I recently got this email about the problem of people-pleasing and avoiding conflict:
I read ur article about fear of conflict and laughed hysterically. Ure fkn brave man! I like ur eastern take on things too where ure aware and u breathe n things. I recognize me being a people-pleaser too and I'm shitless afraid confronting people and coming into conflict. How do i go about it? Do I just do it? How do i do it if the other part is childish and runs from u like a scared little bitch? I want to please everyone but inside i know i HAVE to come into conflict cus i cant escape it. I have to let others know when they're being retarded. I focus too much about making others happy n i cant see em sad. Is this wrong? I think its good to be this compassionate and nice but the more i read up on it somethings telling me this kind of people pleasing is bad for u and ur future. and others?"!?!?! But isn't that another layer I'm adding to it? Stopping people pleasing to please others even further?!?! SO FUCKED UP. WHATS THE POINT OF LIVING WITHOUT VALIDATION and ATTENTION OUTSIDE YOU. FUUUCK. SEEELF IMAGE WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT. WHATS THE PURPOSE of FKN LIFE?!?!
I hear your anger and frustration. This sounds like a classic example of how obsessive people-pleasing and avoidance of conflict undermines your sense of self to the point where your life seems meaningless without external validation. Here's how to fix it:
Obsessive people pleasing and avoidance of conflict will eventually crush you.
At the core of people-pleasing behavior is anxiety, most likely anxiety about being abandoned or unloved. My guess is that you're afraid that you won't survive physically or emotionally without the approval of people around you.
The way to tackle this fear is to stop seeking other people's approval, build a life that is meaningful for you even without external validation and discover that you not only survive; you thrive.
The big irony here is that the less you seek other people's approval, the more likable you will become to most people in the long run. That sounds great in theory, but the only way to really discover it for yourself is to take the journey yourself; and since the biggest impediment to doing this is the anxiety, that's what I'm going to focus on.
I recently came across a great TED talk by social scientist Amy Cuddy titled Your body language shapes who you are. Her research shows that simply adopting a power posture for two minutes can increase your testosterone, reduce your stress hormone cortisol and make you more powerful in social situations... all of which translates into greater self-confidence.
She goes on to describe how to overcome the feeling of being a fraud not just by faking it until you make it, but by faking it until your become it.
From now on, I'm walking around my unit with my arms in a power pose. I don't care what the neighbors think! Check it out: Continue reading
Many men (and women for that matter) in our society don't deal with their emotions well. As a result, most of us are walking around carrying an ever-increasing accumulation of emotional baggage that can get triggered even in seemingly innocuous situations.
People who are upset need empathy, not judgement.
For an example where this happened to me, check out my recent story on Why I Got Upset In Guitar Class. I'll wait here while you do that...
Dealing with people who are upset can be very challenging. Part of what makes this challenging is that other people's emotional upset is likely to trigger our own unresolved emotional baggage. This is why many people try to shut down expressions of unpleasant emotions in other people or resort to "rescuing" behaviors intended to stem the flow of another person's feelings that are making us uncomfortable. Naive rescuers often think they are "helping" because they see the upset person appearing less outwardly distressed; but the upset person is simply internalizing their emotional pain which has disastrous consequences for everyone in the long run.
I'm a full time music student at the moment, and I'm loving learning how to write songs, perform in front of people and express myself through music. Music is great because it deals with both the analytical and emotional side of our brain.
Becoming a rock star isn't all riffs and distortion. There's conflict with other musicians to navigate too.
However, the irrational nature of emotions means that they don't always arise just when we want them to. Most of us are still carrying unhealed emotional baggage from our past which can get triggered in what might otherwise seem fairly innocuous situations. This can make dealing with unexpected upsets challenging both in ourselves and in other people.
In yesterday's guitar class, I got triggered by my teacher's response to what I though was a fairly intelligent question about whether the best way to improvise over a chord sequence in a major key would be by using the associated relative minor scale. My engineering brain thought that this would lead to less potential dissonance; but for any other budding musicians out there the answer turns out to be No: you use the minor pentatonic scale of the same key.
