Bonnie Frankel

Bonnie Frankel On How to Recover From Being a People Pleaser

Take an alone vacation — Go to a place where it will set the stage to guarantee peace of mind which sets the stage without distractions so that you can re-evaluate your present life. I remember when I was struggling with my marriage, I would take myself to my Lake Arrowhead home surrounded by nature and was able to focus on the joy in myself with exercise, and engage in my artwork. The tranquility afforded me the time for self-awareness. This permitted me to risk to make a huge decision that would change my life forever.

In today’s society, the tendency to prioritize others’ needs and expectations over one’s own can lead to significant emotional and psychological challenges. In this series, we would like to explore the complex dynamics of people-pleasing behavior and its impact on individual well-being and relationships. We would like to discuss the root causes of people-pleasing behavior, its effects on personal and professional life, and practical steps for cultivating healthier relationships and self-esteem. We hope that this series can provide insights, strategies, and real-life experiences that can help individuals navigate and overcome the pitfalls of being a people pleaser. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Bonnie Frankel.

Bonnie was once a conformist, but when she decluttered her layers to find out what made her tick, her authenticity appeared as she transitioned to become more of a nonconformist. With the drive to change to run to her own tune, Bonnie discovered an unexpected career and lifestyle to maintain a healthy body and mind which assisted her not only with her neurological learning disabilities, but to help guide others to discover their niche. She is described in the media by people she has coached, “She not only trains you, but she tunes in on your mental aspect as well and is able to key into your problems.”

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us your “Origin Story”? Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Iwas privileged to blossom in a thriving lifestyle in lower Bel-Air surrounded by an infamous cordial community where you were able to play safely in the streets. This was the time UCLA was under construction and our back doors were left unlocked because of feeling secure. The downside was that most of the families were dysfunctional, including mine. We were instructed to keep our personal business to ourselves so nobody knew that I as well as others felt isolated living with dysfunction. Using my astute sensibility, I was able to blossom in my early years with my alone time in Bonnie’s hiding place because it was quiet as opposed to the drama that took place outside my walls. This gave me the time to delve into my psyche and get in touch with my authenticity. Definitely, I didn’t want to cause havoc due to the arguing outside my sanctuary including the delicacy of my mother’s emotional condition because it would add smoke to the fire. This led me to prioritize to accommodate others before taking care of my own needs.

Can you tell us a bit about what you do professionally, and what brought you to this specific career path?

My career path had been brimming with a diversity of jobs including marriage up until entering my mid-life. Unexpectedly due to choosing self-reflection, I reluctantly challenged my self-esteem by re-entering the educational system where I began my ability to trust and focus to discover what my passion was. The educational system unleashed my burning curiosity for not only to acquiring academic knowledge but expand it in all areas of my life. This led to the launch of attempting a new exercise, the run, which enabled me to amazingly maintain and sustain an improved healthy body and mind. With trust, graced with timing, I expanded with the infinite love of running by exploring various areas that connected to maintaining a fit body and mind. They included: finding a cross-training program for running and other exercises, my challenge to perform as a world class athlete, activist in changing an NCAA eligibility rule for women, one of the 10% women head coach for both sexes at a division one collegiate sport, coach all ages to find the right exercise and build a program around their choice, authored a book, “Bonnie’s Theory — Finding The Right Exercise, and currently tackling writing to express my experiences and opinions in articles with the intention to help others to navigate to explore their passion and make healthier choices by inspiring them with expanding my new career as a personal development coach.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion about People Pleasing. To make sure that we are all on the same page, let’s begin with a simple definition. What does “People Pleaser” mean to you?

Fawning is a personality trait that has a strong yen to gratifying others, at the expense of denying their real feelings which leads to a harmful pattern of self-sacrifice, neglect, and eventually resentment. The end result, stifles their inner growth, confidence and their true identity. They are terrified of soul-searching to acclaim their own needs that leads to success. Their belief is that it is their responsibility to solve problems for others to make them happy and it is their sense of achievement.

