UnF*ck Your Brain Podcast— Feminist Self-Help for Everyone


What You’ll Learn From This Episode:

  • Why I rebranded this show and how it’s related to this week’s topic.
  • What it means to people please and why we do it.
  • Why you have anxiety when you try to prioritize yourself.
  • How you can begin prioritizing yourself and finally live the life you love.

I’m happy to announce that this week our rebrand process is finally finished! I absolutely love the new look (and sound) and I hope you’re digging it too.

This rebranding has been a process of trusting my own sense of my work, followers and my clients. It has also been the result of giving up caring so much about what other people think and following my own intuition with confidence.

And today, this is exactly what I want to talk to you about – how our society and upbringing has affected our subconscious (and conscious) thinking to constantly engage in people pleasing. Join us as I explain why we often choose to prioritize others’ wants and needs over our own and the detrimental effects this has on our personal and professional lives.

Listen in to discover how you can begin unf*cking your brain and finally begin prioritizing yourself and living the life that you love.


Featured on the Show:

  • Grab my totally free guide to feeling less anxious and more empowered by rewiring your brain here!

Podcast Transcript:

Welcome to Unf*ck Your Brain. I’m your host, Kara Loewentheil, Master Certified Coach and founder of The School of New Feminist Thought. I’m here to help you turn down your anxiety, turn up your confidence, and create a life on your own terms. One that you’re truly excited to live. Let’s go.

Hello, my darlings. If you are listening to this, you have already noticed that we have finally unveiled our new look. I am obsessed with it. I hope you are digging it too. I'm so into it. If you found this podcast valuable, I would love if you would do me one really quick, simple favor and just share it with one friend, just one, you don't have to go crazy, who you think would get a lot out of it.

Most high-achieving feminist women have similarly high-achieving feminist friends who struggle with a lot of the same challenges, right, who have a hard time believing in themselves and feeling entitled to their accomplishments, and who have a hard time being as confident as they want. Just text that person, one of them, the link to the podcast, because there's so much growth you can get just from listening and learning and practicing. I really want to share this work with as many people as possible.

I know when it was The Lawyer Stress Solution, it was kind of like, well, if I share this with my friend, they're going to be like, "Well, I'm not a lawyer," right? So now, we don't have that problem, which is awesome. Please share it with one person and consider that your good deed for the day.

Today, we're going to talk about people pleasing. Don't text your friend just to please me. I won't know about it anyway. Only do it if you really want to.

People pleasing is kind of perfect to talk about because, to be honest, this entire rebranding has been a process in trusting my own sense of my work and my market and my clients and my following and of giving up caring so much what other people think and really striking out on my own confident path. When I first became a coach, I was still really worried about what other people would think of the choice, right? Going from I'm going to be a law professor to I'm going to be a life coach. It was like a very big mental adjustment.

Coaching lawyers felt like this kind of safe in-between approach. My coach training, all of my coach friends were like, "Oh, you're going to coach women about self-esteem and relationships, or you should be a sex and dating coach, or you should coach them about confidence." Everybody had ideas. And I was like, "No, no, I'm going to coach lawyers." It was consistent with my past career, and it sort of made sense to people who didn't understand what life coaching was and who didn't value knowing how to manage your mental and emotional life.

I created this brand for lawyers that was partly the real me, but that was also kind of more sedate and restrained than my true personality. Just looking at the design, I think of like the old podcast artwork versus the new podcast artwork, you can see the difference. This is a perfect introduction to people pleasing, because my example really gets at the irony of people pleasing, which is that when we are focusing on pleasing other people, we are not usually actually pleasing ourselves, right?

Rather than lean into being ourselves and attracting the people who really resonate with that, we worry most about the opinions of the people who are the least sympathetic to us, who understands us the least, who have the least appreciation or care for us, right? I see this with other coaches that I coach all the time when they're like, "Well, I don't want to email my list too much in case it annoys the people who don't want to hear from me so much.

I won't email the people who do want to hear from me and share my teaching and my wisdom with them because I don't want to annoy the people who aren't that into me anyway." It's like running your business based on the feelings of the people who don't really appreciate what you do. That's what I was doing when I created my coaching business to be geared towards retaining the respect or approval of people who did not know what life coaching was or who would think it was frivolous compared to being a law professor.

That's not to say that I did not love coaching lawyers and I still do. The majority of you listening right now are lawyers, and the majority of the people in my UnF*ck Your Brain program that I'm feeling right now are still lawyers. I love lawyers. My whole family and friends are lawyers. It's not like coaching lawyers was not a great thing to do, but it's just the thought process that I had around it was not really in the beginning coming from like, well, I love lawyers and I want to help them.

