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Cycle Breaking and People Pleasing

Updated: Nov 13, 2023

When we decide to be a cycle breaker within our family, we are not only healing ourselves, but we are healing our children and future generations. We are taking specific behaviors, values, or morals that were instilled in us, in our parents and in their parents, and are deciding that those behaviors, thought process, the way that we go about situations is no longer serving us in the best, most healthy way. It's not functioning for us anymore based on the way we're showing up and the way we want to show up.

We are noticing these important factors and we're doing some deep healing work to stop and change those behaviors and the narrative for our children. This not only helps us heal, grow, and show up in the way that we deeply and truly want, but it lays a strong foundation for our future generations.

Cycle breaking is when we take these messages, both on macro levels (the ones that were very clearly stated, very obvious, and very well verbalized) and micro ones (weren’t outwardly discussed, but we got certain responses from our parents that inwardly communicated something) and no longer live by these “rules”. When we realize that we are showing up a certain way due to our upbringing, we can take genuine action to heal, to rewrite that narrative, and to show up differently.

Why is this important, though? Why would we want to do that? After all, change is scary and for some reason these actions have “served us”.

Oftentimes when we realize we're getting specific responses from people, or that we're showing up in ways that aren't benefiting or serving the people around us, we can decide to shift this based on our own beliefs. We realize that we are not living authentically, are experiencing challenges within ourselves, relationships, or even within the quality of our lives.

A very common example is people pleasing. This is when we put our own thoughts, feelings, or needs to the side and put someone else’s thoughts, feelings or needs first. People pleasing goes beyond a small give and take to relationships. It is when you're continuously backing away, backing down, letting the other person have their needs met more and more frequently than yours because you feel like there needs are more important than yours.

You often feel that there is no “space” for your needs or that they are less important and valid than another person. In your mind or unconscious, you feel as though you're not allowed to show up and have a voice or get these needs met, and may often avoid conflict or the idea that another person is mad at you. We are taught to not ruffle any feathers or get someone upset, so we let them get their way or have more say and control in the situation.

Growing up, we may have gotten verbal or nonverbal cues from our caregivers that our needs are less important, that other people's thoughts or other people's opinions are more valuable, and there's not a space for you to show up or for you to contribute your opinion.

You may have been:

  • Shut down

  • Told you're annoying

  • That you don't need to get upset about something

  • You don't want to disrupt the family system

  • Not to worry about it

  • That it's not that important

  • Told "I don't think you care very much, right?"

Those are very clear verbal ways that a parent can communicate this to you. This often comes from not only your parents, but their parents and the parents before them

It can be kind of tricky for a lot of parents and people to try to end this cycle. When we've been told these messages, not only do we absorb that, we often don't stop and realize that's a problem. We think “this is just the way I am and “this is the best way that serves me because I don't have to deal with anyone getting upset with me. I don't have to deal with getting shut down, so that feels safer for me”.

A lot of families and a lot of people don’t or didn't have the ability to speak up. There may have been repercussions to pushing back. Continuously, there may not have been resources out there to share the value of being able to, in this example, speak your mind, share your feelings and make yourself a priority. Just because you may ready to end a cycle now, doesn’t mean your previous ancestors had the ability to do so, even with awareness.

So how we do it? How do we go OK, you're right, this people pleasing tendency within me isn't working anymore. I want to be able to stand tall and share my thoughts and feelings and get my needs met too. The first thing is really recognizing and realizing, “Hey, this is how I'm showing up and it's not really working for me”. Calling it out and identifying what it is that you would like to repair and how you'd like to show up differently is key.

You can ask yourself:

  • How were these messages communicated to me?

  • How was conflict handled?

  • Was space made for my feelings?

  • Was I allowed to have a voice when I had a contradictory opinion?

  • How was it received?

  • How did they respond and what did it communicate to me?

  • Did it shut me down?

  • Did it quiet my voice?

  • Did it make me feel small and insecure?

After this, the healing work begins. It’s a full body state where you absorb the message that your voice matters, what you have to say is important and it's valuable. You are deeply rewriting that script and narrative for yourself.

There are lots of different ways to do this deep healing work. There's EFT tapping, you can work with a therapist who specializes in narrative therapy and really helping explore these past interactions and even past traumas that may have dampened this beautiful spark and this beautiful light within you. It is possible to show up in the way that you want to show up.

Finding little ways that you can speak up and make space for your needs that is comfortable for you, especially in the beginning, so that you can get evidence that it's OK. It's OK if you ask for a need to be met and someone receives that and respects it. You get this evidence back that it wasn't so bad, you got a positive response, and it can be safe to do that. The more we practice it, the more that it becomes a subconscious way that we can show up in our day-to-day lives.

If you have the people pleasing tendencies, an example would be setting a boundary with someone by saying “ I don't really appreciate XYZ and this is what I'd like to see differently. Is that something we can workout together?”. It can be strange, scary, and even awkward doing this, especially if you've never really done it before. Again, highlighting the benefits of working with the therapist to create a strong plan and buffer for how you can prepare for it and even take care of yourself afterwards.

Once you do this and it becomes natural for you, you model it for your own kids and begin to break that cycle. If they have a need or emotional response, being able to catch and calm that initial gut reaction to shut it down. You’re better able to make space for their so they pick up on the messaging that it's OK to have a voice, it's OK to share their thoughts, it's OK to share their feelings. This is the safe space, and their voice matters and is valuable.

When we begin to heal ourselves, we can show up differently for our own children and they get these same healing messages and you’re starting to break that cycle and those micro and macro values that were passed down through all the generations. This allows more opportunities for your children and their children and so on to show up in really healthy, positive, beneficial ways where they can shine, sparkle, be well-rounded, and happy with them themselves, but still respectful to others. And it can be a really beautiful thing!

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