Pleasing everyone but ourselves

Many of us get caught in this trap. We can wake up one morning and find ourselves feeling low, depressed, anxious and maybe filled with resentment, and these feelings will just not go away.

The words, ‘I should’, ‘I must’ and ‘it’s the right thing do’ fill our heads when faced with someone ‘in need’ or are asked for a favour. These critical words are in conflict with our thoughts of, ‘I don’t want to’ or ‘I need a break’. The critical words always win because ‘I will feel so bad if I don’t do what’s asked/expected of me’. 

So, we drive mum/sibling/dad/friend/colleague to the shops again even though we had planned to have a quiet, peaceful afternoon in the garden. Now we are feeling resentful; our relationship with the other is strained because we feel resentful and possibly angry towards them for continually asking for favours. We realise that we are feeling quite low or even depressed. When faced with other similar situations we may begin to notice that we feel tense or anxious as we want to shout out ‘no!' But the critical words in our heads stop us because ‘I will feel so bad if I don’t do what’s asked/expected of me’. 

Yet others seem to get what they want, why can’t I? When we feel bad we may be feeling guilty. Why?

There are many reasons, relationships and situations in our lives that could lead us to feeling this way; two of which are described below:

  • As children we may have been rewarded for being good; doing as we are told; not answering back – being rewarded may mean not being made to feel bad. If we felt others were being unfair, we may have not been given the space to complain; ask questions or respond in any way. If we felt angry it may not have felt safe or just okay to express how we feel. 
  • Often, it can be that a parent/carer portrays themselves as a victim and as a result. The child’s cries for help or comfort are ignored and attention is drawn to the parent/carer as the ‘real’ victim. We could then feel guilty for trying to get much needed attention/comfort. This leads to the silent words in our heads, ‘what about me?

And so we continue to ignore our own needs and wishes because they were never listened to, we were made to feel guilty or we do not feel entitled to have our own needs met. When we cannot find our own voice it can seem that others have not really noticed you or haven’t given any thought to how you may be feeling.

Psychotherapy can help to unravel and explore the conflict between your needs and the needs of others. It can help you find your voice by becoming more assertive in getting your own needs met without feeling guilty and building your self-esteem, often improving relationships along the way.

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Written by Bernice Gorringe MA in Psychotherapy, BSc (Hons) Psychology, UKCP (accred)

The majority of my training as a psychotherapist was done in NHS secondary care, working with complex mental health issues. Now, as a qualified integrative psychotherapist, I apply evidenced-based practice, working with internal psychological functioning with a relaxed, humanistic, relational approach.… Read more

Written by Bernice Gorringe MA in Psychotherapy, BSc (Hons) Psychology, UKCP (accred)

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