The Physician Philosopher Podcast

TPP #22: 4 Reasons to Stop Being a People Pleaser

What does Wilt Chaimberlain’s 100 point game and people pleasing have in common? It all have to do with needing external validation. The game he had the most success was a game that wasn’t televised. It was a game where no one could watch how he threw a free throw.

So many of us feel like we need to be people pleasers. But the truth is we just can’t make everyone happy. And it’s not worth making everyone else happy if we’re making ourselves miserable.

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Keep listening to learn how you control your need to make others happy all of the time and have your own personal success!

Today You’ll Learn

  • Why it’s just not possible to please everyone all of the time.
  • How people pleasing can come at the expense of your own health.
  • Why needing external validation can sometimes hold you back.
  • And more!

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Have you been lying to yourself or do you hold true to who you are? If you've ever needed external approval from other people, had trouble saying no, or worried more about what others think than about what you want, this episode is for you.

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This is the Physician Philosopher Podcast. I'm Dr. Jimmy Turner, an anesthesiologist, personal finance blogger, and life coach for doctors. The Physician Philosopher Podcast teaches you how to create the life you deserve one thought at a time. Start before you're ready. Start by starting. Start now.

Hey everyone. Welcome to episode number 22 of the Physician Philosopher Podcast, where we take an un-curated and unapologetic look into physician life. Today's thought is this. Let's let this year be the year where we aren't afraid to say yes to what matters most to us and where we stop apologizing for saying no. Many of you may know who Will Chamberlain is, right. He's a famous basketball player and is most notably known for having the only game in NBA history where someone scored a hundred points. He's the only guy to have done that. You may also know some things about that game, like it wasn't televised. It was a game where if you didn't see it in person, or perhaps you listened to it on the radio, there was no way for you to really watch this game. It's one of the best individual efforts in all of sports history, and it can really only be written about unless you somehow get the audio recording of this game.

What you may not know is that Will Chamberlain was historically a really bad free throw shooter, like a 40% rate. Free throws are called free throws. It's called the charity stripe. It's like giving people baskets. The idea is that it's supposed to be really easy to do and Will Chamberlain, one of the best basketball players in the history of the NBA, professional basketball I should say, was a 40% free throw shooter. Yet during this 100 point game, one of the most famous games in the history of the game, he made 28 of his 32 free throws. Now, I'm really bad at public math so I'm not going to throw that out there, but that seems to be well over 80 or 90%, right?

How does this 40% free throw shooter make 28 of his 32 free throws to score over a hundred points during that game? You might think that maybe the massive difference comes from Will just practicing really hard and getting better at something he'd previously struggled with, and you'd be right to some extent. Yet he didn't really make more free throws that night because he became more athletic or he practiced more. This wasn't like a practice makes perfect sort of situation by him just trying the traditional technique they'd been using for years. It kind of goes to that idea of like the definition of insanity, right? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Chamberlain wasn't going to get better shooting free throws the way that he had been doing it.

The real reason that this happened, why he made 28 out of 32 is because during that year, Chamberlain abandoned the more traditional kind of overhand technique that you see pretty much every player use today. Instead, what he did is he actually made his free throws that game by using the granny shot. Yeah. Like the one where you'd swing the ball between your legs. You've got your knees bent, you put the ball between your legs and then you throw the ball up in the air like a grandma would. It's called the granny shot. He literally did that during this game. You know what? It was effective. The crazy part about all of this Will Chamberlain story isn't that he shot granny style, it isn't that he made 100 points, it isn't that he had this crazy successful game and that he tried something that other people weren't really doing at the time. The crazy part to all of this is that Will changed his style, became an incredibly effective free throw shooter, and that despite it being effective, it was the only year that Will Chamberlain ever shot granny style.

You might be wondering why he would change, see something that's so effective, and then go back to his 40% free throw ways at the charity stripe. Why did he go from making 90% of his free throws granny style to back to a 40% rate? He's making less than half the number of free throws. It turns out Chamberlain actually answers this question. He got interviewed about it, and when he was later asked, he said, and I quote, "I felt silly, like a sissy shooting underhanded. I know I was wrong. I know some of the best foul shooters in history shot that way. Even now", at the time of this interview, "The best one in the NBA, Rick Berry, shoots underhanded, I just couldn't do it."

What I want to tell you is this guy who had the 100 point game, the only 100 point game in the history of professional basketball who did that by shooting 28 out of 32 from the free throw stripe by shooting granny style, the reason that Will Chamberlain gave up on the most effective way for him to shoot free-throws was because he cared about pleasing others and what other people thought. In other words, even the great Will Chamberlain had struggles needing external validation from other people. I have to say, I can really relate to this story. For most of my life I have absolutely totally been a people pleaser. If I'm being honest, it's still kind of my default. It's something I have to coach myself on all of the time. It's constantly a struggle for me. I've been mostly concerned with making other people happy for most of my life. For as long as I can remember I've been that way.

