From people-pleaser to confident.

No, I’m not there yet. But ya know, it’s a wonderful journey.

Lucy the Oracle
8 min readDec 19, 2023
Photo by Jehyun Sung on Unsplash

The last therapist I went to is someone I am no longer seeing because I decided to stop. I won’t explain it much, since the habit of explaining myself also has to do with the problem I am now trying to address. Either way, she said a thing that stayed with me:

“Sometimes you can’t make a bridge” — In response to me when I told her I wanted to learn how to bridge the communication between myself and people who have a very different mindset, set of beliefs, or personality.

This is living rent-free in my head now, but that’s not fully bad. In fact, one really GOOD consequence was the fact it made me realise I have a habit of giving my all in situations where the other person is barely there. Consequently, I encourage low-effort behaviour from the people in my life. This has to change, and now I’m already taking steps for it to change. Naturally, one of these steps meant letting this therapist go.

How ironic is that? There are times when we should really pay attention to our conclusion about other people because it conceals a belief about ourselves. You’d think a person who says “sometimes you can’t make a bridge” would be self-aware enough to be WILLING to compromise or reach a middle ground (even if temporary), but no, in fact the comment fit in very well with how she was treating me: making automatic assumptions and closing her mind to my input because she interpreted my disagreements as an attack.

So… In short, it’s as if she had said “sometimes you can’t make a bridge. For example now. With me. I don’t want a bridge. Either you fully come to my side and blindly trust everything I do, or stay there and I won’t want to reach you. There’s an abyss between us. I want the abyss to stay there. No bridge, please”.

Sorry, I don’t have patience for that behaviour. It doesn’t matter how good of a professional you are (in ANY area, not just psychology) or how much you’ve already helped me (because even in this case, yes she did, in other occasions), if you can’t take any feedback, I’m out. If it’s 100% “your way or the highway”, I’m out. I’m not trying to boss anyone around, but with all due respect, if there is never going to be give-and-take, it’s not an interaction. Is it? More like a monologue. I’d be better off reading a self-help book. Books don’t respond or adapt to me — I read what’s written and that’s it. Same with certain people, apparently.

Look, I know some people are very traumatised with things like bullying and malicious criticism, and I empathise. I really do. At the same time, though, I can’t and won’t enable their limiting beliefs — such as the belief that EVERY CRITICISM EVER is malicious. Because no, it isn’t. Life is also made of disagreements. Life also has diversity. I know it would be super cozy and nice if everyone in the world always agreed and embraced each other like carebears all the time, but that’s not realistic OR good for anyone. “Agreeing to disagree” can be very diplomatic too. The only thing standing between some people and that realisation, is themselves. I won’t coddle them for that self-defeating behaviour. No, I’d rather always part ways when it happens. Coddling would only look like compassion on the surface; Deep down, it’s actually bad for all parties involved, because it enables willful blindness which will only lead to more suffering.

Let me repeat that good old Buddhist definition of compassion, in case you guys have forgotten: “compassion is the wish for others to be free from suffering and the causes of suffering”. Does it say, anywhere at all, “enable the causes of suffering just so the person will stay in the comfort zone”? No.

Enough said.

Maybe some of you are wondering, “should I NOT give my all, to match most people’s attitude”?

Photo by Pedro Farto on Unsplash

Well… This is not a black-or-white situation. Not even if we just talk about it in general terms and theoretically like that.

I know I referred to my own habit of giving my all whereas the other person/people end up slacking and taking advantage of that, and implied it’s a bad habit… But that doesn’t automatically mean that embracing mediocrity is the only answer. It also doesn’t automatically mean we can’t be excellent in some contexts and mediocre in other ones. There is no blanket judgement here about how “good” or “bad” is each of these levels of commitment. I’m only analysing them in relation to one another, because opposites unfortunately attract.

The assumption that high achievers are doomed to people-pleasing is fundamentally flawed, because there is no correlation between these two things. They only coincide a lot of the times because there’s a third — very important — variable at play: trauma.

You see, if you have trauma with overly strict parents whose “conditional love” depended on your high achievement (I do too… Welcome to the club), maybe you’ll grow up to be a people-pleaser because you internalised the idea that people won’t like you if you’re EVER mediocre at ANYTHING. This can lead you to keep being a high achiever because you’re trying to impress everybody. #Guilty.

