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People Pleasers | Natalie Lue #612

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On the Regular Version …

Natalie Lue, author of The Joy Of Saying No, joins me as we dive into the trait of people pleasing.

But isn’t looking out for others and what they want a good thing?

Not always. In fact, it can be downright destructive.

Learn more about Natalie here –

On the Extended Version …

Natalie and I continue the conversation, only a little more personally.

Enjoy the show!

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Corey Allan: Coming up next on the Passionately Married podcast.

Natalie Lue: This person is performing at being a good partner. And so their fiance or their spouse is never really sure that what they're saying is actually what they mean, because it seems like this person is never really letting them in, that they're always going along with things. A lot of people think, who wouldn't want somebody who's going to be whatever you want them to be. Somebody who wants actual intimacy and vulnerability.

Corey Allan: So Pam, this is one of those episodes to me that I think about that just hits really close to home.

Pam Allan: Does it? Okay.

Corey Allan: A lot of times, just thinking of the journey of how I have evolved, who I am, socialized, nurtured, a lot of aspects.

Pam Allan: Oh, I can see it too. I think there's going to be a lot of people this strikes home with. I really do.

Corey Allan: And so welcome of Passionately Married, where we're trying to have honest, straightforward conversations that allow conversations to take place in your home about whatever situations you might be facing or just conversations that need to be had. Because if you're the type of person that finds yourself really trying to avoid conflict, pay attention today because this can be a great conversation to help frame a little bit about what may be behind that, what's going on. It's so great because Natalie Lue is the guest today. She wrote a book, the Joy of Saying No, she's an artist and a writer and has a blog that she's actually shutting down, and she's waiting to see what's kind of next. But there's a ton of information out there already that's worth going to find. And I'll put all that in the show notes. But she talks about the whole world of people pleasing.

Pam Allan: Pretty common.

Corey Allan: Very common. And she even breaks it down until there's five different kinds.

Pam Allan: Which I love those, I've already nailed mine to say, "Oh, that one's me. That one's me. Maybe I'll show that later."

Corey Allan: Yeah, well maybe you should, because I share mine of where I would land for sure. And so the conversation we get to have with her is a great one. And if we leave something undone, we want you to let us know. Send us an email at or call us or text at (214) 702-9565.
Coming up today on the regular version is the conversation about people pleasing with Natalie Lue. And then on the extended content today, which is deeper, longer, and there are no ads, We go into a deeper conversation about some of the characteristics between male and female and how the people pleasing can play out, as well as some of the personal side of things.

Pam Allan: Interesting.

Corey Allan: How it's played out with her, how it's played out with me. So all that's coming up right after this.
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Pam Allan: Well, I'm not wondering because I know, but you can tell me anyway.

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Pam Allan: It has. We love it. We love it.

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Pam Allan: No, good stuff.

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Well, it is a pleasure to welcome Natalie Lue to the show today. And Natalie has a book, you've got a couple different books out, but the one I've got is The Joy of Saying No, and you're speaking my language right off the bat. If that's all I know of you, then we're going to get along just fine, because I've always had the belief, Natalie, that no is a complete sentence in and of itself.

Natalie Lue: Yeah, absolutely.

Corey Allan: So welcome to the show, Natalie.

Natalie Lue: Oh, thank you for having me, Corey.

Corey Allan: I'm curious, just from the introduction I've had of you, and I'm excited to have the audience to get the introduction to you too, of how did you wind up where this message is coming out now for you and being a lot more refined? Because I know this isn't just something, my hunch is you didn't just wake up one day, "So you know what, let's talk about the whole process of saying no." So how did this come about with your journey?

