In this BONUS episode, I share the big ah-ha moment I had where my people pleasing tendencies showed up and how it caught me by surprise. My people-pleaser part had been holding me back from sharing my story and experiences with unhealthy people in my life due to an interesting paradox. Well, things are about to shift! The conversation continues from there and we dive DEEP into:
- Understanding the subtle ways people please can show up and how to disrupt the pattern and tendency to lean into maladaptive behavioral patterns
- Subconscious coping mechanisms and how the need for safety and protection influences behavior in relationships
- Overcoming fear and speaking your truth
- How boundaries can help you avoid feeling resentment
- Discerning who should be in your inner circle and who needs to be safely placed in your outer circle
- Why boundaries are necessary in unhealthy relationships to keep you safe
- Understanding the significance and challenges in setting boundaries with unsafe people
- Techniques to safely place unhealthy people in your life in the outer circle and how to reclaim your power back
At the end, I also introduce my Empowered Boundaries Bootcamp, a five-week program designed to equip you with the tools required to set clear, healthy boundaries. This bootcamp is fortified with exercises and worksheets, and, for an additional fee, you can avail of two one-on-one sessions with me for just a smidge more. Together, we'll address any hurdles you're facing and help you to integrate your newfound skills into everyday life.
Tune in for a jam packed episode that is intended to take you from people-pleasing to self-respecting by placing boundaries in unhealthy relationships so you can feel confident using your authentic voice.
Corissa is a Somatic Trauma-Informed Relationship Coach™ & Narcissistic Abuse Specialist ™ who helps women cultivate loving, fulfilling relationships by releasing their limiting beliefs and emotional triggers. She is also a recovering people pleaser, perfectionist, and codependent who guides clients through healing their inner critic, letting go of the guilt, and the tendency to give more than they have. She helps clients release the patterns that are holding them back so they can step into a more empowered, authentic, confident, and interdependent version of themselves and ultimately find a meaningful relationship that aligns with their true value and worth.
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Welcome to the Stepping Into Meaningful Relationships podcast. I'm your host, carissa Stepp. I'm a relationship and human design coach, and this podcast is designed to help you create a stronger connection to yourself so you can transform the relationships around you, whether that be with your partner, a friend, a parent, a child or your business. We will be looking at relationships through the lens of human design, and my guests and I will bring you the tools, tips and tricks to create deeply meaningful connections with others. But first let's start with you. The most important relationship you have is the one with yourself. Thank you for tuning in. Now let's get to today's episode. Hey, hey, everyone. Welcome to this bonus episode that I am dropping this week on the heels of our episode number 37 earlier this week on People Pleasing. The reason why I'm dropping this bonus episode is because I had this big aha moment and realization very recently that, although I identify as a recovering people pleaser and I thought that in my unhealthy relationships I had done a really good job of disengaging from people pleasing behaviors with these unhealthy or toxic people in my life, I recognized that my people pleasing tendencies were still actually showing up in those relationships, but in a way that wasn't so obvious, and so what I want to do is I'd love to share this awareness with you, because I think that a lot of us think of people pleasing as behaviors that we do in an active way in our day to day life, where we are saying yes when we really want to say no, or where maybe we're being overly kind and nice as opposed to actually sharing how we truly feel, meaning that someone will ask us how we're doing, and so, as a way to just kind of people, please we might just be like, oh, I'm fine, everything's good, instead of actually sharing and giving someone else the opportunity to hear about, maybe, what we are struggling with and allowing for the opportunity to establish a deeper connection with that person by asking for the support maybe that we need in whatever we're enduring at that time that we need support with. And so, of course, you're not going to do that with everybody, right? You have to make sure that you are opening up to the right people in your life, and we're going to talk a little bit about discerning the difference and how to place boundaries around who is a safe person or who is someone that you should have in your inner circle versus your middle or outer circle. But let me go back for one second and just get back to the key awareness that I had very recently. So, with these unhealthy relationships right, these people in my life that are unsafe what I have been doing is holding myself back from sharing my story and my experiences in these toxic relationships out of what I thought was respect for these people that are still in my life because they have to be, and I thought that I was doing it out of concern for not wanting to insult them or call them out or make it look like I was pointing a finger. But here's the thing what I was really doing was I was protecting myself from the backlash of what would happen if I were to start sharing my story. Right, so I was protecting myself from the consequences as opposed to protecting them. So does that make sense? Like there's a paradox there? Right, so I was behaving in a way where I was keeping