That was there too, but it was also coming a little bit from this seems safe and respectable, right? When I tell my law professor colleagues I'm going to become a life coach, I think they might laugh or die. I'm going to tell them that I'm going to become a cognitive coach, and then I'm going to be working with lawyers. It was just kind of trying to hang on to some of that social prestige and respectability, but from people who didn't really respect being a life coach, which is what I was actually going to be, right?

I was bending over backwards to maintain the good opinion I thought these people held of me, where I was just maintaining an opinion about a fake version of me because I really was going to become a life coach. That's what I was going to do. Trying to make it sound more appealing to people who didn't believe in life coaching was just kind of the essence of people pleasing. This is what all of us do when we're focused on people pleasing. I defined people pleasing as being the pattern of thinking and behavior that prioritizes what other people think over what you think.

I'm going to say that again. People pleasing is the pattern of thinking and behavior that prioritizes what other people think over what you think. People pleasing is really other people pleasing. Because in any scenario, someone is going to be pleased. But when you are in people pleasing mode, you are trying to ensure that other people are pleased, and you are willing to sacrifice pleasing yourself to do that. Women are socially conditioned to do this. We are taught that a woman's job, the whole point of her existence, is to make other people comfortable and happy.

We are constantly taught to undervalue our own experiences, our own thoughts, our own opinions. We're taught to go along, to not make waves, to not be difficult. Women who are vocal about their opinions and disagree, especially with men, are called bitchy or shrill or aggressive. We're taught to edit ourselves. We are taught that other people's opinions matter more than our opinions, even when it comes to what we're comfortable with or what we're doing with our time, our energy, even our bodies, right?

The Me Too hashtag movement that's going on right now is a really poignant reminder of how this happens. And a not insignificant reason that women go along with behavior that is scary or inappropriate is that they've been socially conditioned not to object, to go along, not to make anyone uncomfortable, and especially not to make men uncomfortable.

I would bet that most women listening to this podcast who are heterosexual and probably some who are not had at least been kissed or been touched by someone they didn't want to kiss or touch because it seemed easier to just go along with it than to make a scene or make it uncomfortable by saying no. Those of us lucky enough not to have been physically touched in that way had at least gritted our teeth through sexist conversations or uncomfortable or inappropriate conversations for the same reason.

Listen, it is obviously true that there are situations in which someone is a physical threat to you, and it makes sense to go along for self-preservation. But most of us tend to take this way of thinking way too far. We don't just go along in a dark alley when there's no exit route. We also go along in a crowded bar where there are plenty of people. We go along when we're safe at home and it's just an uncomfortable text message exchange. We go along when we aren't in any physical danger at all. I want to be really, really crystal clear that I am not victim-blaming here.

I'm not saying that women are at fault when they don't speak up. What I'm saying is that women are socialized into this kind of silence, this kind of going along rather than speaking up. We are socialized to please other people instead of ourselves. And that kind of behavior starts to permeate our whole lives. We're not just going along with the guy who's blocking our exit from the party demanding our number, right? We're also going along with our parents wanting us to come home for the holidays, even though we don't want to and it's always super stressful.

We're going along with a cab driver who's saying racist things because we don't want to make the conversation uncomfortable. We're going along with a bad idea at work because we would find it uncomfortable to speak up. Women are taught that prioritizing our own desires is selfish. This is not something that men are taught. People socialized as men are generally taught that their desires are valid just for existing, and that they should get to do what they want. Why wouldn't they?

People socialized as women are taught that it's selfish to prioritize themselves. Now, whose benefit does that work for? Certainly not women's. That is people pleasing as a social phenomenon, but we know this is a podcast about how society fucks up your brain and how to unfuck it, right? How does the social conditioning get absorbed into your brain? A phenomenon like people pleasing, just like perfectionism or imposter syndrome, is at the most basic level just a collection of thoughts.

It is a collection of sentences that you think in your brain that cause a certain feeling for you, and that feeling motivates your actions. When it comes to people pleasing, there are a variety of thoughts you might have that create the feeling of discomfort or fear. And that's why you go along and you prioritize the other person's preferences. Let's go through some examples and I'm going to start with some that may seem silly or trivial. But the truth is, a lot of us worry and obsess over even simple social interactions when we are deep in people pleasing.

Let's say you're deciding where to go eat with a friend and she suggests something and you don't really want to go there. But when you think about suggesting something else, you feel anxious, so you end up saying, "Let's just go to the place you suggested. That's good for me." The truth is, it's not good for you. You don't want to go there. You might even have dietary restrictions they won't be able to accommodate, but you got anxious when you thought about saying no or suggesting something else. Why were you anxious?