If I really think back to it, a big reason for this is my upbringing. I've got some memories with my parents, my mom in particular, where we'd be shopping and she'd ask me if I wanted to wear something. She picked something off the rack and say, "Hey, do you like this?" I'd say, "Mom, that's not really my style. I don't really like it." I would get reprimanded for not being grateful. Then I very quickly learned to just say yes. Then I would go home and I wouldn't wear it because I didn't like it and I would get reprimanded for not wearing it and for lying and saying yes that I liked it. Either way, I was in the situation where I was damned if I did and damned if I didn't. If I'm being honest with you, this taught me from a very early age this idea, this belief, that I was responsible for other people's feelings.

I figured out life was like walking on eggshells when I grew up and that it was this idea I held in my head that I was responsible for how other people felt. This continued for my entire life, basically. There's this great example I tell people of. Kris and I were walking through a mall and this guy's at one of those stands in the middle of the mall selling products, and he's selling a hair straightener. I think he's looking at Kristen, but at the time I thought he was looking at me. He's doing a great job selling this hair straightener. He's got this whole spiel. He's talking to me about the hair straightener. I literally am just like gravitating towards this man as he's trying to sell this hair straightener. He starts talking to me and Kristen walks up, puts a hand in the guy's face and says, "Thank you, but we're not interested", and then grabs my arm and we keep walking. After the fact, she's like, "You were totally going to buy a hair straightener, weren't you?"

For those of you that don't know what I look like, my hair is three inches long. I've got no business needing a hair straightener, but I was absolutely going to buy a hair straightener from this guy because I felt like he was doing such a good job selling the product and he was putting the work in, so if I didn't buy it from him, he'd be disappointed and wouldn't have the best day that he was looking to have.

What I'm basically trying to tell you is that if you want to sell Girl Scout cookies or some other something else, just come to my door because my entire life, it has been impossible for me to say no to other people. It's taken me so long to realize that being authentic to who I am is not my baseline. I've always characterized myself as an honest, genuine guy, and I think that's true, but when it comes to stuff like this, I'm not being honest about what I want. I actually give into people all of the time. This people pleasing nature, it's impacted my marriage, it's impacted my job, it's impacted my business at the Physician Philosopher.

These are just a couple of examples that really show that the hair straightener thing, me growing up with my mom, but it's not just me. Will Chamberlain, one of the best professional basketball players ever had the same thing. It's apparently a human thing to care what other people think for many of us, and it explains why when I was working out the other day and heard one of the instructors, I think, it was Robin Arzon. I'm a Peloton guy. I'm a Peloton junkie for those of you that don't know. She said something. I think it was based on something Shonda Rhimes actually said, but she basically said, "Let this be the year where we aren't afraid to say yes and we stop apologizing for saying no." That resonated so much with me. Not because of the afraid of saying yes part. That part's always been easy for me. It's always been easy to jump in with two feet and just do stuff that I'm passionate about, but that part about saying no to other people and to stop apologizing for it, man, that hit home.

People pleasing is totally a problem. Before we talk about how to solve this problem, I really want to dive into why it's an issue in the first place, if it isn't obvious yet. Really, the biggest problem with people pleasing is that you're not being authentic to who you are. This means that you are actually being dishonest to yourself and to other people. You aren't really representing who and what you're about. You're lying to yourself. People pleasing is lying. When I wrap my head around that and how important honesty and being genuine and being just who I am is to me, I was like, wow. That's not something I'm willing to accept. You're doing things in order to make other people happy when you're a people pleaser. Not because you want to. Because you're worried about what you do and say and how that's going to affect other people and their feelings.

Think about this. Who in any relationship, whether it's a friendship, a partnership, a business, a marriage, who in a relationship would want the person that they're working with, that they love, that they're interacting with to constantly be doing things that they don't want to be doing? As a husband, I would never want Kristin to do something just because she thinks it's going to make me feel better. I want her to do what she wants to do. That's how it is with people we love, people we work with, friends, family, coworkers. If we want them to do what they want to do, we don't want them to do stuff just to make us happy, and yet I have this expectation internally to do just that. That it's my responsibility to do things that make other people happy. The first thing about people pleasing, one reason not to do it, is because you're being dishonest. You're actually lying to yourself if you're doing that.

