For far too long, I found myself trapped in the vicious cycle of people-pleasing, constantly giving away my time and emotional energy to others, often at the expense of my own well-being. The emotional toll of this behavior is something many people can relate to, and it's called emotional labor. In this blog, we will explore what emotional labor is, its impact on people pleasers, and three essential tips to help you reclaim your energy and start saying no when necessary.
What is Emotional Labor?
If you listened to the latest episode of The Empowered Millennials Podcast, I chatted with Rose Hackman about her new book, Emotional Labor, you will be fired up and ready to burn down the patriarchy! Emotional labor refers to the effort and energy we expend to manage and regulate our emotions in response to the demands of a situation or others. It can manifest in various forms, from hiding your true feelings to offering unwavering support to others, even when it drains you.
Emotional labor is an integral part of many people's lives, but it can often be particularly pronounced for modern women due to societal expectations and gender roles. Here are some examples of emotional labor that modern women might encounter:
Managing Household and Family Emotions: In many households, women are still primarily responsible for managing the emotional well-being of their families. This includes ensuring that children are emotionally supported, mediating conflicts between family members, and providing emotional labor when partners or children are stressed or upset.
Balancing Work and Home Life: Modern women often juggle multiple roles, including careers and homemaking. This can involve suppressing personal emotions to maintain a professional demeanor at work while simultaneously providing emotional support at home. The constant switching between these roles requires significant emotional labor.
Nurturing Friendships: Women are often expected to be the emotional caregivers in their friendships. This means being the one to remember birthdays, offer a listening ear during tough times, and providing comfort and support when friends are in need. Maintaining these emotional connections can be rewarding but also emotionally taxing.
Online and Social Media: The digital age has introduced a new dimension of emotional labor, particularly for women, who may feel pressure to curate their online personas. This includes responding to comments and messages, managing online conflicts, and projecting a certain image, which can be emotionally exhausting.
Workplace Expectations: Women often face unique emotional labor challenges in the workplace. This can include managing the emotional needs of colleagues or clients, handling workplace conflicts with finesse, and even navigating issues related to gender bias or discrimination while maintaining professionalism.
Self-Care Expectations: Society often places additional emotional labor on women regarding self-care. This means women may feel pressured to look a certain way, maintain a particular level of fitness, or engage in self-improvement activities like skincare routines or dieting. These expectations can create emotional stress and body image issues.
Advocacy and Activism: Many modern women are involved in advocacy and activism for gender equality, social justice, and other causes. While this is a valuable pursuit, it can involve significant emotional labor, such as dealing with pushback, addressing emotional discussions, and managing the stress of fighting for change.
Caregiving for Aging Parents: As parents age, women often find themselves taking on the role of caregiver, which can be emotionally taxing. This includes making difficult decisions about their parents' health and well-being, managing their emotional needs, and dealing with the grief and loss that often accompany aging parents' declining health.
These examples illustrate how emotional labor is deeply ingrained in the lives of modern women. While it's important to provide emotional support and care for others, it's equally crucial for women to recognize the toll this can take on their own well-being. Balancing the emotional labor of caring for others with self-care and boundary-setting is essential for maintaining mental and emotional health in today's demanding world.
Boundary setting? But we have learned deference and "niceness" as millennials! Set boundaries?!?!? GAHHH.
People-pleasers often find themselves knee-deep in emotional labor, as they constantly strive to meet the expectations and desires of those around them.
The Impact on People Pleasers
As a people pleaser, I know firsthand the toll emotional labor can take on your mental and emotional well-being. While it might seem noble to put others first, it often comes at a great cost. Here are some ways emotional labor can affect you:
Burnout: Constantly catering to others' needs can lead to physical and emotional exhaustion, leaving you feeling drained and depleted.
Emotional labor, when unchecked, can be a relentless cycle of giving and giving without replenishing. For people pleasers, this can manifest as burnout, which has both physical and emotional dimensions:
Physical Exhaustion: Meeting the emotional needs of others can be physically taxing. The stress and strain of always being "on" and available to cater to others can lead to fatigue, sleep disturbances, and even physical health issues like headaches, muscle tension, and compromised immune function.
