I've always described myself as a "people pleaser," just generally, you know? I like it when people around me are happy. Not just happy, but happy with me. And if someone were to ask me how I'd describe my work ethic, I would also say, "Well, I'm a people pleaser of course!" I can't help it. Well, supposedly, this is a negative thing.
According to a post on Ms. Career Girl, "A Remedy for the 'Pleasing Disease'," there's a lot of us working girls who have this problem, er, "disease." We say yes to too many things. We commit to too many things. We think we can accomplish too many things in too little time. We think we can please everyone with our superhuman girl powers. We think the phrase, "Don't worry, it'll aaalllll work out in the end" applies to everything. But what happens when it doesn't all work out in the end? It's a hard slap in the face. Embarrassment. Guilt. Disaster.
My people pleasing disease got the better of me recently. It was a long time coming, though. For about four years, I helped a friend with her start-up business. I said yes to everything she asked me to do, even offering up my time to take on even more work. All pro bono. I kept telling myself it was for a good cause. That I was learning a lot and that all the hard work was really good experience and great for my resume.
Except, after a while my stress was getting out of control. I felt like I was always running low on time. And when I'd try and sit down to evaluate things, what stood out was this pro bono stuff was sure taking a lot out of me, and for what? What was I gaining professionally? After a certain amount of time, not much. There's the slap.
I think one of the hardest things for us working girls is to cut things out of our lives that are doing more taking than giving. Whether it's that professional club you volunteer too many hours to or that pet project at work you continue to lead vs. delegate that has dragged on and on and on ... or whether it's just saying no, or at least, as Ms. Career Girl suggests, saying, "Let me get back to you," so we can really think about what we're getting ourselves into when opportunites to work and keep (a little too) busy come our way.
Giving my friend an official "no" to more work and literally severing our prior arrangement was one of the hardest things I've ever done. It was worse than quitting a job. Of course I felt it was very personal, and of course I felt bad and reconsidered several times before actually taking the plunge, and of course I wanted to say, "haha, just kidding!" But after it was all said and done, MAN! It felt so good. It was like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. In a way, I felt free again.
I really like what Ms. Career Girl says here (emphasis added):
"I could’ve shifted away from over-committal or doing things I didn’t truly want to do. It’s so easy to get sucked in to the excitement of the moment or the positive energy of the person in front of you."
I can't tell you how many times I've felt this same exact way. Now that I know better, I think I'll be able to better recognize when I'm approached by something potentially time-sucking. It's all about balance and there's a time and place for everything. In my case, there was a time for the pro bono work, and I'll always be glad for that experience, but I shouldn't have let it get out of hand and let it control me, I need to be the one in control of my time.