Episode 23: How to Stop “People Pleasing” as a Solopreneur

People pleasing can be a stress response or a response to past trauma that you can learn to recognize and stop.

As we talked about in episode 11 , one of the most important things you can do for your life and for the success of your business is learn to take care of your nervous system.

For me, this is what hard work is all about because it requires:

  1. Recognizing the neural pathways that have programed your brain for your entire life, and

2. Understanding that they are not facts, therefore you are not required to believe them anymore, and

3. You can change them and create new pathways that will help you become healthier, happier, and more successful.

In Episode 11, we talked about how the stress response is usually known as fight, flight, or freeze. But today’s episode is all about fawning, or the people pleasing stress response.   Find the full transcript and other resources at richlysuccessful.com/23

Changing your beliefs is the hardest work you’ll ever do. It’s my definition of hard work. And it doesn’t have to be hard.

It may just feel hard because it is unfamiliar, and unfamiliarity makes our brains go on alert.

A lot of us believe that the parts of life or business that make us feel angry, scared, like fighting, running away or shutting down are just things we have to push through and do anyway. For me that feels like trying to push a big rock up a mountain. It’s hard but it doesn’t accomplish much. 

What works best, but can feel harder, is to examine what beliefs we have that are making us react in these ways.

Let’s look at some typical stress responses. Most of us have heard of fight or flight. 

4 Typical Stress Responses and What They Might Look Like for Solopreneurs

1. Fight. With the fight response, you might find yourself taking offense to something someone says and feel the need to argue. 

For example, let’s say you are running a Facebook ad for your service, or are posting online in a local Facebook group offering your service and a stranger makes a rude comment about you or your ad. If you let that stranger’s comments make you mad enough to engage and react in an argumentative way, this means you may have had the “fight” response triggered.

2. Flight. With the flight response, you may find yourself running away from uncomfortable situations. This could look like ghosting or leaving an event when you feel triggered. It could also look like canceling a meeting at the last minute, or just feeling the need to escape a situation.

3. Freeze is another common stress response, which makes you shut down.  This might look like procrastination or avoiding your business responsibilities.  For this one, you may just procrastinate on your to do list when there are too many unfamiliar tasks. Or maybe you stop connecting with your prospective clients because you don’t want them to reject you.  This could be the freeze response.

4. Fawning isn’t talked about as much as fight or flight, or even freeze, but in my experience, it can be the most harmful to you.

Fawning is when you put other people’s needs before your own. Fawning is trying to appease others to avoid conflict or arguments. It’s when you over-give of yourself to try to keep someone or everyone else happy, but you deplete yourself in the process.  And when you have this deeply engrained habit, trying to quit will leave you feeling guilty for doing things for yourself.

As with the other stress responses, fawning was probably developed during stressful or traumatic times of childhood as a way to stay safe.  For some reason, it wasn’t safe to rock the boat so you learned to people please and put your needs after someone else’s. Regardless of the root, let’s look at some ways it shows up in business.

3 Ways People Pleasing Negatively Impacts Your Business

1. You feel guilty for saying “no.”

If you have developed the fawning response of people pleasing you probably have a hard time saying no to people.  You may say yes to everyone except yourself.  This is a big problem in business because you are the boss and if you don’t make the rules someone else will and your business could eventually disintegrate.

2. You have a hard time with sales and the concept of people paying you money for your service.

People pleasers don’t want to disappoint anyone, so if a client reacts to the price of your service with a negative response, people pleasers will feel guilty! You might even avoid this reaction all together by having rock bottom prices just to avoid having a negative price tag reaction.  This is bad for you and your business and it is also bad for your clients because 1. Your business won’t survive long and 2. You won’t have time to serve people who need you and are happy to pay you. You’ll just be catering to the haters and people who don’t value you.

3. You have a hard time creating a schedule that works for your flow.

You will work when others want you to work, rather than when you decide. This happens with a lot of clients I work with who have a hard time taking time off each week.

For example, some real estate agents with young families want to take Sunday off, but are afraid clients who want to look at houses on Sundays will stop doing business with them.  In my experience, those who bent over backwards and fawned, or people pleased their clients were more disrespected and made less money than those who set their schedule up for their own needs first.

The problem is this: people pleasers mistakenly think they are controlling the situation by people pleasing but it never works that way.

This is because when you learned people pleasing behaviors, you probably didn’t really have any control and the only thing you could do to ensure safety was to not rock the boat. But that was most likely false safety then and it’s the same now. People pleasing doesn’t really work because you appease the wrong people. So, what can you do about it?

4 Ways to Stop People Pleasing as a Solopreneur

1. Notice all the ways you are doing it. Now that you know what it is, start noticing anytime you say yes but you want to say no. What are you doing in your life or business that you don’t want to be doing? To simplify, here’s a question to journal on:

What do I wish I could stop doing or being?

If you take some time to reflect on that question, you may find you have a long list.  I’d start with a list in your journal or even make a list in your phone so you can write it down throughout the day.  What do I wish I could stop doing or being?

2. Recognize the belief behind it. What thoughts are you having when you people please?

You may even want to make a new list titled something like this:

Why Do I Put Others First?

I personally like the question “Why do I put myself on the backburner?” I think that one speaks to the subconscious better. Why do you put yourself on the backburner? Why do you defer to others?

You’ll most likely uncover a lot of hidden beliefs inside your brain that have been keeping you in this people pleasing behavior.

3. Decide to replace that thought with a new one. So for this one, you could ask,

Why do I deserve to be first?

Give yourself time to reflect on it. Keep a list in your phone so that every time a thought comes up you can capture it.

4. Practice. The practice phase is a lifelong practice because rewiring your brain takes a lot of time.  We can’t undo the old neural pathways, but we can create new ones and practicing them will make them stick.

Sometimes when we open ourselves up to the fact that people pleasing is a problem, our subconscious will start sending us clues about how deep things are.  If you want a great book to read about this I would recommend Don Miguel Ruiz, Jr.’s book The Mastery of Life. It talks a lot about how we all get attached to certain ideas and then cling to them, which molds who we are.

I realized that many of us get attached to “not enoughness” early on in life. It could be trauma or even society telling us the ways we should be that are different.

I read this book and then had a dream that I was in a hotel lobby and noticed that huge plates of delicious foods were being wheeled into a room. It was tray after tray of the most majestically delicious foods I had ever seen.

I started asking people around me, “How do you get that? Who’s it for?” And they said, “Anyone can have it,” but I didn’t believe I was allowed. It was so delicious looking I had to keep asking about it and finally, I saw someone I know walk out and asked him how he got it. He said he just had to pay 50 cents for a plate and it was open to anyone.

I was still so hesitant because I didn’t think I was special enough to go inside. Finally I tiptoed to the door and snuck in. There were no attendants. It was a serve yourself buffet of the finest foods I’d ever seen. I timidly picked up a plate and started scooping, realizing I had waited so long some of the stuff was halfway gone. But still there was plenty.

And then I woke up. I realized my soul was telling me that the world is a buffet of opportunity for all of us. The only reason we don’t scoop it up is because we think we don’t deserve it or someone else deserves it more. That’s not true. Go fill your plate before the food gets cold. There’s still plenty of it for all of us.

Don’t let any old beliefs that tell you you aren’t enough or you don’t deserve it get in your way. You are enough and you are here to do great things. I hope you are ready.

And if you would like some support reaching your business goals, I would love to help. Head over to richlysuccessful.com/work-with-christina and fill out the application for a discovery call.

Or, you can email me at christina@nullrichlysuccessful.com and we will set up a free discovery call to talk about your business and ways my support can help you reach your goals.