myself small. I was holding myself back from sharing my story, sharing my experiences, so that you listeners you know people there on the other side of the mic could feel like you could relate to me. Right, so I was preventing any sort of chance I had at relatability with you, my listeners or my audience, because I thought it was important to protect them. But really what I was doing was essentially protecting myself and I didn't recognize that. And when we engage in behaviors that are people pleasing, what we're really doing is what might look like from the outside, that we're doing something good or something nice for somebody else right when we are maybe sacrificing ourselves or compromising ourselves in some way to help someone else out or to be there for them or to serve their needs ahead of our own. It looks very admirable, it looks very altruistic. However, really what's happening is we are actually engaging in people pleasing behaviors as a way to keep ourselves safe, to protect ourselves from some kind of pain or discomfort. So you know I've talked about this before on other podcasts where people pleasing is actually a form of subtle manipulation, because we will serve others' needs in an attempt to get our own needs met, and sometimes it's our need for safety and our need for protection. So in those relationships with people that you have identified as unsafe, you might still be subconsciously engaging in behaviors and patterns that are coping mechanisms and are ways for you to stay safe, without you realizing it. And so in a lot of the work that I do. I talk a lot about your protector parts. Right, this is part of IFS, or internal family systems. This is something that is used a lot by IFS therapists, and so people pleasing is actually a protector part of us. So when we feel triggered or when we feel, like I said, unsafe or uncomfortable or we're worried about the consequences of our actions right or consequences of speaking our truth, the consequences of saying how we really feel or what we believe, or sharing our opinion, even If we're worried about what the consequence might be of doing that, we're going to compromise our authenticity and instead avoid speaking our truth as a way to stay safe. So we don't have to deal with the outrage, to deal with the emotional blow up that's going to happen, to deal with the conflict and the confrontation that might arise if we were to do that, because we learned at some point in our life, most likely in childhood, that it wasn't okay to use our voice, that it wasn't okay to speak our truth, that it wasn't okay to share how we really felt about something, or that it wasn't okay to share an experience that we had that was adverse, because the people in our life that we cared about might feel as if we are blaming them for something or that it might say something negative about them. And if we're dealing with people who are unhealthy, who are deeply insecure and deeply wounded, they are not going to tolerate that. They are going to fight against it. They are going to make you feel bad for it, they are going to judge you and criticize you and belittle you and demean you or gaslight you to make themselves look better, to make themselves feel better. And the thing is, is that something that I have recognized in my healing journey and it took me a while to get here is that these unhealthy people are unhealthy because they are so deeply wounded, they are so deeply insecure, and so when they act in these unhealthy and toxic ways, their patterns of behavior are also subconscious and they don't recognize that they are actually inflicting pain upon the people around them, as opposed to the people-pleaser, who only inflicts more pain upon themselves by self-abandoning, by self-sacrificing, by keeping themselves small, by not connecting to their truth right To allowing themselves to speak their truth, to share their stories, to share how they feel. Now I just want to make a quick distinction, because if the toxic and unhealthy person that you're dealing with is a malignant narcissist and I don't like using labels, but I have to in this case then their behaviors are not entirely subconscious. They are much more calculated, they are much more cunning and aware of what they're doing and the pain that they are inflicting, and they are consciously choosing how to behave and they don't care if they're hurting you or not. So that's something to be aware of, because not all unhealthy or toxic people are falling back on subconscious programming and how they're behaving. Some people, like malignant narcissists, are actually consciously choosing to inflict pain and hurt on other people. So that's important to note. So now, how do we stop engaging in these behaviors and tendencies that we have adapted to keep us safe? That may not be healthy for us. Well, the first step is learning how to identify those triggers. We need to understand what it feels like in our body when we are triggered, because that's going to give us our first clue that something's off. And if something's off and we're not feeling safe because that's what happens when we're triggered, right, we don't feel safe to some degree. That's what's being triggered, like this fear that maybe you're not enough, this fear that you're not important, this fear that you're not lovable, this fear that you might be rejected, this fear that you don't belong, this fear that somebody doesn't like you right Meaning that you're not lovable or you're not likable and so it really all boils down to some underlying fear, and it's that fear that then sponsors the protector part to come out and start doing its job of trying to protect you. And that can look like many different things. It can look like this people pleasing part. It can look like a perfectionism part. It can look like an anxiety part. It can look like