By Janine Cera
Once upon a time, I used to be a people pleaser. I thought that being nice was very important. I felt very confused when I was being nice, yet people still disrespected me.
I thought it was my fault at first… Did I say something that hurt their feelings? Did they misunderstand me?
Having many male friends, a father, and two brothers, I was observing how much easier their lives were. Their lives were more straight forward. If they wanted something, they asked for it. Worst case scenario, they got a ‘no’ for an answer.
I have to say I was quite jealous and envious of their chilled out attitude when they would get ‘rejected’ by a ‘no’. It wasn’t that they pretended to not be hurt. They simply weren’t hurt. They knew that the no wasn’t the end of the world.
Now being a people pleaser is also a male issue, but women are profoundly affected by it.
For me, a ‘no’ was a personal attack and I took offence. When I would take the courage to ask for something, it was because most likely the answer was a ‘yes’ or because the alternative option was less scary than getting a no.
You know when you want to ask for a pay rise, and you wait and wait and wait…hoping somebody will notice your hard work? Then nobody seems to notice. You become grumpy and resentful. Then, you start to apply for other jobs. Then, one of the jobs you applied for wants you but you are not sure you want them back… but it is nice to have a backup plan. So, you finally have the courage to ask your boss for a pay rise. If they say no, you have a safety net. If they say yes, then you won’t go to the new company which you are not enthusiastic about anyway…
This is not courage. It is convenience – which is fine. The problem is it couldn’t have been less painful if only we took the courage to ask for the pay rise months (or years) earlier on.
I used to be like this– which was weird, as I was quite brave and bold in other aspects of my life.
In my 20s, I wanted to become a flight attendant. I applied for any company that was recruiting – local and international. I managed to become one just a few months later.
Few years later I moved to the UK with speaking a little English and knowing literally 3 people. I started as a shop assistant and kept sending my CV to any airline based in the London area. I wanted to continue being a cabin crew in a foreign country. I succeeded.
I also moved briefly to France without speaking the language some years ago.
I travelled extensively in the world. I was bold in the adventurous side of life. And yet in my personal life… I used to be a people pleaser. I was quite terrified to rock the boat. Why? I am not sure why I was so vulnerable to not being liked. I have done a lot of thinking about this…and I think is a bias instilled in many of us women.
Why is hearing ‘no’ so painful for women? It’s probably because we take things personally – much more than our male counterparts. Why is that? It is probably because since we were little girls, we got ingrained by society, parents and teachers to be nice, to be pretty, or to smile. This phenomenon creates in our minds something quite damaging. We learnt that we need to be to be liked.
Have you ever noticed a mom on a public transport with a lively boy? The boy is kicking the seat under him while asking questions to his mother loudly. She will look embarrassed giving the look that says, ‘Boys… they have so much energy!’
Meanwhile, another mother with a little girl who is asking questions will tell her off by saying, ‘Look, everybody is looking at you. Be quiet!’
These are common double standards!
Moreover, movies and fairy tales have screwed us further… They tell us to be pretty and wait for a prince to come and save you.
There are the creepiest ones, where the prince wakes the princess up with a kiss. They have never met before in their lives. This is a romanticized version of a sexual assault.
So, we become adults, and these stories still roll in our minds on a continuous basis. It programs us to be liked, to be pleasant, and to smile and be pretty.
Don’t take me wrong. It is lovely to deal with pleasant people. So, the value per se is not incorrect.
It becomes wrong when we are nice in the face of people who disrespect or bully or hurt us.
Plus, we don’t need to be liked by our boss, grocery cashier, taxi driver, tax consultant, or anyone else. We need to be respected just as we need to respect them.
I’m quite assertive. I tend to ask for what I desire and what I want. I have been like this for over a decade.
While it is not a recipe for happiness, it is one of its main ingredients. It is our responsibility to work on our own happiness; hence, we can’t wait for someone to make us happy. It is nobody’s job but ours.
Having boundaries isn’t going to save you from people who want to push you around – but it might scare most of these kinds off.
Now, let’s go back to why I’m on a mission to empower women.
I ask myself, “Why is that when men ask for something they are called ‘assertive’ or ‘successful’ while we are called names such as ‘bitch’ or ‘nag’?”
As I mostly grew up in Italy, my mother tongue is Italian.
When I was living there I would be assertive or put my boundaries straight, I often got called ‘stronza’, which is the Italian version of bitch.
You would think that we get called names mostly from men; however, I am afraid to say, a lot of women also try to put us in ‘appropriate boxes’.
I never got bothered by it. I did try to justify why I was asking for what I wanted or apogised. Eeek!
So with time, I got better. I learnt to set boundaries and ask for what I wanted, without adding an explanation or apologising for it.
And, insults would not bother me. I knew I was a kind-hearted soul and didn’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings.
We are all grumpy from time to time. Sometimes, I have hurt people’s feelings. The best thing you can do when you realise this is to apologise.
Now I am on a mission to teach women how to be assertive. I founded my company called Sweet Beetches. Before you say it, Beetches is not a spelling mistake, it is deliberate! I wanted to sweeten the word and make it less harsh. Plus, bees are super cute! And we would live up to 4 years on this planet if they went extinct. (No more pollination of crops!)
Who are Sweet Beetches? These are women who are assertive. If someone calls us unpleasant names, we know we are sweet and kind at heart so we don’t take the insult personally.
If we keep waiting for the right person or the right moment or the right job or the right home, we can and probably will wait for ages.
Life is for living now. We all have a skill that you can fiercely bring into the world that can make a positive impact. Which is yours? Show up in the world and share it with your fierce, fabulous and kind determination.
Janine is a Transformational Therapist and Coach and spends her time studying how and why we do what we do. Originally from Milan, but from an international family, she has lived in various countries and travelled extensively around the world. She is a Clinical Hypnotherapist and a certified ‘Marisa Peer Method’ Advanced Rapid Transformation Technique (ARTT) hypnotherapist. She is the owner and founder of Sweet Beetches, whose mission is to empower sweet and kind women to stand up proudly and make their voice heard.
Check out Sweet Beetches’ website at www.sweetbeetch.es. Follow its growing Facebook community that aims to bring positive change and more love to this hurt world. You can also follow it on Twitter (@SweetBeetches).