On the surface, it seems like being a person who wants to please others is a good thing. Can you help articulate a few of the challenges that come with being a people pleaser?

The most essential risk is their fear to allow self-discovery using their intuition to bring light to their faith in their own authenticity through their trust in accepting choices. This leads to one’s own empowerment of self-respect to be able to thrive mentally, emotionally, and physically. When you challenge yourself to set boundaries it leads to your making healthier decisions. The fawner needs to comprehend why they set themselves up for abuse because of overextending which triggers guilt, overthinking, self-blame, and self- punishment for their feelings of being victimized. “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile — hoping it will eat him last.” — Winston Churchill. Bringing peace to someone by acceding to their demands sets you up for undermining yourself. They lose sight of their own needs, values, and beliefs as they feel taken advantage of by their own downfall. It’s a sneaky cover we put over a wolfish habit.

Does being a people pleaser give you certain advantages? Can you explain?

Amenability serves as a powerful tool because it acts as a time and a stress saver. Their generous hearts connect people as they brighten those that surround them in their interpersonal relationships at an expeditious tempo without making waves. This assists them at resolving conflicts which creates a thriving functioning community that is sorely needed in the unbalanced world of today. It creates to develop social connections that feel so effortless because you are positive and thoughtful habitually going the extra mile to streamline efficiency by putting the right people in touch with one another. Mending bridges and learning to forgive and forget are skills that come naturally. They hold the seeds of emotional intelligence as they can intuitively read and respond to the needs of others and on the flip side, it also makes them feel needed. They are clever in their maneuvering of being helpful because in some cases their fawning can be a response to perceived danger because they most likely have a history of abuse and this is their way of maintaining feeling safe. I have always maintained the theory of helping others is the most selfish thing to do, because you are able to get out of yourself when it is necessary. You subtly influence people because the old saying, “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”

Can you describe a moment in your life when you realized that your own people-pleasing behavior was more harmful than helpful?

Growing up where my family members were narcissistic instilled in me that I was not loveable. This led me to work hard and pacify others in order to receive even a morsel of affection or recognition. This trend was woven in different degrees as it continued well into my adulthood. The one concept that really catapulted to freeing me to become independent Bonnie, was the magic thought that came to mind, “Would I regret living this lie until I was way too old to do something about it.” This concept motivated me to begin to risk a new life. The first part of my agenda to accomplish this was to divorce my husband. I will never forget when I was taking my then business to another level, and he expressed his unhappiness, because less time would be spent with being his Billy Jean King. This is when the shift came when accommodating to an extreme was more detrimental to my integrity as a human being. The change in viewing my relationship in this marriage occurred simultaneously when I was going through the process of breast cancer. I desperately clung to my authenticity with the power of making decisions that were right for me. I was trying be everything in this relationship and he didn’t give a hoot about my needs. I carried this pattern of not making waves from childhood to my adult life by attracting the same self-centered people.

In your opinion, what are the common root causes of people-pleasing behavior?

The root of pleasing others varies from person to person. Often more than not, it stems from possessing low self-esteem. Fawners dread not being accepted as they have an exaggerated need for the approval from others. The beginning of this behavior is associated with childhood trauma, relational trauma, and complex trauma. It also is related to having a dependent personality disorder. This type of behavior is used as a form of protecting ourselves when we feel unsafe emotionally or rationally. Pleasing becomes a pattern that stems from a particularly difficult reaction to change since it is more often than not socially and culturally reinforced in families, the workplace, in our educational system, and our society as a whole.

How does people-pleasing behavior impact personal relationships?

If you like living disproportionately to fill others people’s dreams, you are not living out your dream alliance. Having a job of being indispensable with your intimate relationships is living out someone else’s heart, mind, and body. Acts of kindness, generosity, and affection are not intrinsically a bad thing. They become problematic when you repeatedly prioritize others before your own needs because it augments resentment and you are giving your very own power away. In exclusive relationships, when you come from a place of authenticity, joy, and generosity in place of obligation, guilt, fear, and disguised resentment, only then will you arrive to thrive in a thriving relationship.

