People pleasing is almost inevitable when we’re not confident about what to do or how to do it.
When starting learning languages, many people look for advice online whether on youtube or on blogs, to know “what is the fastest, easiest, most efficient way” to learn. While some of this advice is definitely valuable, not all methods and approaches to language learning may be adapted to you.
Hence the importance of listening to yourself, so you become your inner compass and align your language learning to your life, for better results.
Today I’m handing the mic to fellow online coach Kate Winder. She will share with us how being a people pleaser can hurt your language learning, and what to do about it.
How to know if you’re a people pleaser
You usually follow what other people want you to do.
You worry about what other people think of you.
You work hard for good results or accomplishments and then don’t know what to do next … and you don’t feel satisfied or happy with your success.
You’re not alone. And none of these things above make you a bad person.
But you are most likely a people-pleaser. You worry about other people around you and their feelings.
How they react to you really affects your self-esteem and confidence.
You might put off things that you really want to do, to help other people achieve their dreams (your kids or partner). Or, you might have your whole life planned out and you achieve your goals… but you don’t ever feel happiness about it because you feel like something is missing.
You’re always searching for the next thing to prove you’re good enough.
You might spend a lot of time worrying about outside forces in your life. Which is totally understandable, because of the amount of information and advice that we are all bombarded with every day through different channels. You might feel pressure to do what your family or people close to you want you to do instead of looking inside yourself and pursuing your own dreams.
From every corner there is someone to tell you what you ‘should’ be doing.
I understand if you have trouble figuring out what you really want and what would really make you happy.
I was the same way. I’m still working on it now. As I’ve built my self-awareness, I’ve become so much more confident in myself and my choices.
I know how powerful it is to define your own values and follow them as much as you can.
Focusing on yourself, and understanding how you learn, what you really enjoy doing, and your values and dreams really helps you stay more consistent and confident in your language learning and your life.
You can ask yourself:
- What happens when I follow what others want me to do?
- What feelings come up?
- What would happen if I did what I really wanted to do?
- What is holding me back?
How does people pleasing affect your learning?
When you feel like you ‘should’ do something, or you’re being encouraged to do something you dislike, learning gets much more difficult. It’s much easier to give up or be really unhappy and stressed. When you’re more stressed, your brain actually can’t learn as well and you won’t always remember or retain as much information. (Related: how learning and memory are affected under stress)
If you’re working hard to help everyone else, you don’t get to have time for yourself to learn and grow as a person. You don’t take the time to really get to know who you are under the surface.
Once you start peeling back the layers you’ve built up to please others, you can see what’s under there and nurture it so it can grow bigger. You can start to care for yourself. (Related: 22 simple ideas to love yourself)
Stop people pleasing: How do you start to change?
I’ve created a little framework that I’ve been using for my own life, based on mindfulness principles. It starts small, with noticing thoughts and feelings, then moves to pondering, and finally reframing what you’re wanting to change and experimenting with something new.
When you’re a people-pleaser, it’s very easy to ignore your intuition. But you still have those gut feelings, even if you don’t always listen to them.
To start tuning more into yourself and your feelings, you have to start by noticing your patterns and also what feelings come up for you in certain situations.
If something feels ‘off’ or not right, then that is your intuition. You can listen to your intuition and think about why you feel a certain way.
You can write down your thoughts so you can remember them for the future.
Here are some questions to get you started if you want to go deeper into journaling:
- Is what you’re doing right now relevant to your dreams about using the language?
- What thrills you about languages?
- What kinds of activities get you into that flow state?
- What inspires you in your target language?
- What would a satisfying learning experience look and feel like for you?
- What is a story you tell yourself about learning a language that might not be true or is something you want to investigate?
Remember to validate your own feelings. This is a powerful way to be clear about what you’re really feeling inside.
For example, if you’re in a class you don’t enjoy- notice what you don’t like.
Ask yourself some questions and dig deeper into why you’re feeling that way. (pondering)
Tell yourself, “Wow, this is difficult for me.” (validating your feelings)
Then reframe how you think about this challenge: “It’s ok to dislike something. I have the power to make my own choices about how I want to learn.”
If it’s something you want to do differently, figure out a small step you can take to make a change for the next time, and see what happens. (experimenting)
Use your strengths
Another big part of building self-awareness so that you can reduce your people-pleasing tendencies is getting to know what really brings you joy and what you are good at.
I’ve been doing this a lot recently, where I ask myself, “Do I really like doing this, or do I like it because someone else said it was ‘good’ ‘cool’ etc.?”
It’s so easy to get caught up in what everyone else says you should do.
When it comes to learning, it’s important to know how to use your strengths to your advantage.
It will make learning easier and more enjoyable, which will most likely keep you more motivated to continue than when you are trying to do something that doesn’t fit with your personality and strengths.
Let’s walk through an example.
Julie is a quiet, book-loving mom who wants to keep practicing her target language, Spanish.
She searches the internet for advice about how to maintain language skills when you’re busy.
All the advice tells her that she should be doing online classes, going to meetup groups to practice, and even studying abroad in a country so that she can be immersed in the language.
All of these things sound okay to her, but right now, she has young kids, a job, and wants to relax once in a while, so she doesn’t really have time or availability to do any of the suggestions she found. It’s a bit overwhelming.
She gets really discouraged and so gives up on practicing her Spanish for now. She keeps putting it off. Then, one day she starts reading to her kids in Spanish, and remembers that she loves reading and practicing reading out loud. Why not do it in her target language?
It fits easily into her schedule, and it helps her and her kids with their language skills. She starts to carve out time in her day to read a book at her level and also continues to read to her kids in Spanish. They watch Youtube videos in Spanish of places they want to visit.
As her kids get older, she takes conversation classes a few times a month and finds other people to practice with. She’s realized that she likes a variety of ways to practice the language, and none of them are ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. She continues to do what makes her happy when practicing Spanish, and is proud of how much she can communicate even if she didn’t take an ‘official’ Spanish course.
Julie used her strengths, situation, and her personality to her advantage. She didn’t have a lot of time, so she used the time with her kids to practice. She is introverted and loves books, so she used them in her language learning. She learned a lot and grew more confident in her skills even though she didn’t always have tons of time to do classes or meet up with other people.
This is just a made-up story, but it shows that it is possible to practice your language skills in different ways without doing what everyone else is doing- or without doing what everyone else says you should do.
Follow your own path
Align your practice with your own life. It doesn’t matter what people say, or if they have some method to learn 20 languages fast. If it doesn’t fit with your life and your personality, it probably won’t work for you.
Instead, think about yourself and what is realistic for you to try.
What fits best into your life right now? What do you like doing? How can you add it to your day?
Another thing to remember is that you can change.
You can try something else if what you tried at first isn’t exactly working. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It just means you have to keep trying until you find something that works best for you. And sometimes, if you don’t really understand yourself, it can take awhile to find the best fit.
I realize that giving advice is much easier than actually putting it into practice, because I struggle with this myself.
Take your time, go at your own pace. Take small steps towards change.
What’s one thing you can do today to start focusing on your inner world?
Kate Winder has been an English teacher since 2012 and currently runs Confident Communication.
Over the years, she’s worked with countless students struggling with stressful or negative learning experiences. From these experiences with her students and her own struggles, she realized how important creativity and mindfulness are for learning and using languages.