If you pay attention to the darkness, you will never find the light.
Thinking is difficult, that's why most people judge. - Carl Gustav Jung
by Leon Seltzer
Early programs of adaptation, perceived as intimately tied to family survival, are always knotty and difficult to uproot. This now outdated behavioural program automatically gets repeated (with dozens of variations) once they're on their own. An enormous psychological toll take on the lives of people who have these exaggerated approval-seeking behaviours, people who have not developed any sense that they're inherently worth caring for i.e. love for themselves — they strive to make themselves lovable by becoming for others whatever they think might be wanted from them. They literally don’t know how to nurture themselves.
They experienced their placating behaviour as the best—or only--way to gain their caretakers' love and caring. As with almost everything else relating to the human psyche, when a behavioural pattern that is clearly maladaptive as an adult was once adaptive as a child, there will be a strong, deep-seated resistance to changing it. And this opposition will hold regardless of how much, consciously, the individual truly desires to change it. For the anxious child within can only view such efforts as gravely threatening the need for personal security (which is so intimately linked to avoiding parental disapproval). Doubtless, however positive or attractive people-pleasers might appear to others on the surface, their concealed frustrations and fears are far more negative—and unsettling—than most people could ever realize.
Fearful of losing approval; fearful of failure and rejection; constant self-criticism and self-belittlement; nagging sense of guilt and shame about not really being "good enough" for others; confused about why it takes so much energy to please others; fearful of not doing their best for others; fearful of letting friends and family down; fearful of being “found out” as not being as good as they seem; urge to run away from the constant stress of always having to prove they’re “good enough”; exhaustion from always trying so hard to be perfect; disappointment in not being able to make everyone happy; critical of how well they’re doing in their personal lives; feeling unappreciated, taken advantage of, and taken for granted; feeling like victims—or martyrs; easily falling apart under pressure; unorganized; chronic insecurities in personal interactions (for they're feeling okay is so conditional and dependent on others' approval); inability to sustain healthy relationships with healthy boundaries; inability to trust, accept or perceive as heartfelt others' kindness or positive feedback; difficulty or inability to manage, lead or supervise others (for fear of offending—or displeasing—them); inability to effectively control their time, whether at work or at home (mainly because of problems saying no to others' requests); inability to stay with or accomplish personal goals (because they're not a high-enough priority for themselves); inability to make decisions; and—ultimately--burnout, whether at work, home, or both (partly because people-pleasers don't know how to relax—or don't feel they can let themselves relax—and partly because they're forever driven to prove their worth to others, such that not constantly doing something triggers in them anxiety or guilt).
Feeling more and more enslaved by the needs of those they've so obsessively catered to, their readiness to change is generally signaled by their growing resentment. It is a resentment that over time has accumulated so much mass that inevitably it's begun to leak out in the form of passive-aggressive behavior.
Only through learning how to feel okay solely from within is it possible to undo the essential motivation for pleasing others—which, of course, is based on the need to earn their validation. To this point, people-pleasers have been unable to internalize (or make "real" for themselves) this external validation anyway. Like any other addiction(whether to a substance, activity, or relationship) implicitly the keyword for them has been more. For without the ability to truly "get" that they're good enough—despite any number of compliments or kudos from without—they've spent their whole lives trying to get more and more of what finally could never lead to the self-approval and -acceptance they've yearned for all along.
And here is precisely where it becomes obvious how people-pleasing is virtually synonymous with low self-esteem. For people who truly value themselves simply don't need to focus on pleasing others in order to feel (conditionally) good enough. With sufficient self-valuing, they're free to independently pursue their own dreams, not feel bound to fulfill someone else's.
