Easy to say, hard to do.
I am a quintessential people-pleaser and conflict-avoider. I know how hard it can feel to step up to a challenge, especially when it seems you might hurt someone or that they may end up disliking you. As I am working on overcoming this battle myself, I invite you to consider the following:
It might not go as badly as you think.
The key word here is “think”. We are often so wrapped up in the anxious, counterproductive worry spirals of our brains that we don’t settle into our bodies, ground down, and breathe. Oftentimes we imagine the other person’s reaction to whatever we have to say, and usually it’s the worst possible outcome. Rather than assuming how they will feel or react, give them the option to surprise you. I’ve found that oftentimes, these uncomfortable conversations go much better than I would’ve thought – once I finally suck it up and engage in them.
You might hurt someone – but it’s impossible to go through life without hurting anyone.
This is just a fact. You will be hurt, and you will hurt others. All you can do is your best. Even if you aren’t doing it on purpose – and hopefully you aren’t – it’s going to happen sooner or later. The best course of action is to be forthright, sensitive, and as honest as possible while showing kindness and compassion. You think that you are keeping someone from hurt by holding back, but you are actually doing double harm. You’re damaging your own well-being by denying your truth, and you are simply delaying the inevitable in your relationship – which isn’t fair to them either.
You deserve to live in your own truth, regardless of whether others like you for it or not.
You will never, ever, ever be able to please everyone. I know you try. I did too, for a very long time. It’s exhausting, and it just doesn’t fucking work! So stop it! You’re wasting your time and energy chasing an impossible goal. Instead of being so scared that someone will be unhappy with you, work on loving yourself fiercely. If you do that, it won’t matter what anyone else thinks. You’ll be in tune with who you are and what you need. The people who are right for you will stick around, and those who only loved you for your people-pleasing skills will fall right off. As they should.
All of this doesn’t have to feel so scary. I’m not telling you that you’re wrong to feel this way – most likely it comes from past trauma and patterns within your family or other close relationships. Be kind to yourself, and give yourself time and space to work through your trauma. Forcing yourself into conflict isn’t the way to go, either, not when you still have healing to do. I’m just offering up the possibility that with time, help, and inner work, facing conflict will get easier. Maybe someday it won’t even bother you at all! Doesn’t that sound nice, even if it doesn’t feel within reach at the moment?
No, of course it’s not as simple as flipping a switch and easily facing every situation that comes your way. It will take time. It will take practice. It will take nervous system regulation and trauma work, most likely with the help of trained professionals if you have those resources. Start small, with low-stakes situations. That’s the best way to ease in to the practice of calmly addressing uncomfortable conflicts. Step by step. Little by little.
You’ve got this. Take your time, breathe, and be gentle with yourself. I love you.