Natalie Lue: I'm 45 now, but in my 20s, really up until my late 20s, I had terrible taste in romantic relationships. I prided myself on being a good girl. And that meant trying to avoid conflict, overperforming at work, doing what my family wanted and expected, even when it meant going against myself and causing harm. And I found myself grappling with an immune system disease called sarcoidosis from ... I think I was diagnosed with it when I was 26, I think it was. It was one of these mystery immune system diseases where your immune system effectively turns against you, starts damaging healthy organs. And about 18 or so months into it, after doing a year long course of steroids, I was told that basically the treatment hadn't worked. My life was a hot mess in many respects at that point, outside looking in, people would be like, "Oh, well she's cool and she's attractive and she's got a good job and she's doing really well in that job." But I hated myself.
As I said, I'd been involved with a number of emotionally unavailable men, but I'd also been in some abusive relationships. And it occurred to me that I didn't really like myself very much, and that I had been so caught up in chasing romantic love and meeting everybody else's expectations that when doctors have said, "Yeah, just go on these steroids, do this, do that," I just obeyed. Here I was, and they were telling me that I had a pretty poor prognosis with this illness. And I was like, "No, I'm not going on steroids for life. I'm going to explore all of the options." And that was August 2005.
That was a big turning point in my life because I became really aware of how the relationship I had with myself and with my family, just with life in and of itself, really had something to do with why my life was so miserable. And when I started to create boundaries, which was very unfamiliar territory, so for me it was not just about saying no, but it was also about just being clearer about who I was and what did and didn't work for me. Life started to turn around very quickly. I was declared in remission within eight months of that shocking prognosis, I met my now husband, I went on to have kids.
A lot of people would look at that and go, "That's a happy ending. It sounds to me like you had this horrible illness, you thought you were going to die because that's what they were telling you was going to happen. You instead were in remission. You met your now husband and had kids, lived happily ever after." And lots of good things have happened, but actually what I realized was that this was just the beginning of me having to figure out this whole boundaries thing. Because you get into a relationship, and it can be very easy when you're in a relationship and then you go on to be married, to sometimes lose sight of your own needs because you're trying to be a good partner, a good spouse, a good wife, good husband, good something. But then there's motherhood, and then there's working and there's working for yourself and there's dealing with your family, and basically it's dealing with life.
And time and time again. What I found is different things were reinforcing me to confront my relationship with no, my relationship with boundaries, and forcing me to be more honest about who I was, be more honest about my needs, expectations, desires, feelings, and opinions. And so I talk about having been on this recovering people pleaser journey really for 17 and a half years now, I think it is, and in The Joy of Saying No, I share everything I've learned from being on that journey. Because I think a lot of us think that the answer to everything is to tick the boxes of success. So be in a relationship, or get married, or have kids, or get the big job, or the money. And we think that that is the solution, like that that says that we must be okay. But what we will find is that we can have all of those things or some of those things, and we're still going to have to confront this people pleasing within us.

Corey Allan: That's like this element of, because I've always thought that the world proposes this paint by numbers mantra, that if I follow this and fill it in right and I go through this hoop and I fill it in, I'll have this beautiful picture. And the insidious thing of that is the beautiful picture is what other people perceive, but it's not what I experience, right?

Natalie Lue: Yes. I love that you're saying this, because it's funny, I like the paint by numbers metaphor as well. And it's funny, we're clearly kindred spirits, and there is this sense of if you tick the societal boxes of what society has said makes a good person, and what makes you happy and successful, then what's your problem? You're fine. And we all know-

Corey Allan: Yeah. What are you complaining about?

Natalie Lue: What are you complaining about? And we all know that's just not true. And I think that as humans, we find it so confusing and sometimes very painful when we appear to have the things that people said would make us happy. And yet we don't feel that way. There are many people who are not passionately married. There are people who have been married to the wrong person, who have been through divorce. Most of the time, those people did not go into that marriage planning for it to be a divorce. I say most of the time, because there are some people who they knew where it was headed, but they thought it was going to lead to some big payoff or whatever-

Corey Allan: Yeah, marriage changes, right.

