Freedom from Guilt and People-Pleasing

Feb 1, 2024 | Coaching, Leadership

Intriguing question: what is one word that can free us?

You might think it is love.

Love is so powerful in lifting shame and sadness and loneliness, but that’s not the kind of freedom I’m referring to. Instead, I’m referring to the freedom to put aside others’ presumed or verbalized expectations of us and do something in our own best interest.

That magical word is… COULD. At first glance, this might not seem like a term that holds the power to free our inner potential and help us achieve our dreams, but try using it in place of SHOULD, and doors swing open.

“I should do the laundry instead of the 30-minute yoga class,” becomes “I could do the laundry instead of the 30-minute yoga class.” I might still give up a half-hour of self-care for clean sheets, but it is a choice instead of an absolute requirement with moral overtones.

Should is a signal that someone else’s agenda is showing up in our heads. Sometimes it is helpful to identify that someone, but what’s more important is to recognize should as a sign that we are not owning our power. Instead, we are adopting the values and priorities of another person (who may or may not be present in our lives today) as our navigation system.

Awareness is the first step. Acceptance of the fact that we have been denying our choices is second. Action is the third. Action may mean doing exactly what followed the should, but knowing we have a choice. Or, it might mean taking a different path. If so, we will need to rustle up the courage to feel discomfort as we step into the unknown, often under the shroud of guilt.

A mentor of mine used to say, “Feel the guilt and do it anyway.” (I should clarify that she was not referring to violent or immoral acts.) She meant that we need to give ourselves permission to do what’s best for us—our well-being—and not let our behavior be dictated so much by others’ needs and desires. For people with a tendency toward people-pleasing (which many of us women in medicine seem to have), this is radical advice.

I need to repeat my mentor’s mantra often; this sort of thinking isn’t my default. But I’ve found for myself and my coaching clients, that it is possible to move beyond our default modes and put ourselves and our needs up higher on our to-do list.

Today, see what happens if you replace those shoulds with coulds

 

 

[ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ]

Diane W. Shannon

MD, MPH, ACC

Diane Shannon is an award-winning writer, author, and coach. Since leaving practice as a primary care physician due to burnout, she has worked to support physicians in achieving their personal and professional goals and to highlight the changes needed to reduce burnout, improve career satisfaction, and protect the bidirectional healing power of the patient-physician relationship.

Yes! Send me my free ebook: The Challenges Women Physicians Face: What’s Needed to Shift from Striving to Thriving. 

Learn what women physicians across the country told me about the barriers they face–and about potential solutions. You’ll also receive my biweekly newsletter.  You can unsubscribe at any time.

0 Comments

Yes! Send me my free ebook:

The Challenges Women Physicians Face: What’s Needed to Shift from Striving to Thriving.

Learn what women physicians across the country told me about the barriers they face--and about potential solutions. You'll also receive my biweekly newsletter. You can unsubscribe at any time.

And don’t worry, I won’t spam you. I take your privacy seriously and will never sell your information to any third parties. See my Privacy Policy.

Diane W. Shannon, MD, MPH, PCC

Website Designed by Gem Seven Studio

Photography by Julia Snider and Kira M. Shannon

All rights reserved © 2024, Diane W. Shannon