someone who needs to plan and control everything and know what the schedule is and what to expect next, because there's a fear of uncertainty, the fear of the unknown. It can be a defended part coming up right, a defensive part, where you just find yourself reacting and defending yourself as opposed to taking a breath after you're feeling triggered, observing and noticing what's coming up within your body. Right, what you're feeling, so you can begin to get curious about it and become aware of which part wants to show up and how you can disrupt that pattern after using some grounding techniques, so that you can show up and respond differently. It's an empowering process because you stop responding from an emotional state right, your limbic brain and you start responding instead from this calm, grounded, present place. You can respond from your prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that controls reason and logic and is rational, and when we do that, we can actually have a big impact on how we interact and relate to other people, because when we show up operating from our prefrontal cortex instead of our emotional brain or limbic brain, it changes how the other person's going to respond to you too. We co-regulate each other's nervous systems. This is what a mother does with their child. They co-regulate their children's nervous systems. But so many of us grew up with parents or caregivers who were often very dysregulated, and so we never learned how to regulate our own nervous system. So we come up with these coping strategies and tools and techniques in order to do that, and sometimes that can be in unhealthy ways. It can be by numbing ourselves out with overeating, with alcohol, with drugs, with over shopping. It can look like over exercising. It can look like OCD. It can look like trying to control every little thing that we can, because it's the only way we can try to feel safe is by controlling our external world, because we can't control the internal world of what's going on inside of us, that fear, that anxiety of not knowing what to expect and not knowing what's next. So my point in sharing all of this is that I have shifted into closer alignment with my truth, and so what you're going to begin to hear more and more on this podcast is me sharing more and more of my stories, of my experiences and how I've worked through a lot of this stuff. So I'm thinking that potentially, an episode that I might want to do is how to set boundaries in your unhealthy relationships so that you can continue to stay safe even when the other person is unsafe, if that makes sense. A lot of times, women will come to me, whether they're clients or just friends or acquaintances, and they'll say things like well, I can't end this relationship, I can't just go. No contact, which is oftentimes the advice that is given when you admit that you're in a toxic relationship. If you were to find out, for example, that a friend of yours was in an abusive relationship, what would be your first piece of advice to them? You'd probably say you have to get out, you need to leave this person, you need to remove yourself from the situation. It's not healthy, it's unsafe. It's sometimes easier said than done for multiple reasons, and it might be because you need to get your ducks in a row or you need time to process. What can you do in the meantime while you're gathering what you need in order to make a safe exit from that relationship. Of course, there's a difference between potentially between being in a physically abusive relationship and an emotionally and psychologically and verbally abusive relationship. Now the second one. The latter, the emotionally abusive, verbally abusive and psychologically abusive relationship can escalate into physical abuse. Even if that hasn't been part of your experience so far, it's something to be aware of that once you try to leave this relationship or try to end it. That that is a potential being aware of that, of how are you going to keep yourself safe so that you can get out. I'm getting a little bit sidetracked here and I want to bring this back. If you're in a relationship that is verbally, emotionally and psychologically abusive and there is no physical abuse, then there are things that you can do as you are preparing to get ready to leave this relationship, to keep yourself safe. There are boundaries that you can set. Sometimes it's not even a relationship that you can get out of right, because this might be a relationship with someone that you need to have ongoing contact with. It could be a boss, it could be a sibling, it could be a parent, it could be a grandparent, it could be a child. In those relationships sometimes we don't want to necessarily cut them out of our lives entirely. That's not always the easiest thing to do. It's very, very, very hard. Depending on how active the abuse is will depend on whether or not it is the right decision to completely go no contact. If it's possible, where the abuse is more intermittent and you're able to have modified contact right or extreme modified contact with this person, then there are things that you can do to keep yourself safe by setting boundaries. That's why boundaries is so important and why I've been talking about it so much, because it does a couple of different things. Number one it helps you stay safe. It minimizes conflict and confrontation in your relationships. If you are in a relationship, no matter who that relationship is with, where it is unhealthy and it's toxic, then you might see that conflict and confrontation might be a big part of what occurs in that relationship. How do you minimize that? To stay safe, boundaries is the answer. The unsafe people in your life are likely not going to like the boundaries. They are likely to push back on those boundaries. You're going to be met with resistance, and