On the other hand, as I’ve learned with tons of therapy (even though I have the odd disappointment here and there, like the above), when your high achiever mindset becomes independent of people’s approval — as in, you’re pushing yourself to excellence because you feel good doing that, and you no longer care what people’s reaction will be — it’s not necessarily unhealthy. Sure, a lot of people will still want to “take advantage” of you, but that’s when you start selling them the product or service they want instead of always handing it to them for free. This will come naturally because you’re no longer worrying about having their approval; you’re simply responding to the demand.

By “selling”, I don’t always mean for money. You could totally volunteer if that’s what your heart wants — but the same rule applies: you’re contributing to the community with the skills people now recognise you for, and you won’t burn yourself out or fall for guilt trips to do more than you’ve set out to do, because it will have been a choice, not a need. That’s very different from the people-pleaser who does a thing for free and DOES reach the burnout point because their motivation is coming from trying to “earn” people’s gratitude and approval.

Do you see what I mean? People-pleasers FALL FOR the people who are willing to take advantage of them; Secure people DO NOT FALL for that, albeit they will definitely see the attempts all the time.

When you’re secure (or working to become more secure, like I am), you learn to accept that you won’t always be able to help everybody, not because you’re “selfish” or “evil” or whatever the manipulators say… But because YOU ARE ONE PERSON. It takes more than one person to heal everybody in the world, or answer everybody’s questions, or whatever it is you do. So it’s only natural that you say “no” every once in a while — compassinately, perhaps suggesting a different helper who is free when you aren’t, but still resolute.

Another possible question — “Okay, Lucy… But what does this all have to do with bridging communication?”

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

I talked about chancers above (Irish slang for people who take advantage of others). However… Are they the only kind of person we shouldn’t try to please in order to stop being people-pleasers?

Well, no. Here’s another kind (and there probably are even more categories I won’t cover in the article. Feel free to comment) — the stubborn. Everything is set in stone with these guys. It’s always their way or the highway. They are unwilling to learn, and only ever want to teach — or even worse, boss you about. Usually if it’s a woman, she will blame it on “intuition”, or if it’s a man, “logic”. (I said “usually”. As a trend. Don’t cancel me, there are exceptions). But the funny thing is, this logic tends to actually be a logical fallacy, and this intuition, a stereotype. It’s a wishful way of thinking because, indeed, intuition (when REAL) is always right; And so is logic (when REAL). But nobody who gets all stubborn and set-in-stone ever wants to actually eat some humble pie and go STUDY logic, go STUDY intuitive discernment… No. They think it’s a god-given skill, yes? They were born ready. Uh-huh. Sure. *Eyeroll*

Different from a chancer, a stubborn person won’t want your help; Instead, they’ll pretend that they want to help you. In reality, what they REALLY want underneath that selfless mask is actually for you to praise and validate their work in “helping” you. If you don’t give them this praise and validation, they resort to the same kind of guilt trip a chancer would use. Except, this time, instead of “…but don’t you have a heart? Look how much I am suffering”, what they say is more along the lines of “oh, you’re resistant. This is why you never achieve what you want. Learn to trust me (or “people” — they love generalising) more”.

Uh-huh. Sure. Learn to trust the stubborn? What about THEY learn to LISTEN first? Trust is no use when you’re administering the medicine for the wrong condition. (Read this as metaphorically as you want).

But the stubborn do not want to face the prospect of being wrong. Oh, no, not at all. They aren’t actually helpful in the end — it’s just a facade. A really helpful person would be open to admitting they might have mistaken the problem, because what matters in the end is solving the problem; But for the stubborn, what matters is getting praise… Regardless of what is TRULY achieved.

In the end, it’s true… You can’t always make a bridge. The thing is, this isn’t necessarily your fault. And maybe, like some people say, it’s nobody’s fault. Nonetheless, staying and trying to make it work will only result in people-pleasing — smiling and saying “amen” to all you’re being fed, pretending it is helping, when in fact you’re just too afraid to leave.

Don’t be afraid. Leave. The longer you keep trying to reason with somebody who just wants to “break” you or make you bow to them… The more you’re wasting your precious time.

I used to try and open these people’s eyes. Now I no longer do that. I simply say: “oh, this is what you think about me? Ok”. Keep being wrong. Keep insisting on a mistake. I have better things to do than watch that.



Lucy the Oracle

Oracle learner / spirit worker based in Ireland. Buddhist/polytheist. I don't read minds. I don't change minds. I don't sugarcoat. Take my message or leave it.