Because you had a thought. You thought something like, she wants to go there, or what she wants is more important than what I want, or making her go where I want is selfish, or she's going to be upset if I don't want to go there. Whatever thought you had is what made you feel anxious. When you have internalized the belief that it's your job to make other people happy and that it's selfish to pursue your own desires, you're going to have a lot of thoughts that create anxiety when you try to prioritize yourself. Let's take another example.

Let's say you're on a first date and you've decided you don't really like the guy, but he asks to walk you home. What you really want to say is no, but you feel uncomfortable saying no. So instead, you say okay and you let him walk you home. And then once you're at your door, he leans in to kiss you.

You feel uncomfortable rejecting him to his face, so you let kiss you. And then he asked to see you again. And you feel uncomfortable saying no, because now you've let him walk you home and kiss you, so you say yes.

Now, if you're lucky, you managed to say no once he texts you to follow up. But some of us don't. Some of us then go on the second date and we can end up dating this person for weeks, if not months or years, all because we are so uncomfortable saying no. Now, again, this is not a situation in which you have to fear actual violence. You could have said no when he asked to walk you home in a crowded bar, but you didn't because you felt uncomfortable about the idea of saying no.

You were thinking something like, I don't want to be rude, or he's a nice guy, so I shouldn't say no, or even just, this is going to be uncomfortable if I say no. Women are socialized to people please so deeply that sometimes you don't even know what you're thinking. You just have this general sense of discomfort and awkwardness that motivates you to go along with whatever is happening, rather than assert your own will and preferences. Let's take a third example.

Your partner is doing something during sex that you don't really like, but you are worried that if you say something, he will feel emasculated or rejected. So you don't say anything, because you would rather have bad sex than endure the discomfort of believing that you've caused someone else to have a negative emotion. Or a fourth example, at work you're in a group and everyone is going along with an idea that has an obvious fail flaw, right? It's a waste of time to even be talking about this idea because it's definitely going to end up not working.

But when you think about bringing that up, you feel uncomfortable because you think it will embarrass the person who came up with it. So you keep quiet about it, even though it's going to create more work and problems for you on the backend. All of these are examples of how people pleasing ends up meaning you please someone else instead of yourself. And it all starts with your thoughts. You have a thought that causes discomfort or anxiety when you think about prioritizing yourself and saying or doing what you want.

And that discomfort or anxiety is stronger than your desire to please yourself, so you please the other person instead. Now, here is the terrible irony, you can't control someone else's feelings or thoughts no matter what you do. You spend so much time and energy trying to please other people, and you actually have zero control over whether they are pleased or not. Because what causes feelings? Thoughts. Your thoughts cause your feelings. Their thoughts cause their feelings. You cannot control their thoughts or feelings.

How many times have you tried to go along and people please just to get along, and then the person ends up being upset anyway or disagreeable or displeased or whatever? Because you actually can't control that. What you can guarantee is that if you prioritize pleasing other people over yourself, you won't do what you want or what is best for you. That's the guarantee. There is no guarantee that people pleasing will actually make other people pleased with you.

But you can guarantee that when you people please, you are not pleasing yourself and that you are not acting in your own best interest. You're trading the certainty of acting on your own behalf for the possibility of having some influence on the thoughts and feelings of someone else who you really can't control anyway. The way out of people pleasing is to become aware of how often you are prioritizing other people's preferences and desires over your own and to change the thinking that produces anxiety and discomfort about prioritizing yourself.

When you think about it, why is someone else's preferences or desires any more important than yours, right? In an existential sense, you have equal human autonomy. Why should their preferences or desires take precedence over yours? There's literally no reason. The only reason is that you're going to think something negative about yourself if you prioritize yourself. You're going to think, "I'm selfish. I'm, self-centered. I'm greedy. I'm making things awkward. I'm being rude. I'm being ungrateful."

Those negative thoughts about yourself are what you fear will happen if you prioritize yourself. When you think about saying no or speaking up or setting a boundary, the reason you feel so uncomfortable is that you fear that you will have these thoughts about yourself. But what would your life be like if you committed to never assuming that someone else's preferences or desires were more important than yours?

What would your life be like if you believed that you are entitled to put yourself first whenever you wanted and that it meant absolutely nothing about your character or moral status as a person? That would be an entirely different life for you.

And you are allowed to prioritize yourself as much as anyone else is. All right, love you all, my dears. I will talk to you next week.

If you’re loving what you’re learning on the podcast, you have got to come check out The Feminist Self-Help Society. It’s our newly revamped community and classroom where you get individual help to better apply these concepts to your life along with a library of next level blow your mind coaching tools and concepts that I just can’t fit in a podcast episode. It’s also where you can hang out, get coached and nerd out about all things thought work and feminist mindset with other podcast listeners just like you and me.

It’s my favorite place on Earth and it will change your life, I guarantee it. Come join us at www.unfuckyourbrain.com/society. I can’t wait to see you there.

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