Emotional Exhaustion: Constantly suppressing your own emotions to prioritize others can lead to emotional fatigue. You may find yourself feeling emotionally drained, numb, or even detached from your own feelings. This exhaustion can result in a diminished ability to empathize or connect with others.
Lack of Fulfillment: Paradoxically, despite your efforts to make others happy, you may find that your own sense of fulfillment and satisfaction dwindles. The burnout associated with people-pleasing can leave you feeling unfulfilled and unappreciated, leading to a sense of emptiness.
Lack of Boundaries: People pleasers often struggle with setting and maintaining boundaries, which can lead to feelings of resentment and being taken advantage of.
Boundary-setting is a crucial aspect of maintaining healthy relationships and protecting your emotional well-being. When people pleasers struggle with this, several negative consequences can arise:
Resentment: Without clear boundaries, you may agree to things that you don't want to do or that are beyond your capacity. Over time, this can build resentment toward those you are trying to please, as you blame them for your own inability to assert your limits.
Feeling Overwhelmed: A lack of boundaries can result in an overwhelming sense of being constantly "on call" for others' needs. This can make you feel suffocated and trapped, as if there's no escape from the demands of others.
Loss of Autonomy: Without boundaries, you may feel like you've lost control over your own life. Your decisions are no longer guided by your own desires and priorities but are dictated by the expectations and needs of others.
Being Taken Advantage Of: People who are aware of your difficulty in setting boundaries may exploit this vulnerability. They might repeatedly ask for favors or make unreasonable demands, knowing that you are unlikely to say no.
Neglected Self-Care: When you prioritize others' needs over your own, self-care often falls by the wayside. This neglect can lead to increased stress and a diminished sense of self-worth.
Self-care is essential for maintaining mental, emotional, and physical well-being, yet people pleasers often neglect it:
Increased Stress: Neglecting self-care can result in heightened stress levels. Stress can accumulate over time, leading to anxiety, irritability, and even depression.
Diminished Self-Worth: Continuously putting others' needs ahead of your own can erode your self-esteem and self-worth. You may start to believe that your value is solely based on how much you can do for others, rather than recognizing your intrinsic worth.
Loss of Identity: Over time, people pleasers may lose touch with their own desires and identity. Your life becomes a series of reactions to others' needs, leaving little room for self-discovery or personal growth.
Now, does this sound familiar? RIGHT? Its the plight of millennials, I suppose.
So, what do we do? Now once we are aware of emotional labor and ways it can be playing out in your life, here are into three tips to help you pull back your energy and focus on yourself, even as a recovering people pleaser.
Here's what you can do:
Tip 1: Practice Self-Awareness
The first step in reclaiming your energy is to become more self-aware. Reflect on your patterns of people-pleasing and the situations or individuals that trigger your tendency to overextend yourself. Ask yourself why you feel the need to constantly say yes, even when it's detrimental to your well-being. This introspection will help you identify your emotional labor patterns and work towards healthier responses.
Tip 2: Set Clear Boundaries
Establishing and maintaining boundaries is essential for anyone looking to break free from the people-pleasing cycle. Start by identifying your limits and communicating them clearly to others. Remember that setting boundaries is not selfish; it's an act of self-care and self-preservation. When you learn to say no when necessary, you create space for your own needs and priorities.
Tip 3: Prioritize Self-Care
To regain your energy, it's crucial to prioritize self-care. Make time for activities and practices that rejuvenate your mind and body. This could include exercise, meditation, journaling, spending time with loved ones, or pursuing hobbies and interests. By investing in self-care, you'll build resilience and ensure you have the energy to handle emotional labor when it's genuinely necessary.
Emotional labor can be a heavy burden, especially for people pleasers who struggle to say no. However, by practicing self-awareness, setting boundaries, and prioritizing self-care, you can break free from this cycle and reclaim your energy. Remember that saying no is not a rejection of others but a crucial step toward prioritizing your own well-being. As you embark on this journey of self-discovery and self-care, you'll find that you have more to give to others when you've taken care of yourself first.
So, take that step today and start saying no when it matters most—your future self will thank you.
You got this and GO BE EPIC!