How I Retired as a People Pleaser

Oct 15, 2021

In my life before loss, I said yes to every invitation. I did my best to be present in the lives of my many friends. I had recognized that it was easy for me to be a good listener (and many people are not) and so I lent an ear to as many people as I could.

If there was a blank spot on my calendar and someone asked if I was available, I always said yes. If my calendar was double booked, I would split my time between the two.

I didn’t want to let anyone down.

All the while, precious time with my husband was ticking away. By the time I got home, my energy was drained, and our time together lacked quality. I see it perfectly in hindsight:

In the spirit of not letting anyone down, I was letting myself down.

In the months after my loss, I had to focus completely on myself. I turned in, stayed home and willed my heart to beat. As month after month passed, I noticed that my energy reserves were still quite low. I realized that I had to be intentional as to how I would spend what little energy I had.

That meant focusing on myself like never before.

I had visitors who stayed too long, chattered too much, and offered unhelpful platitudes and I could feel my energy depleting quickly. While I recognized their good intentions, I slowly learned how to pace myself, and I gave a lot of thought to who I would allow into my daily life.

To this day, it’s a short list.

Now, nine years later, I don’t make myself available for every invitation. I block my calendar to recharge. I say no. I don’t always answer the phone and I don’t always respond to messages. I’ve learned how to end conversations that I’m not willing to participate in.

Life dropped a massive dividing line into my life, marking the before and after. In the after, I had to make my world much smaller in order have the energy to survive, to pick up the pieces and reassemble something of a life, to figure out the twists and turns of life after loss, and eventually to thrive again. That took intentionality, focus and energy. And it still does, because I’m not finished.

To this day I manage my energy carefully, I limit my exposure to lots of people, I recharge regularly, and I do my best to be fully present in the moments. I consider it hard-earned wisdom.

When a friend asked about my lack of communication, I said, “I’ve got to take care of me right now. I don’t expect you to understand what this is like for me.” It was that simple.

It felt honest. It felt good. It felt like the end of people pleasing – a dividing line of my own creation. I left it in the past.

Life after loss is by far the most difficult time of a person’s life. It’s something we can’t possibly fully prepare for. It’s the darkest darkness. Of any time in our lives, it is the time that we must take care of ourselves like never before. If not now, when?

If you can’t see a way to end people pleasing in your life after loss, I understand. This is one of many topics we cover in my Life Reconstructed coaching program. If you’re ready to invest in yourself as a first step in taking better care of yourself, simply apply here and we’ll see if it’s a fit.  

Learn more about Life Reconstructed.

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