I was in the car, cruising down the 95 between Providence and New York last week and a book title hit me: People Pleasers Fry Different. I can just see the cover now, bright blue with scratchy font and an illustration of a cast iron frying pan with a woman, in jeans and a t-shirt in snow angel position just sizzling – and obviously giving up.

I’ve been playing with this idea of people pleasers being primed to burn out for a while now, ever since The Knot exercise came out of my brain. The year of the Knot started with the beginning of 2019 and my life keeps shifting. From what I hear, your lives keep shifting because of The Knot too.

Once I get an idea in my head, it’s like a worm that continues to burrow until I feel good about the information that I’ve gathered and conclusions that I’ve come to, at which point it splats out of my brain onto the computer screen. Basically, you’re reading worm splat. I’m very willing to change my mind when presented with solid info, so my brain worms tend to last a long long time.

This current brain worm is no different. I think I should give it a name: let’s call it Knotty McKnotterson.

Knotty McKnotterson has eaten up all sorts of information about Burnout, Compassion Fatigue, Mind-Body Medicine, Self Care, the importance of Mindset, Boundaries, Gut Microbiomes, and Real Food. I’ve fed her Ph.D. research, books, blogs, and 1230 podcasts. She snaked through 2 years of pre-med, 4 years of a Master’s in Chinese Medicine, and 12 years of 1:1 patient work and teaching other acupuncturists all over the world.

And this is her splat:

The majority of us are burning out because we are too busy thinking about other people – in other words, people pleasing.

My brain protests immediately when I write that – “we have to think about other people!” she screams! “We’ll all be selfish ego-maniacs!” and I groan.

Ugh. Having these internal conversations is so exhausting.

When I moved to Europe in 2007, one of the first things that I noticed was the difference between the focus on the individual (in the US) and the lack of that focus in Europe. Of course, people everywhere can be selfish but the push on personal responsibility is very American and something that I generally agree with and enjoy – but suck at and I think a lot of other people suck at it too.

But maybe not in the way that you think. Let me explain.

I’m great at being personally responsible for my own shit. I married a foreigner and we combined our entire lives – except for my student loan. I lifted that weight and promptly informed my husband that it was my responsibility to pay off and he would have nothing to do with it. Of course, that never turns out to be completely true because when I was tied up in my loan, he was spending more money on our everyday lives – but I still felt the weight of my student loan alone, by adding it to my own shoulders.

I’m also great (and I think this is true for a lot of us) at being responsible for everyone else’s shit. I police and judge other people’s behavior. I scoff “You’re welcome!” when I hold the door open and the recipient doesn’t say thank you. I throw my hands in the air when I’m in the crosswalk and the next driver doesn’t stop. I listen to my friends bitch and then solve their problems for them – don’t they see how easy it is?

It’s exhausting. It’s an energy leak, nay, an energetic oil strike that blows everywhere and causes destruction. Being over-involved in the ‘correctness’ of life around you is draining you of energy that could be used to create the life you actually want to live. People pleasers do this not actually to please other people but to calm themselves and make themselves feel safe.

Give yourself a break from saving the world for a day and see how much energy you save – whaddya say?



wiseher Cait Donovan on DaoCloud