What People-Pleasing Looks Like After 40
by Murielle Marie
“Life begins at 40.”
When I was twenty years old I thought this was the silliest thing I’d ever heard, and even now, as I write it down as the opening line of this article, it sounds awfully cliché. Yet, now that I am passed 40, it also sounds - and feels - like truth.
Obviously, my life started awhile ago. Anyone who has lived to see 40 will agree to that, I’m sure. But when it comes to how alive, happy, or confident I am? I’m not so sure.
For the biggest part of my existence I was a perfectionist, a people-pleaser, a good girl. I was a woman that believed sacrificing myself for the sake of others was what I was supposed to do. I believed it was my duty to juggle a million plates in the air at the same time, that I had to be strong, that I wasn’t allowed to make a mistake. I even took pride in it, and lived for that moment when someone would recognize my super-human abilities to take on more than anyone else...
Although on the outside I looked like I had my life together, on the inside it didn’t feel like that at all.
Trying to please everyone all the time left me exhausted, unhappy, alienated from myself. Years of people-pleasing had made me very good at anticipating other people’s needs but it also put me at the bottom of my own list of priorities, and made me lose touch with my desires, dreams, and the things that brought joy to my life.
In 2010, after a personal tragedy, I woke up to my life and realized I was not living, but being lived. I had no clue about who I was or what I stood for. The only thing I knew was how to take care of others - almost at all costs. Realising this was a turning point for me.
I believe that many of us, especially in our 40’s, will go through something similar. That doesn’t mean that we will all experience a tragedy, or that something terrible needs to happen for us to wake up. As we grow older I believe we gain more awareness about ourselves, about our lives. This allows us to reflect on who we are, and more importantly on who we want to be.
When I realised how much of a people-pleaser I had been all my life, it was hard to forgive myself for it. I wasn’t upset for all that I had given others, but rather for all that I had failed to give myself: friendship, compassion, courage, love…
There was a lot of learning and unlearning to be done so I could transform the negative aspects of being a people-pleaser into assets that would serve me instead. And, through this process I learned to:
- Trust my own judgement above that of others.
- Give myself the love, and attention, I was so good at giving others.
- Put myself first instead of last on my todo list.
What I really had to learn was how to make myself happy, with the same care and attention that I had always used to made sure everyone else around me was happy.
I had to learn to start with myself first. And, that is what I believe people-pleasing looks like after 40.
What do you think?