so the empowered boundaries bootcamp is going to help you with all of that. There's a part of you that might come up that feels guilty for setting boundaries with these people, especially if they're people that you love, and sometimes that guilt or that fear of rejection can drive us to back down on our boundaries, and so this bootcamp is going to help you learn how to not do that. Because what happens is is when you allow someone to bulldoze you or to convince you to back down on one of your boundaries that's, around a closely held value what's going to happen is resentment is going to build, and that resentment may not just only be directed at the other person who you may feel is responsible for pushing you to back down on your boundary, but actually what happens on a subconscious level is that resentment actually gets projected inwards back at yourself. You are basically resenting yourself, which can increase any kind of self-criticism. It can increase the volume on your inner critic. It can create self-hatred or augment any kind of self-hatred you might already be experiencing or feeling. It may actually increase the depletion of your self-worth, right? Because in these toxic relationships, oftentimes the other person has already been doing a pretty good job of chipping away at your self-worth and now, when you start building resentment and it gets subconsciously directed internally towards yourself, you begin to chip away at your own self-worth too, right? You're basically taking that chisel from the other person and now using it on yourself to continue to chip away at your self-worth, so now you're both increasing the damage that you're doing to your own emotional, spiritual and potentially mental and physical well-being as well. So boundaries are so important in these relationships and getting back to my discussion around inner circle, middle circle and outer circle is you need to get clear when setting boundaries with who gets to be in your inner circle, who gets to be in your middle circle and who should be placed in the outer circle. And setting boundaries is how you keep those different relationships differentiated, right. Who do you trust and value the most and know that you can be yourself and share and ask for support and express your feelings in a healthy way and communicate with them effectively? Like those are the people that should be in your inner circle, who make you feel safe. The people who don't make you feel safe need to be placed in that outer circle. And how do we do that? We do that by placing appropriate boundaries with them, and I just want to put a little asterisk here, because what you do not want to do is tell the toxic or unhealthy person in your life that you are placing them in the outer circle, and you also don't want to say I'm setting boundaries around what I share with you, how much time I spend with you or how much we connect right, because that is going to cause conflict and confrontation in that relationship. That is going to be potentially toxic and more damaging to you and it's going to cause you more pain potentially in the long run. So you do that just through your actions and you have to maintain the distance that you're placing between yourself and making sure that you're not opening up and sharing things vulnerably with that person who is not safe, who has exhibited and shown that they are not someone that you can trust with your innermost feelings and emotions and vulnerabilities. So that was something that I really needed to asterisk there for you, because it's important, and the other thing is is that I really would love to encourage you to begin to look at your relationships, because potentially, you might be very good at saying no, for example, or setting boundaries in certain relationships, and those might be the ones in your outer circle, and it might be a lot harder for you to set boundaries with people within your inner circle. And so the thing is is that even if someone's in your inner circle, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't have boundaries with them. You still need to have boundaries in those relationships as well. The boundaries might look a little bit different. So some of the things that we're going to be doing in the empowered boot camp is really kind of discerning which boundaries need to be set and in which circumstances and with which people, and so that's something that you should probably pay close attention to, because you know how many times have I had conversations of people where they've said to me you know, my husband's really comfortable and fine with telling me no and setting boundaries with me, but when it comes to his mother, he has absolutely no idea how to set a boundary, and it's really impacted our relationship and it's made it very difficult and it's caused a strain between my relationship with my mother-in-law, right, like that's just an example of an instance, where some people might be really good at setting boundaries at work and they're terrible at setting boundaries in their personal relationships, and for others it can be the opposite and obviously people at work would be kind of in your outer circle. People that are within your home hopefully should be within your inner circle, and if there's someone within your home that is not in your inner circle then obviously that's a red flag. So again, it's important to pay attention to which relationships you feel comfortable setting boundaries in and which relationships you do not, or which circumstances you feel comfortable setting boundaries in and which circumstances you do not. A lot of times in these toxic relationships we talk about gray rocking. I personally started gray rocking these toxic people in my life subconsciously, without even realizing it, and when I first heard the term gray rock, I had no idea what it meant, and