Natalie Lue: For the majority of people. Majority of the people, that's not where they thought they would be. But they thought that getting somebody and getting married was going to create this magical feeling inside them, or they thought that once they were married, that whatever problems they'd had in their relationship, would just poof, magically disappear and everything would be okay. And people feel confused by that because it's like, "Well, hold on a second. I fought so hard to be in a relationship and then to be married. So why do I feel so lost or sad or angry? Or why aren't I in love anymore? Or why am I thinking about divorce?"
That's because this society, as humans, we are obsessed with good versus bad, what it means to be successful. And the fact of the matter is that if you climb up somebody else's ladder of success or you step into somebody else's mold of what it means to be good or to be happy or to be successful, it's not your mold. It's not your ladder, it's not your way. It's not your journey. And we have been taught in a socializing condition to follow the herd. A lot of people think that being a good person means doing what your family told you made you a good person. So for a lot of people they think oh well, that means being a good person means having a partner and being married, basically having a really good job, having children. But that's not for everybody. It's for lots of people, but it's not for everybody. There's lots of people that it's not for.

Corey Allan: So look, I want to get into this idea with you of the people pleaser that you're alluding to, that it is, because there is this component, I think of us as humans, that we are all in develop ... The way I frame this, Natalie, is we are all in the development of trying to become ourselves within context of a relationship too.

Natalie Lue: Amen.

Corey Allan: And going to one end or the other is not beneficial ever, typically, for the long run for sure. Because I can hold on to myself to the exclusion of everybody else, and I'm just as alone as if I lose myself for the sake of a relationship.

Natalie Lue: Yes, amen. Amen.

Corey Allan: If you look at it, the way you frame this is under the auspices of a people pleaser. Because I know in your book you even go through, there's different types of people pleasing, if you will. And I want to unpack that if you would, because this is clearly, you and I are well versed in this journey, it sounds like. So I'm intrigued by the way you have categorized this.

Natalie Lue: So people pleasing is where we essentially deprioritize our needs, expectations, desires, feelings, and opinions to put everybody else's ahead of our own. And we do this by playing roles, taking on jobs, personas within our interpersonal relationships. And we do it to gain attention, affection, approval, love and validation. And we also do it to avoid conflict, criticism, additional stress, disappointment, loss and rejection. A lot of people misunderstand people pleasing, so they see it as this virtuous quality. "Oh, I'm such a people pleaser. I'm just such a people pleaser and I'm generous, I'm such a people pleaser." But then others are like, "Oh, people pleaser means doormat."
Okay, there are some times when it can be up at the extreme end. But the fact of the matter is, and this is something I talk about in the book, that if you're not a child right now, then you were raised during the age of obedience. And that is where the communicating, interacting, disciplining of children, centered on making them as obedient and compliant as possible with authorities. So we have been socialized and conditioned into people pleasing, and we can have awareness that we're people pleasers and then other times when, "Oh, I have a feeling I might be, because I have an issue with saying no one boundaries, but I'm not really quite sure." So what I felt was really helpful was I kept seeing these patterns in people pleasing, that some people's former people pleasing had very, very clear drivers.
Those five styles of people pleasing are gooding, efforting, avoiding, saving, and suffering. And the names in and of themselves imply what that people pleasing involves, being and looking good. Efforts, so being the best, giving 100% perfectionism. You know, "I have to be seen to have done the most." Avoiding is using avoidance as a way to please others. So it's like, "I will never do anything that will discomfort the other person." For instance, within a marriage that can be, "Oh, what do you want to do tonight?"
"I like what you like," never really voicing a difference because it's like, "Oh, the way for me to be the perfect spouse is to go along with whatever they want, and then when they don't like the outcome of it, I can just blame them for it and be like, well, you wanted this, didn't you?"

Corey Allan: Very convenient, yes.