How does people-pleasing behavior impact professional relationships?

The struggle is that overcommitment becomes out of control when we respond without setting boundaries. When we take action with a no response, it legitimizes that you are being respectful with your honesty and it builds trust in your businesslike environment. When you set realistic perimeters of being honest in the world of business, you are being respectful with your honesty which builds trust. Setting realistic boundaries about your intentions illustrates showing that you are honoring your own energetic capacity, goals, and priorities. Being an endless yes person doesn’t work to your advantage in a working environment because it doesn’t allow you the privilege to input your divine creativity with your real time opinions.

How can long-term people-pleasing behavior impact an individual’s mental health?

The fawner disconnects from their own emotions, sensations, and needs which exercises as a vicious cycle which causes stress and unhealthy behaviors. You feel like you are constantly in an emotional frenzy because you are too busy doing everything for everyone else but avoid taking care of yourself. When in fact, you are the cause of it due to your inability to say no. Because of feeling emotionally overwhelmed, you go the opposite direction as you feel psychological resentment due to the feeling that others are taking advantage of your generosity which can cause a passive aggressive nature to develop. The stress of overdoing kindness and helpfulness can prevent you from relaxing to be able to get a grip of what is important to you. Long term bootlicking will increase your risk of depression, anxiety, and post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In your experience, what is the role of self-awareness in overcoming people-pleasing tendencies, and how can individuals cultivate it?

It’s a precious on- going process of getting to know yourself. Knowing who you are and what you value will open the door to a better understanding of your beliefs, emotions, and needs. This will help you appreciate yourself with a healthy dose of self-compassion. It allows you to take a peek at yourself prior to over extending yourself to help in assisting another. This allows you to see where your thoughts and emotions are taking you. It is a potent mechanism to change one’s life because it basically makes you feel more confident and creative as it prevents you to put a halt in putting others needs before your own. You become a better helper, when you first help yourself. There are many ways you can develop it and my favorite one is to identify your values by keeping a daily journal.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience or research, what are the “Five Strategies Or Techniques That Can Help Individuals Break Free From The Cycle Of People-Pleasing”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.

1 . Journal — This Is where you keep your privileged information in your daily diary. Jot down your boundaries in how much you do for others rather than how much time you give to yourself. By initiating this process, it will guide you to know how to delegate your time. When you write it down, you are able to see clearly when using this type of format. You will clearly see what you need to change. These intimate discoveries are written in stone and are private. I recommend you begin with baby steps so it doesn’t overwhelm you. As you continue with documenting, you will be able to see the progress you made.

2 . Positive self-talk — Sit in front of a mirror and have a positive conversation to remind yourself that you are deserving to have time for yourself. Talk to your image about your positive qualities and your subconscious will divulge to your conscious to design a plan to put them in play. Another way you can activate this is to have a bestie reveal all your positive traits and then repeat it back to them. This will sink into your subconscious and will consciously free you from the past habits.

3 . Meditation/Hypnosis — Find a place that you feel safe and secure, and rediscover your own values of your authenticity. The mindfulness will help you ascertain how to live a free feeling life. Another suggestion is to use hypnotherapy that can also trigger you to unlock the door to a thriving life. It is a method of inducing a trance or a dream-like state of deep relation in order to treat disorders of a psychological or emotional origin. When I went through a rough patch, I was in psychotherapy, but it wasn’t working for me. It came to my subconscious, what about trying hypnotherapy, and it worked.

4 . Exercise — Get your endorphins working so you can hone into a peaceful clarity that shifts from old negative thinking habits into positive ones. This enables you to clear your mind and will entice you to get a healthier outlook to get in touch with your authenticity. You will not thrive at taking care of others if you neglect yourself. Movement is a sure way to get your yes and no into a magnificent healthy perspective.