To whatever degree, such feelings are likely to show up almost every time they act in a self-interested (vs. self-sacrificing) manner. The best formula for success, then, is to acknowledge these feelings as they come up and speak to the apprehensive child within—who "owns," or "has custody of," such doubts. Gently and reassuringly (but firmly as well), the child self needs to be repeatedly reminded that they have a perfect right both to assert their needs and to say no whenever a request or demand feels unfair or excessive to them. Over and over they need to get the new and revised message that their own wants and desires are legitimate and important, and that it's safe to hold onto them even when they differ from another's.
by Louise Atkinson
This destructive chatter of self-doubt is the Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTS) kicking in. The human mind evolved to solve problems. It was important for our survival that we be able to predict possible future sources of danger, rejection, or failure. We needed to ensure our protection from the elements, starvation, and predators like lions. We needed to make sure we were supported and on good terms with our tribe, because becoming isolated and rejected meant that we'd be left to fend for ourselves without the support of others (and thus, be at far greater risk of dying). We needed to be able to plan ahead to make sure we were in the right place during the rainy season, or the dry season. So, ANTS are simply evolutionary echoes from our past. so, it's no wonder that so many of our thoughts are "negative" (i.e., focused on problem-solving, rather than enjoyment of life or ourselves). We try to prevent rejection by thinking of all the possible things about ourselves that might make us undesirable to other people. We compare ourselves to others -- in terms of looks, status, success, friends ("tribe members"), just as our early ancestors would have done. It's just not possible to make ANTS go away. A much better approach, is to simply allow the thoughts to come and go as they will, accepting them as a natural consequence of being human. You're not going to change overnight, but over the course of a few weeks, you can reduce those extraneous thoughts and quiet your mind. It will rewire your brain.
ANT: All or nothing
This is the black-and-white thinking that leads you to believe everything is either all good or all bad. It’s the warped logic that dictates that if you miss one day at the gym you therefore have no self-discipline and might as well give up the whole idea of exercise completely.
ANT-eater: Force yourself to acknowledge that one slip-up doesn’t mean you should give up. If you skip the gym one day, make sure you go the next.
ANT: Using ‘always’, ‘never’, ‘every time’ or ‘everyone’
If you find yourself saying ‘I will never lose weight’ you are acting as if you have no control over your actions.
ANT-eater: Never say never — put a ban on over-generalised words
ANT: Focusing on negatives
If you find yourself dwelling on negatives at the expense of positives you’ll be more inclined to give up than to persist.
ANT-eater: Try to put a positive spin on anything you can to raise your mood.
ANT: Thinking with feeling
When you assume your feeling about something is true, you may not question it.
ANT-eater: Think with logic instead — look for evidence to support and challenge your view.
Using the words ‘should’, ‘must’, ‘ought to’ and ‘have to’ allows feelings of guilt to build up and start to control your behaviour.
ANT-eater: Banish feelings of guilt, do what you can, but not at the expense of your own health or sanity, and use the word ‘should’ only when it suits you.
If you label yourself (‘I’m a loser’) you take away your control over your actions and you’ll start to believe your negative labels. This defeatist attitude will then mean you have a tendency to give up easily.
ANT-eater: Avoid labelling yourself, and flip the labels you’re stuck with (‘I am not a loser’).
RED ANT: Fortune-telling
Predicting the worst even though you don’t know what will happen (‘I know I’m never going to be able to stick to this exercise programme’). These ANTs are very common and can quickly become an ANT infestation. The problem with fortune-telling is your mind is so powerful it really can make these terrible things more likely.
If you allow yourself to get stressed about something, it can depress your immune system and increase your odds of getting sick. In fact, chronic stress has been implicated in a number of diseases.
ANT-eater: Ask yourself what right you have to be a fortune-teller. You don’t know what the future holds. Instead, be curious about the future in a positive way.
RED ANT: Mind-reading
When you think you know what someone else is thinking (‘he’s looking at my bottom, he must think I’m too fat’).
ANT-eater: You have no idea what people are thinking. If someone looks at you it does not necessarily mean they are judging you.
RED ANT: Blaming others
It’s toxic to blame others and take no responsibility for your own successes and failures. When you begin a sentence with ‘it is your fault’ it can ruin your life. These ANTs make you a victim.
ANT-eater: You are responsible for how your life turns out. You can’t keep blaming others.