People Pleasing: Doubting What We Know

A few months ago I wrote a blog entitled Putting Yourself at the Center which talked about the spiritual underpinnings of making choices in our daily lives that include our needs as well as the needs of others. I have been living and teaching these tenets for years, yet the tendency to put other people at the center persists.  In a curious turn of events, it showed up in my work life last week.

Last fall, when I let go of organizing the Center for Nonviolent Communication’s International Intensive Trainings (CNVC’s IITs), I made a commitment to build my practice to replace the income.  To support me in this engaged expansion, I started working with someone at WESST (a statewide small business development and training organization committed to growing New Mexico’s economy by cultivating entrepreneurship).

Not surprisingly, we recognized that the next indicated thing was to move through a branding process, develop a logo, and get consistent about what I offer across my marketing collateral (website, business cards, workshop flyers, etc.).  This would allow me to develop a cohesive message and more effectively market to organizations as well as individuals.

The entire process of interviewing graphic and web designers and then waiting for proposals was stressful for me.  Overwhelmed with details and aware there was a lot of money at stake, I was terrified I would make the “wrong” decision and end up with a logo and website I didn’t like.  But all this was running under my radar; indiscernible in the moment, but increasing my stress level.

The field narrowed pretty quickly.  A local graphic designer who had boatloads of experience with branding rose to the top; but she didn’t have experience with WordPress.  A young graphic and website designer with significant WordPress experience also rose to the top; his designs were good, but I sensed I would enjoy the branding process with the other gal more.  At this point I knew what I wanted…to have the gal do the logo and the young man do the website.

Then, in a conversation with the young man, I realized that he would prefer to do both the logo and website design.  My people-pleasing tendencies kicked in and I began to question my own knowing.

Questioning my own knowing and intuition.  Giving myself permission to know, want, and act.

This pattern, questioning what I know (and want) because others would prefer something else or have a different opinion is uncomfortable and confusing.  I put myself in this weird state where I have to convince myself that my preferences matter more than theirs.  I have to give myself permission to want what I want…but I spend lots of time denying myself that permission. (Not unlike what I described in my last blog Embracing Light: Having the Courage to Want)

It seems related to that old pattern of needing someone to be right and someone to be wrong in order to find resolution.  When I am overwhelmed and caught in my own stories, I completely forget about the basic tenants of NVC – that everyone’s needs matter and that as we savor the needs, a strategy will emerge that will meet everyone’s needs.

As I unpacked the stories I was telling myself – that it would be easier to have one person do the entire project and I’d save $100; that there was a “right” choice; that I had to make them all happy so they’d do the work for me; that I didn’t have a right to my preferences – I began to breath and relax.  They weren’t true.

I remembered the wisdom my colleague from WESST shared with me: “You know what you want. What you need to do is assemble a team of people who will execute it for you.”

I began to imagine doing that, including my needs in the process as well as theirs.  And don’t you know, my intuition kicked in and I knew exactly what to do, how to have the conversations, and that we would ALL be deeply satisfied with the arrangement.

I had regained my footing by giving myself permission to know what I wanted, to have a preference, and to act on that preference in a compassionate, inclusive way. 


Some questions for you:

  • When was the last time you knew what you wanted and doubted yourself?
  • How did you move through the stories and constriction to find your way?
  • What tools were most effective for you?


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