The second, it's this idea that as you try to fill everyone else's cup, your cup is eventually going to run empty. You can only people please and lie to yourself for so long before you're just completely burned out, you're burning the candle at both ends, you are saying yes to everybody, and all of a sudden you have nothing left. Even if you can put on the people pleasing charade for some amount of time, eventually the act really gets old. When you have an empty cup, who's going to take the brunt of that? It turns out that usually the answer is you, your friends, your family, the things that matter most to you in life. Is that worth it? Is people pleasing and saying yes to everybody and not saying no or apologizing for saying no, is that worth it?

Saying no to other people, it turns out, isn't rude. I think that's where a lot of mine came from is I had this idea that I really wanted to be kind and selfless to other people and to love them well and saying no was rude. It wasn't kind. Now that I've really understood this and shape my head around it that saying, no isn't rude. It's just authentic. It's you being you. It's not mean. It's not selfish. It's a way to make sure that your cup doesn't run empty, and that's important, right? It's like airlines, where they tell you, "Hey, if the plane starts going down and the oxygen masks drop, put on your oxygen mask first before you put on the mask for other people." Why do they tell you to do that? Well, because if you run out of oxygen, you can't help anyone else if you pass out, so take care of yourself first, and then with a full amount of oxygen in your lungs, you can help other people that are having trouble.

It makes so much sense, and yet when it comes to people pleasing, we don't do this. We just bash ourselves into the ground saying yes to people and being afraid to say no. I think this is the year where we abandon that; where we start to not be afraid to say yes to things that are hard, that are challenging, that have potential for failure, and we stop apologizing for saying no to things that get in the way of all of our goals, which may include helping other people, right? The entire point of the Physician Philosopher is to help other doctors create the life that they deserve, that they want. If I'm going to do that, I can't say yes to a lot of stuff, and I'm not going to apologize for saying no so that I can do that because that's my calling, that's my passion. That's what I'm all about and what I'm trying to do.

All right. Number three is that it is not possible to please other people. No matter how hard you try. What I mean by that is that you have to give up on this idea that I've held my entire life until the last six months that somehow it is my responsibility or that I'm even able or capable of determining how someone else feels. If you're a married, this is true. I don't even have to convince us of you. How many times have you done something in a marriage or said something that was interpreted the complete way that you did not mean something? In other words, it was misinterpreted. The person heard you say something and they're like, "Why would you say that?" You're like, "What do you mean? I was just saying that you look really nice in that dress. I've never seen you wear it before." Oh, I thought when you asked me what I was wearing you thought it looked bad. Our words get misinterpreted all the time. Then that produces feelings in other people.

When other people see or hear you do something, including you saying no, that you're not going to do something for them, how they feel about that and how they interpret your words and your meaning and what you meant by what you said and how you did it, that is completely up to them. Half the time people don't care that you don't want to do something, and the other half of the time, you give an inch and people want to take a mile. Words are going to get misinterpreted, things are going to happen, and the sooner that we realize that we cannot control how other people feel, and this goes back to the thought model, that what we think determines how we feel, the same words can be said to two different people, be interpreted in two very different ways and produce two very different feelings, even though it's the same words coming out of your mouth.

We've all experienced this, and we know the reciprocal is true too, right? Where I was actually coaching somebody the other day and this happened where their wife said something to them about being a good dad and we talked about the meaning of that and if it had an impact on how this doctor felt. A great question came out of it, which was, well, it didn't seem like that impacted you as much as you wanted. What if your kid said the same thing? What if your kid told you that you were a good dad? Suddenly the doc realized, oh, the same thing, the same exact words can come out of two different people's mouths and I will interpret that and make it mean something very different. One meant a lot to this doctor and one did not. Isn't that interesting that the words are the same? It's not, in fact, our circumstances or the things that people say to us that determine how we feel. It's our thought about that person, about what they said, about how they said it, about what they did that determined how we feel.

The same thing goes for other people. When you say yes or no to someone, it's up to them to determine if that's going to make them happy or not. You can't control them, and giving up on that idea that I'm not responsible for other people's feelings, it is up to you to decide how you want to think and feel about what I just said, that is so freeing. I've finally gotten to that place where I can actually start believing that idea. That's number three.

Number four. Fourth reason that people pleasing is just not a good idea. You constantly require external validation if you're a people pleaser. What I mean is that it turns out when others aren't happy with you or what you've said or done, your people pleasing nature is going to turn into this vicious monster. It's going to eat you alive. Internal validation is the opposite of this, right? That means that you think you are enough. You're worthy, you're lovable, you're strong just the way that you are and that you don't need anyone else in this world to tell you that. You know who you are, what your identity is, and how valuable you are as a human being without having to hear those words from other people.

