How a Recovering People-Pleaser Found Happiness
For most of my life I was really good at being who others wanted me to be. I wanted my family to be proud of me. I wanted my peers to like me. At my core, I wanted to be loved and accepted. It is what all humans want.
So I spent many, many years pleasing others. Doing what society taught me was acceptable. I got good grades, went to college, got a good job, went back to school for a master's degree—I worked hard and by all standards, it paid off. I had an amazing, full life. I had good friends and family who loved me, a beautiful home and money to spend on travel or whatever my heart desired.
I should have been happy—I expected to finally be happy. My life looked the way I had imagined, the picture perfect image of happiness and success. I had it all. And yet, something was missing. I was lost. There was an emptiness inside that I couldn't explain.
And so, I began a journey to fill the void. There were therapists, coaches, books, and countless moments of deciphering between who society/family/friends/employers wanted me to be and who I wanted to be. Or more precisely, who I truly was deep down inside.
Back then, I believed that we were all striving for the same "finish line," because pride and accomplishment leads to satisfaction, and satisfaction leads to happiness. So I was understandably perplexed when happiness never arrived. Apparently the old adage that happiness is an inside job has some truth to it.
So how did a recovering people-pleaser find her happiness?
The first step was to turn inward.
After a lifetime of looking outside of myself for answers to life's questions, big and small, the simple act of turning inward was challenging. I had to learn to trust myself, my decisions, and most importantly, my intuition.
That internal compass exists for a reason! It tells me what's true for me and it doesn't always jive with what others would want for me. That's typically a sign that I’m on the right track, that I'm living for myself and not someone else. Of course, I still seek counsel from others now and then but when it comes down to it, I always pause and check in with my heart. I trust that it won't lead me astray and so far, it hasn't.
The second step is to find your voice.
Once I was clear on who I was and what I wanted, I had to learn to speak my truth. I have always been non-confrontational, afraid to rock the boat, make others uncomfortable or say the wrong thing and regret it. I would bite my tongue and swallow my words instead of expressing myself fully.
I have found that true love and acceptance can only be fully experienced if you're being your whole self, all the time. Not everyone is going to like what I have to say and I accept that I may lose some relationships along the way. But if they only liked me when I was saying what they wanted to hear, they weren't there for me in the first place. My marriage and friendships fill me up with love and support like never before, because I know they see, appreciate and feel the real me.
The final step is to have courage.
Once I decided to honor what my soul felt called to do, what would make me the most happy, I knew I was going to disappoint some people. I was walking away from a life I had spent 20 years building, from an identity that people understood. Forging my own path wasn't easy and it took me over a year to build up the courage to take the leap. But it was worth it and it'd do it again in a heartbeat.
I could have stayed comfortable, in my predictable, and utterly dull, existence. It's easy to continue doing what you've always done. It's safe. But it lacks magic and the excitement of possibility. Creating a life that lights you up requires you to choose courage over comfort. Every single day.
I'm elated to report that I'm happier than I've ever been. I am no longer lost. I have purpose and my internal compass tells me exactly where I need to go. I am free to chase my dreams and live an extraordinary life because I am finally being true to myself. It took me a long time to get here, but I wouldn't have it any other way because knowing what could have been if I'd have stayed stuck motivates me every day to remain true to my heart.
This piece was written and contributed by:
Dating and Relationship Coach
Jackie helps women grow their dating confidence so that they can attract love while remaining true to themselves through her signature group program, Dating Confidence Academy. Her compassionate, no-nonsense approach empowers clients to own their worth, trust their intuition and date with intention to attract their soulmate. Jackie is a #1 Amazon International Bestselling contributing author to the anthology, The Art & Truth of Transformation for Women. She lives in Milwaukee with her husband and stepdaughter.