spiritual teachers I was lucky enough to have known, was a woman named Shirley, who lived in Sonoma. She gave me one of the most important pieces of advice that I ever received in my life.  She advised me, that on those occasions, all we have to say is “No”.  Politely, of course.  We just have to say “Thanks for the invite, but I already have plans on Thursday.” And you do.  It is not a lie.  Your plans are to be with yourself.  Watching a movie, taking a bath, cutting your toenails.  It doesn’t matter what it is.  It is time you are spending with you.  And we all need that desperately in our lives. Now if our friend/business associate or whoever has any manners, he/she will not question you about your plans.  And if they do, and they give you a hard time about it, you might want to consider what kind of friend this is.  

There is nothing wrong with giving, in fact, it is one of our most wonderful attributes. But in order to give we must keep ourselves full, and we can't do that if we never get time to replenish our supply.

So if you find it difficult to say no, practice that line and be ready to use it next time you want some down time.  “Thank you, but no. I already have plans that day/night/time”. Practice saying “no” ~ and saying “yes” to time spent with yourself, to rejuvenate, to breathe, to give you the energy to keep on giving.

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