Now, is it bad to feel good when other people tell you that they think that you're doing a good job or that they love you, or that they think you're worthy or that you're really helping them? Absolutely not. It's great to do that, but when you become dependent on external validation, like an alcoholic is dependent upon alcohol to feel better, that's a problem. I'll be the first to admit that I, for a lot of my life, because of all of the stories that I told you before about external validation and people around me making me feel like... I can't say that's actually not even true. No one can make me believe something, but me having the thought based on my upbringing that my actions and words determined how other people felt, I was constantly in need of external validation to make sure that I was doing a good job at that. I needed to hear from other people that the words that I said or the things that I did were making them proud or that I was making them happy.

The opposite is true too where I was not making them mad if I constantly tried to avoid. What happens if you don't get the external validation? What happens the first time in your life when something passes you up? I found out the hard way that it doesn't go very well for people that have an external validation addiction. I could probably call it that for me. I have problems if I don't get external validation. That turned into a vicious monster for me when I finally had a situation in my life where I got passed up for an opportunity, and it meant all sorts of things about who I was and whether I was worthy enough or worth having around. I just had all these judgmental thoughts. The reason why is because of my thoughts about external validation. I happened to need that from other people.

Now that I've gotten to this place where I'm not responsible for other people's feelings, and so I don't need your external validation. When I do something, if you want to be happy about it or mad about it or indifferent or apathetic, I don't care. I'm not responsible for your feelings. I'm not going to feel bad for saying no and I'm not going to be afraid to say yes. That means not being afraid to say yes to me and my family. Like in many of the episodes that I've been podcasting about lately, this is a theme, if you haven't picked up on that yet.

What happens when we get pie in our face? What happens when we fail? What happens when the public praise stops? When the external validation is no longer there? This is how I explain it to my clients. Expecting someone else's praise to make you feel worthy is like asking someone else to eat a meal for you so that you'll stop being hungry. Let me say that again. Expecting someone else's praise to make you feel worthy is like asking someone else to eat a meal so that you'll stop feeling hungry. When you wrap your head around that idea that you are dependent on other people to make you feel worthy or lovable or enough or strong or a good doctor or a good parent or a good partner, a good spouse, when you're dependent on other people to have those beliefs about yourself, that means you are trying to get someone else's praise to make you feel that way. Just like someone else eating a meal isn't going to make your stomach stop feeling hungry, other people's praise is not going to make your heart make you feel worthy.

That is fundamentally important to understand, because until you get that, you're going to be an external validation junkie, you're going to be a people pleaser, and this is the fourth reason why people pleasing is just so toxic for you and for me and for everybody. It's a huge problem. The solution to all of this is a really simple concept, honestly, but not always easy to employ. The solution is that we have to understand that we do not have control over other people's feelings. We are not responsible for them, and we can't control them even if we were. In other words, we don't have the ability to make someone else be happy or pleased with what we've done. I gave examples of this earlier, right? If you're married, how many times have you had somebody misinterpret something? Whether that's marriage or work or with children, how many times have you done something and the other person was not impressed? Like you put a ton of work into something and show it to somebody and they're like, oh cool, and they're otherwise just not at all impressed by it.

Have you ever said something and had it misinterpreted? It turns out that what other people interpret our words and actions to mean is up to them. When we realized that, oh, I have the freedom to say no and how they react is up to them. In coaching, we teach that basically you and you alone are responsible for your thoughts and that those thoughts determine our feelings, actions, and the way that we show up in the world. Whether someone else realizes it or not, they're in the same situation. Their thoughts do the same thing; determine their feelings, actions, and how they show up. Not you, not what you say, not what you do. When we finally release ourselves from being responsible for how other people feel, this is where the real freedom starts.

We shouldn't base our decisions on whether it will make someone else happy or not. That's ultimately up to them, right? That's their work to do. Let them do their work and let this year be the year where we start being authentic, we start being honest to ourselves, we start to say yes without fear, and we start saying no without apologies. Let this be the year that we decide that we're not going to people please anymore. We decide not to apologize for saying no to things that aren't a priority to us.

My friends, as you go through this journey, know that I'm right alongside with you, if you couldn't tell that in listening to this episode, and today's thought is this. Let's let this year be the year where we aren't afraid to say yes to what matters most to us and where we stop apologizing for saying no. Until next time my friends, start before you're ready, start by starting, start now. I'll see you next week.

My dad, Dr. Jimmy Turner, is a physician, personal finance blogger, and a life coach for doctors. However, he is not your physician or your life coach. He also isn't a financial advisor, financial planner, or accountant. Anything discussed in this podcast is for general education and entertainment purposes only. Life coaching is not a substitute for therapy, medicine, or medical treatment. However, if you are a doctor looking for a life coach, you can reach to my dad at [email protected]

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