You Might Be a People Pleaser (And You Don’t Even Know It)

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Have you ever gone through a phase where you feel restless, irritable, anxious, like life is moving too fast, overwhelmed, that  whatever you do is not quite good enough and that you can't slow down to even get a handle on what needs to be done?

That is exactly how I felt the other day. I won't sing you the country song version of the sob story but suffice it to say that in my mind (which is my reality you know they say!), I had been running around like a chicken with its head cut off!

Personal emotions, five million logistics with the new building, deadlines to meet related to forming a new curriculum for medical students, struggling to navigate relationships without people getting snippy, not meal prepping, not enough time with the girls, a break from working out (that wasn't exactly intentional!), too much caffeine, missed church, broken sleep, my dog left me for another home (oh wait! That’s the country song).

And then you know what happens, right? The sweaty palms, the racing heart, the pit in your stomach, the heavy feeling, the tears welling up or the tongue lashes out. Well hello, señor panic attack! Haven’t seen you in a while! 

The Red Flags: How People Pleasing Manifests

Luckily I know a few tricks for calming panic and at that particular moment I was in a fairly nice “practice what you preach” mode. So I took a few deep breaths, thought about things that I was grateful for, gave myself a “you got this” kind of pep talk, marched right into Target, and voila! I felt better.

Now, retail therapy isn't the preferred method for calming anxiety. Or at least not on a frequent basis! But it did help (along with the other things) to provide some distraction and relief. But like many anxieties, do they come back if we don’t investigate their source. t really requires digging deep to realize what the trigger is.

On the surface, the trigger might seem simple. You have a lot going on, there's a lot on your plate, you're a hard worker, you have an important job, your family depends on you in tough times. No wonder you're overwhelmed - you deserve to be! But that's an easy way out line of BS to be honest with you.

No matter what is on our plate overwhelm is a choice.

Dig Deep, Your Answer is There

As I thought about what was causing my anxiety, I thought of something. I like people to be happy with me, I don't like to let people down, and it pisses me off when I think that’s going to happen. Now, if you were to ask me if I had a people-pleasing issue I probably would laugh a little bit. I'm pretty good at saying no and I know intellectually that I need to put myself first in order to be able to be at my best for others.  In general, I value my time highly and I'm very particular about who gets it.

But I never really thought of the fact that the fear of disappointing people is just another form of people-pleasing. The reality is, I shouldn't really care what people think about the office challenges,  and how it might reflect on me. When it comes to relationships, only I know my intentions and my heart so if people tend to judge me otherwise that's not my issue. And when it comes to missing curricular deadlines, I know that I have dedicated my best self and that is enough.  What other people think of me is really not any of my business!

So as I write this, nothing in my life has particularly changed. There is still chaos in all those areas, but I am good with this.  Why? Because I’m back to a bit of a schedule-journaling, sleeping, and meal prepping. I have upped my faith game-prayer and worship.  My actions are back in alignment with my priorities-not overworking, and making the next day a true day of rest,family, and a cocktail by a pool.  

Staying in that place of peace and faith is a daily battle and moment to moment battle for many.  But it’s definitely worth the good fight.

To Your Best Health,
Dr. Paige


Dr. Paige Gutheil is a board-certified osteopathic family medicine physician and advocate for a Whole Health approach to your wellness.  She is on a mission to help people thrive by looking at all the influences on health...body, mind, and spirit. Dr. Paige is the founder of an innovative team-based direct primary care practice, Signature Primary Care and Wellness in Hilliard, Ohio. She and her colleagues provide comprehensive primary care, counseling, coaching, nutrition education and yoga to help people all over central Ohio and beyond make fun, achievable changes towards their healthiest and happiest life possible!