Natalie Lue: Yeah, very convenient. And then there's saving, and this is for the helpers, fixers, rescuers, saviors of this world who their way of being pleasing is they can almost end up sometimes treating people like pet projects, I'll take you on, I'll try to fix you. My way of pleasing will be mending you, humping. They will, they'll step in and they're the one to be super responsible in a situation. But they'll martyr themselves, and a part of them is trying to save others in a way to also save themselves. They've seen it as their job within the family to be pleasing by sacrificing themselves and being the one who always steps in. Then suffering, it's almost like, "Well, I bleed for you, so I'll suffer and suffering makes me a really good person. So the more I suffer, the better I am."
We can find that we have dabbled in a few of these, but there tends to be one, maybe two in particular that jump out. I am an efforter. It's not that I've not dabbled in some of the others, but I have been about effort. And so that's how I got myself into trouble previously, for instance, with romantic relationships where it was like, "Well, I've been a good girl. I've been a good girlfriend. I've put in this effort. I've suffered. I've avoided boundaries. I am given this my best and I am trying my hardest. So why aren't I getting what I want?"
I think that given the messages that we have received around romantic relationships and marriage, it's very easy to slip into people pleasing within a marriage if you're not too careful because it's like being a good wife, or being a good husband, being a good spouse, it means subjugating myself and not having any needs. And it's like, no, that is not the case at all.

Corey Allan: Right. I want to just distinguish a couple of things just because I think I'm tracking with you, but to anybody that might be listening to this, and this is a little bit of a foreign concept, or because we can have a tendency, Natalie, I know you can agree with me on this, I'm assuming of, we can have a tendency of, "I hear what I want to hear to that goes in with the story that I tell myself," but what we're talking about here is not, your message is not to the extreme of this is just demanding my way, getting my way.

Natalie Lue: Absolutely not.

Corey Allan: Forget the consequences and it's this continuum of just like I can be kind and considerate and even pleasing to people without letting go of myself. That's the point, is yes, I can do it to where I'm not doing something to get something, I'm doing something to be engaged with me and my situation in my relationship.

Natalie Lue: Amen. And I think that this is a really important point because I think as soon as we start having a conversation about no and boundaries, that people, particularly when it comes to romantic relationships, can be quite defensive about that because they think that unconditional love is not, for instance, having any boundaries and not saying no. Actually, that's not. Unconditional love is not, "I will love you no matter what you do to me." It is "I will love you through all seasons and conditions."
And here is how you differentiate people pleasing from showing up in your relationship as your authentic self and wanting to be there for yourself and for your partner. There are people who do things for their partner in their romantic relationships, in their marriage. I speak specifically to marriage. There are people who do things in their marriage because that's what they want to do. They are aware of their needs, they are aware of who they are. They're not doing it to get something in return. They're not doing it because they're afraid of what will happen if they don't.
When they recognize that something isn't quite a fit, that they need to adjust in some way, they can and they will, and they are in that relationship with that person. There's a mutual love, care, trust and respect in that marriage. We know it's people pleasing when we actually do those same things. So we do stuff in the marriage, but we do it because we're afraid that if we don't do it, they're going to tell us to get the freak out, right? We do it because we are trying to cover up feelings of low self-worth. We do it because we see it as our job. It's like, "It's my job to do this."
And the thing is that once we start saying, "Oh, this is my job, this is what a good whatever does," we're hiding actually from intimacy and vulnerability. And the mistake that a lot of people make is seeing people pleasing as this really noble thing that they're doing. And I'm not saying that it makes you a bad person because you're a people pleaser, because hello, I'm a recovering one myself, and we're all dealing with it to some degree. What I am saying is that people pleasing is like a mask or a costume. You're hiding behind a role. You're hiding behind pleasing. You're hiding around like, "Oh, I do this for you and I'm just doing it for you because I want to please you."
But you're not acknowledging the hidden agenda behind that. You're not acknowledging the why. And so it is okay to want to please your partner, but recognize where you're doing that just because it's the byproduct of the relationship that you're in and how you each show up for each other and where your why is about, "Oh, I have to do this because I'm repeating the patterns of my parents," or "I have to do it because I'm afraid they're going to abandon me, or there's going to be an argument." Because that's people pleasing.

