You see I have long been a people pleaser.

Taking a short cut to the park, I slipped into the back roads and felt less of a heaviness on my chest. My pace slowed down and the deep belly breaths I was taking in felt like I was finally allowing my lungs to do their job properly. As over the last few weeks I felt I was shallow breathing, my chest was tight and I had a couple of anxiety attacks; my gosh we are still barely into 2023. It was only when I had time to myself I realized how much I was bending myself to please others. Whether that was not speaking my true feelings or just going along with things to not rock the boat.

You see I have long been a people pleaser, actually for as long as I can remember. My earliest memory is me crying every time I had to go to nursery, I hated it there and I’m not quite sure if it’s down to some type of neurodivergence but I quickly understood how I was acting was wrong. I developed an innate feeling of I must present myself a particular way, that’s agreeable, that doesn’t show my distressed emotions and not be sensitive. So I basically became a try hard in social situations and at the same time holding a lot of myself back due to being scared of being shamed to show how I truly felt.

(Disclaimer, artwork has been generated by AI using my prompts relevant to this post)

Accompanied with a sprinkle of low self esteem and a splash of self doubt and trauma… Voila! You have me going through life into my early 30’s not really knowing who I am and how to express myself. This is where being creative truly opened things up with me, alongside going on a trauma healing journey and doing inner child work. Whew! It is a lot and healing is not easy at all. I have been documenting my journey (although not very cohesively) on tiktok and it has been great to connect to others and also be spurred on to carry on this path as the voice in my head does pop up and tell me to retreat back to my old people pleasing ways.

I don’t know why I’ve ALWAYS felt guilty about taking up space, I guess being of Caribbean descent in Britain its a matter of survival. However I feel like like I’ve taken this to the extreme where it’s very much been at my own detriment as it hasn’t made me better off in terms of my own happiness. Since my trauma in my early 20’s this worsened and I felt numb for years, my sibling told me only recently it seems like I’m back to my “old self”. In many ways I don’t feel as numb but I do feel quite dissociated because that’s been my survival tactic and it’s left me having anxiety attacks. When I delved into arts and crafts that really made me feel centered, I was focused and I felt a huge sense of accomplishment.

I was also meditating, spending a lot of time in nature and doing a lot of inner child work which ultimately led me to feeling at home with myself for the first time ever. I often felt that when I have expressed my feelings its come with resistance but I guess that how life is but it did make me feel extremely uncomfortable. I never wanted people to think I was difficult or a nuisance, I must have told myself somewhere down the line that being agreeable would make me lovable and I could avoid the feeling of shame. Funnily enough I’ve carried the feeling of shame around with me in what feels like a life time. Being creative was my sacred space, I could let out feelings of shame or it would be taken over by feelings of peace and serenity. I feel like I’m giving myself a huge embrace when I’m in my creative flow, my inner me is smiling and because I’m not people pleasing so much I feel like I am truly letting go and releasing emotions not holding onto them.

Feeling more connected to the inner me and understanding myself more has let me look at certain situations differently. I allow myself to put myself first a lot more, this doesn’t mean disregarding other people and their feelings but more so taking how I feel into consideration a lot more. Not rocking the boat is no longer at the forefront of my thoughts. I realise that I’m still understanding how to express myself properly interacting in relationships and can be murky waters to navigate however I’m glad I am persisting with this journey.

I’ve held a lot in for most of my life and I’m working on not being shameful about, that’s the hard thing about healing, don’t fall into the trap of feeling guilt and shame instead have compassion for yourself. You’ve come so far and all versions of you throughout your life will be proud.

Have you ever been a people pleaser? And has creativity help you manage this? Or even if you have any tips on over coming people pleasing, let me know in the comments below.

Lissy xoxo

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