when it was explained to me I was like, oh my gosh, I've already been doing that because I subconsciously knew these people weren't safe and somehow I knew that this was how I needed to behave in order to keep myself safe and that was part of my boundary. So gray rocking is when we stop showing any kind of emotion to the person that's unsafe. We basically become as still and as uninteresting as a gray rock, so that we blend in with the background. And most likely, if you have been a people pleaser, then you have a lot of experience learning how to stay small and blending into the background so that you don't stand out too much, because, god forbid, you stand out too much, you might be rejected. God forbid, you show up in your full power and your full authenticity, you might be rejected. So you already are pretty adept at knowing how to blend into the background, and so gray rocking just takes it to another level, which you need to do. It is important to do in these toxic relationships because what happens is every time you react emotionally, every time you share something deeply vulnerable or personal, it's going to get used against you. In these toxic relationships, it's just going to increase the manipulation, the gaslighting in the relationship, because what they're gonna do is they're going to use that as a way to make you look crazy, to make you look bad, to make it look like it's your fault. You're the one who's so emotional all the time. You're the one who needs to work on themselves, right, or you're the one who has all the problems and the issues. So it gets used against you. They use it as a way to exert their power because they're like, oh, they're vulnerable. Let me just continue to make sure that I let them know, in any way I can possible, that I am the one who's superior, I am the one who is in control, I am the one who has the power in an attempt to make you feel worse. That's what toxic people do. They push you down to make themselves feel better. They eat away at your insecurities because then they feel more secure. It's all a game of relativity, because really, at the end of the day, they are deeply insecure and so their tactics end up hurting you, because that's what they do. They project outwards their behaviors, hurt other people, whereas you might only just be hurting yourself. So that's why you have to gray rock with toxic and unsafe people, so that they cannot use that against you and so that you don't get hurt more in the relationship. So again, it's setting boundaries right, like what is safe to share and what is not safe to share, and that's why it's important to identify your triggers, so that you're not reacting emotionally, because think about it from this perspective if you're getting out of a relationship with somebody who is toxic and unhealthy and you're responding emotionally and you're potentially overreacting, because now things are out of fever pitch and you feel out of control and they're doing everything that they can to make you feel like you're crazy or to make it look like you're crazy or to make it look like you're the one who is imbalanced or dysregulated. Those circumstances, those reactions, that vulnerability will be used against you and it could potentially be used against you in front of a court, and if you're dealing with somebody who is extremely toxic, then I wouldn't put it past them that they would try to do something like that. So you have to be very, very careful and that's why boundaries are so, so important. So, if you feel like you need support in this area of your life, sign up for Empowered Boundaries Bootcamp. I am gonna leave the link in the show notes and I've actually broken this down into kind of two hybrid offers, meaning that you can access the course for $147 and the content will start dripping November 15th. Each week you'll get one module. So for five weeks consecutively you'll get a module a week for you to work through. There will be included worksheets and exercises and workbooks to go along with that to help support you through the course and then, if you would like to, you can actually add on for an extra $100, so $247,. You can not only do the course, but you can also get my one-on-one support and that's kind of broken down into two one-on-one sessions with me, one 60 minute session with me where we will work through whatever might be holding you back, whatever is triggering you, that you need to kind of have some support around and some tools that can help you. We can work directly on improving certain boundaries with certain people. We can talk about whatever it is that you're struggling with as it pertains to boundary setting in your relationships and helping you feel safe while doing that. The 30 minute session will be a follow-up session, after you've had time to practice and integrate what you've learned during the bootcamp, as well as our initial 60 minute session, so that we can fine-tune whatever we need to fine-tune. We can celebrate where you've had success and how. Perhaps maybe we need to tweak things a little bit in order to get you on this path to setting clear and healthy boundaries assertively and effectively so you can create more deeply meaningful relationships in your life. I hope you'll join us until next week. Be well, if you're hearing this message, that means you've listened all the way to the end, and for that I am truly grateful. If you enjoyed this episode and found it valuable, would you mind leaving us a review wherever you listen to podcasts and sharing it with others? If you'd like to connect with me for one-on-one coaching or human design reading, you can find me on my website or on social media. Also, if you have a topic you'd like me to discuss on a future episode, please DM me. Be sure to tune in next week for another episode of Stepping into Meaningful Relationships.