Regarding people-pleasing, well, at a certain point, there was a time in your life that your life depended on pleasing people. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? It’s a compensation. It shouldn’t have had to [be that way]. Ideally, life would have given you circumstances where you would have been accepted and valued for exactly who you were. As a young child, that’s a need of ours. If we don’t get that, we become people-pleasers. And let me tell you….these chronic people-pleasers who suppress themselves to please others, that’s the source of so much physical illness. That pleasing of others and suppressing your own needs to please others actually undermines your immune system. This is science. Gabor Mate with Dhru Purohit
Self-care has been a buzz word for a while. In my opinion, its trendiness has actually done it a disservice. Many teachers have focused on the importance of caring for self and have found many ways of approaching and explaining this essential topic.
My perspective varies a bit from what we often hear in the mainstream. Many instruct us that caring for self is essential, because if we don’t attend to our needs, we will have nothing to offer others. We have all heard some variation of this: We can’t serve others from an empty vessel. But in my opinion, there’s more here to unpack. An ability to care for ourselves must first be predicated on the fact that we love and honor ourselves. Without this foundation and understanding, why would we believe we are worthy of self-care?
And this gets to the heart of Mate’s discussion above. Chronic people-pleasing is an addiction like any other. At a minimum, this behavior leads us to second-guess ourselves and seek approval from others. It becomes a “compensation” for our inability to discern what we want. At worst, the drive to please others becomes a compensation for a much deeper spiritual lacuna: the inability to know who we are apart from others’ affirmations or criticisms.
This addiction paralyzes us. We find it increasingly impossible to make decisions or even state how we feel without worry of judgment. As Mate explains, the suppression of our own desires and authenticity often eventually manifest as physical illness. But, as he reminds us, like all other addictions, people-pleasing isn’t itself the “disability.” Yes, it becomes a “problem”–the focus of therapy and counseling and seemingly the nexus of our own guilt and shame. But it is actually no more the root of the issue than drug addiction or alcoholism. These patterns, propensities, and addictions are always the result of something deeper and systemic: the absence of self-love and thus self-care.
So, what then? How do this acknowledgment and insight inform our greater awareness and deeper consciousness? If we feel challenged to care for ourselves and understand that we are lacking a sense of worthiness and self-love, how do we begin to change this dynamic so that we might live more fully?
This is where a greater awareness in formlessness intersects with our patterns of thoughts and behaviors in form. Only when we understand and integrate into our consciousness that our need for approval, attention, and love began early in life and taught us to seek these essential elements outside ourselves, can we then begin to shift. With greater clarity and compassion for ourselves, we can reassess and change this dynamic. Eventually, we are able to look to the only place true belonging, acceptance, worthiness, and love reside: within ourselves.
Most of us are “looking for love in all the wrong places,” Abraham tells us. We don’t know it exists in ourselves, so we seek it elsewhere. “Do you love me?” we ask others. “Am I enough?” “Are you angry with me?” “What did I do wrong?” “Why don’t you love me?” “Please love me.” Our questions and pleadings are our attempt to seek answers and affirmation out there somewhere. We are constantly looking outside ourselves.
How do we learn to go within and discover serenity and belonging there? Simply by starting. We decide to surrender to this truth: the Divine spark, which is love, resides in us even if for the moment we can’t see or feel it. We give up resistance, arguing that we are not enough, that we do not belong, that we are broken. Instead, we choose to become still and quiet and open our hearts, even just a little, to the more of who we are. We cultivate a loving and caring spirit, allow it to flow through us–through us and to us.
A true sense of worthiness, of feeling that we deserve to love and care for ourselves, only comes from one place: aligning with the truth of who we are, by connecting to beauty, joy, and appreciation, and allowing it to fill us with its energy. Vision boards, mantras, and affirmations are not enough. They are merely superficial and ultimately ineffective if we are not first connected to Source from which all high vibration originates.
It is in this state of alignment that creation expands. It is here that we shed our lack-based need for others’ approval and dwell in the outpouring of connection to self. In this state of wholeness, there is no fear or loneliness or separateness or desperation. There is only compassion and oneness. Here, we reside in the certainty that we belong to ourselves and to the love that holds us in our eternal unfolding.