BubbleIn yesterday’s post I wrote about Portia Nelson’s Autobiography in 5 Short Chapters. I talked about falling into the same old hole she described in Chapter II. My pothole was putting other people’s needs ahead of my own.

How can I get out of that hole?

Well, if I created this drama, there is a possibility that I can create something different, something less crazy-making. Just maybe I can move on to Chapter IV and V where I walk around the deep hole or choose to walk a new path.

I began to wake up to the idea that I actually do have choices. I can make decisions based on my preferences and needs instead of a sense of obligation.

I have a choice about how I respond to others’ demands. A choice about how I react when the tsunami of items on my to-do list threatens to overwhelm me. A choice about saying “yes” to one more volunteer project or saying “thanks, but not now”.

I’ll offer a handful of strategies that helped me begin to recover from ‘the disease to please’. I hope that you’ll find some of them useful.

Six simple secrets to stop overextending:

  1. Now thyself.

Follow these simple steps and, in one minute, you can get a tiny break from the pushy, critical voice in your head:

·         Find a place of solitude.

·         Sit down.

·         Place your legs in a relaxed but fixed position.

·         Sit up.

·         Set your alarm for exactly one minute.

·         Place your hands in a relaxed but fixed position.

·         Close your eyes.

·         Focus all your attention on your breathing.

·         When the alarm sounds, stop.


  1. Stop ‘shoulding’ on yourself. How often do you hear yourself saying the “S” word throughout the day? This is a clue to places you may be unconsciously putting demands for perfection on yourself or others.
  2. Know the payoff. Even the most damaging behaviors have a payoff. If you did not believe the behavior delivered some value to you, you would not do it. If you want to stop behaving in a certain way, you’ve got to stop “paying yourself off” for doing it.
  3. Enlighten up. You can play life full out and at the same time not take it, or yourself, too seriously.
  4. Take your turn. Be bold enough to reach for what will truly fill you up, without being unrealistic. Once you develop the resources and resolve to believe that you deserve what you want, you will be bold enough to step up and claim it.
  5. Get off the psycho path and onto the scenic path. Most of us are conditioned to think things have to be hard to be worthwhile. We habitually choose the hardest method, the most difficult path. How would your life be different if you let yourself off the hook and chose the way that felt easier?

As I look back ten years to that dreadful month when my car burned up and I landed in the ER, I see that my struggle for perfection had left me exhausted, disgruntled and confused. I found the key to greater happiness was allowing myself to embrace my needs and put myself first. Once I started making friends with my perfectly imperfect self, I began to enjoy a sense of relief and calmness.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but putting my needs at the top of the list actually helps me be more present for other people. I’m much more likely to respond to their needs effectively instead of reacting in a way that makes things worse.

I’m grateful to be discovering a way to live in the world where I feel I have a choice in each moment. I am waking up to the reality that I deserve nurturing and compassion from myself. So do you.