5 . Take an alone vacation — Go to a place where it will set the stage to guarantee peace of mind which sets the stage without distractions so that you can re-evaluate your present life. I remember when I was struggling with my marriage, I would take myself to my Lake Arrowhead home surrounded by nature and was able to focus on the joy in myself with exercise, and engage in my artwork. The tranquility afforded me the time for self-awareness. This permitted me to risk to make a huge decision that would change my life forever.

What steps should people pleasers take to establish healthier boundaries?

Self-awareness uses your authenticity as it begins the process to establish the pattern of setting boundaries. This method clarifies our expectations of ourself and others so we are able to acknowledge the comfort zone with particular situations. When we set this in motion it utilizes good communication skills that convey assertiveness with clarity. Practice baby steps in replacing yes with a no by identifying your priorities. Recognize and identify your limits and communicate them to others. Be consistent in maintaining with enforcing them, and practice taking care of yourself by assuring you that your own needs come first for your own well-being. When we are decisive about expressing our feelings openly and respectfully, it is more appealing for people to listen to you. This allows you to assert your needs and priorities as a form of self-care. Release the co-dependency and be more independent so you are able to trust your gut feeling. By achieving this, you prevent settling yourself up for engaging in unhealthy relationships that may cause resentment, manipulation, and abuse.

How can someone who is naturally empathetic maintain their compassion while becoming more assertive?

Remind yourself that it is possible to be both kind and direct simultaneously. Being mindful of another person’s feelings while gingerly expressing your views can help set up healthy boundaries, not only within yourself as it translates in your relationships as well. Being assertive without being crass is a useful skill to possess because it neatly clarifies the situation. It is vital to use language that is definite but still be sensitive to listen to the input of others. This way you are able to communicate your feelings and be open to theirs. Listen to others because you want them to feel comfortable about giving their feedback with their perspective. Always repeat back to them and ask them if you have understood it correctly. The result helps to keep the doors open to communicate and most importantly, both parties feel sunny. Keep in mind that saying no is an honest thing to do and you would be surprised the way in which you say it may be taken the way it is intended.

What are the most common misconceptions about people pleasers, and how do these misconceptions affect their journey toward recovery?

Their fear of rocking the boat when they stop not only being habitual helpers but threatens their complacency of being co-dependent. This myth is simply false because the truth is by taking care of yourself first then you will be able to take care of others in a more profound healthier improved way. Discovering your independence by using your authenticity will give you an extra dose of sweetness and smartness in communicating with others. Their feeling of not being wanted terrifies them so that they forego setting their boundaries fearful that they might be considered selfish. If our journey is to recover, setting boundaries will protect the love you have which provides you with more love to give. This prevents them from being able to be a better fawner because it will mandate that they find time for themselves. They also feel that when they say no, they are overwhelmed by guilt and can punish themselves. The ability to kindly back off of the no’s, will help to begin to attain their self-awareness. Also, being a yes person, allows you the illusion that by being at the disposal of others gives you an edge and you score brownie points with the misconception thinking that they will reciprocate. You have to be able to declutter your patterns of the old and risk the change by beginning with incremental steps.

What role can therapy or counseling play in helping individuals overcome people-pleasing behavior?

Seeking help from those that specialize are powerful tools to render support to help eliminate or limit the acts of the people pleasers. Cognitive behavioral therapy is quite effective because we learn from a repetitive life time of messages that we receive from others isn’t as significant as we may think. CBT is a form of talking therapy that targets people to manage their people pleasing skills that uses practical strategies by changing the way they think and behave. It places an emphasis on helping individuals learn to be their own therapists. There is another effective way to change this habit by engaging in group therapy led by a psychotherapist. This may be right up your alley if you are shy and need support from others that share your habit. Hypnotherapy is another form that is a helpful way to break the cycle because it focuses on reprograming your subconscious beliefs, by replacing limited thought with empowering ones when you face the fears that fuel your behavior. In this manner, you are more receptive to suggestions, which makes it an optimal time to introduce healthier thought patterns.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Help yourself, then others.

Contact Bonnie