Narcissistic Mothers Turned Their Back On Our Feelings When We Were Upset
Growing up with a narcissistic mother can be a complete disaster for a growing boy's of self, self-confidence, and future adult relationships. Narcissists are essentially children walking around in an adult body, which makes them incredibly challenging to have as a parent. Even if your narcissistic mother does eventually grow up, her emotional unavailability and controlling nature when you were developing your sense of self can leave deep wounds in an adult man's psyche.
If you're wondering whether you had a narcissistic mother, check out my previous article Ten Signs That You Had A Narcissistic Mother.
Here's how to recover: Continue reading
I had a narcissistic mother and it was a complete disaster for my boyhood sense of self-confidence and the way I saw myself as I grew into a man. A narcissistic mother can leave deep emotional and psychological wounds that get triggered in our daily adult lives, undermining our self-confidence and making life extremely stressful. The impact is most pronounced in our relationships with women, leaving us feeling disempowered and emasculated around women until we get our narcissistic mother wound healed.
Narcissistic Mothers Are Emotionally Unavailable
Narcissists carry a lot of internalized shame and project their own unhealed emotional wounds onto everyone around them, especially their children. As a boy we were powerless to deal with our narcissistic mother and may still carry this sense of powerlessness along with her paranoid world view unconsciously into adulthood.
It's easy to recognize a narcissistic mother because they typically: Continue reading
Many of us struggle with self-confidence issues, but for some that anxiety can lead us down a dangerous path; we might drink a little extra liquid courage or experiment with an illicit substance in an effort to feel more accepted. But what begins as a confidence-booster can quickly spiral into an addiction, and for Kyle, it took over his entire life. He was kind enough to tell me about his experience — a story of loss, rehabilitation, and recovery.
Early beginnings and a bleak outlook
One of the activities that I recommend in The Confident Man Program Guide is to learn to play a musical instrument. There are a whole host of benefits to doing this beyond simply being able to play music: You also learn a whole bunch of life success skills in the process such as:
- Committing to a challenging task
- Taking daily action towards your goal in the form of practice
- Dealing with plateaus and setbacks
- Overcoming your own resistance to success
- Developing both sides of your brain: analytical and emotional
- Expressing yourself on a deeper level
- Having more fun!
Once you've got some basic skills under your belt you can also jam with other musicians and join a band where you'll also learn: Continue reading
I was visiting my parent's place on the weekend and seeing some relatives from interstate who I don't often get the chance to hang out with. At one point we were all sitting in the lounge room listening to my father describe the apocalyptic nightmares he's been having lately, while my controlling mother kept interrupting, talking over him, "correcting" him and just generally dominating the conversation.
Take Your Mother Off The Power Pedestal
I've always found my mother's domineering behavior annoying, but I used to be far too scared of her to stand up to it. This time though I casually lent towards her, put my hand on her arm and said "Mum, could you be quiet please. I want to hear what my father is saying".
She moved her arm to brush me off dismissively in a way I've always found infuriating. This time though rather than feeling powerless and simply capitulating, I channeled my anger into assertiveness: "Don't just brush me off!", I said, "I want to hear what he's saying."
I grew up in a family where emotions weren't expressed cleanly; especially challenging emotions like anger. Everyone feels angry from time to time, but growing up I got the sense that there was something wrong with this basic human emotion because nobody talked about it. My parents never seemed to say directly that they felt angry; but it was obvious when they were and their anger came out in ways that I found very frightening and destructive.
It's OK To Be Angry With Your Parents
Everyone around me seemed ashamed of their anger. Over time, I learned to feel ashamed of my anger too. I denied, suppressed and internalized it as though I was doing something righteous and noble. But the repressed rage built up inside me until eventually as an adult I developed overwhelming anxiety, panic attacks, depression and even a physical illness.
This forced me to wise up and realize that there was nothing noble about denying my anger. But with poor role models for expressing anger constructively in my family of origin and in society at large, who was I to turn to for help?
My answer came in the form of enlightened therapists who understood that anger is a perfectly normal emotion whose purpose is to motivate us when our needs aren't getting met. A powerful energy that needs to be channeled and expressed constructively; not internalized, denied, suppressed or misdirected.