Corey Allan: No, this is so valuable because it's recognizing you're talking about a hidden agenda. I use the word covert. If I'm doing something and there's a covert motivation within it, that's where it starts to become precarious, in a slippery slope.

Natalie Lue: Yes, that is exactly where people use it-

Corey Allan: Because that's something else I'm trying to control or avoid or provide without actually me being the one doing it.

Natalie Lue: Yeah, absolutely. And the thing is that sometimes we have some level of awareness that we have, as you call it, this covert agenda, where it's like, "I'm trying to avoid conflict. I'm afraid that they're going to do this." But sometimes it's that we're so habituated in playing out the pattern of being in this role because it's what we did when we were a kid, within whatever environment that we grew up in. And it's maybe the thing that we have got praised for or that we've just got used to doing. But it's not necessarily that we have this conscious or even inadvertent agenda about our partner, it's just that we're on autopilot and we're not really showing up. We're just repeating patterns. And either way, it's still a problem because the only reason why you're doing that stuff is because there's a part of you on some level that has learned to be afraid of having boundaries and being your authentic self.
An example of this is, I hear from people who, they have been in a marriage for instance, or being close to getting married, and the person has turned around and said, "I just don't feel like I know you." And they are so confused about why this person is saying this, but the reason why their spouse or their fiance is saying this is because this person is performing at being a good partner. So their fiance or their spouse is never really sure that what they're saying is actually what they mean, because it seems like this person is never really letting them in, that they're always going along with things.
A lot of people think, who wouldn't want somebody who's going to be whatever you want to be? Somebody who wants actual intimacy and vulnerability in their relationships. A marriage, exactly. Somebody else who wants you to be a yes person and to have you under the phone, they'd be very happy for you to do that. But for somebody who wants to feel safe and secure in their relationship and to foster genuine intimacy, they're not going to want to marry somebody who's going to basically be whatever they want to be instead of being themselves.

Corey Allan: Yeah. When we surround ourselves with yes people like you're describing, or just the go along to get along, or the pleaser to the extreme, there's no pushback. And life is best when there's some pushback. We don't like that fact, I think, because that means there is conflict. But it's where we get better. It's where we evolve, we grow, we mature, we develop better character, and that's what creates the energy of a relationship that can really be sustainable over the long haul.

Natalie Lue: Absolutely. There's a lot of people who say, "I've never had an argument. I've never had an argument, never had a disagreement with my spouse." And I always say, "That's not a badge of honor." And are people-

Corey Allan: Right, don't go touting that.

Natalie Lue: Yeah, that's a badge of a problem. One of the things that I say is that conflict, that willingness to run the possibility, the risk of conflict, is a form of intimacy. I'm not talking about conflict for conflict's sake. I'm talking about that willingness that when the rubber hits the road and you need to express a difference of some sort, that you need to basically show yourself in some ways that might not fit the general expectation that you're willing to go there. A lot of people will say, "The reason why I didn't tell my spouse about what I was thinking or what I was feeling is because they didn't want to hurt their feelings." But from the moment that you start to avoid saying that stuff, you cut yourself off from intimacy. And that is more of a problem than if you just turned around and said the thing.
And I recognize, given how we're socialized and conditioned, I know it is not easy for us to do that. Some of us have seen things in our parents' marriages, for instance, that it's like there's no wonder that we're terrified of conflict. My mom and my stepdad, it felt like I was living with Ike and Tina sometimes. So it is no wonder. But conflict is a critical part. It's a critical component of intimacy. And if you say, I've never had an argument with my spouse. Listen, nobody agrees with somebody all of the time. Somebody is lying. So somebody is getting their way at the expense of the other. Somebody is pretending that everything is always the same, that they never have any difference, and you're not getting down to the intimacy of the relationship.

Corey Allan: That's the relationship in name only. That's all that is.

Natalie Lue: There you go. Yeah.

Corey Allan: Right. Playing parts, and it's in name only, I'm not really involved.

Natalie Lue: Yeah, and people are terrified of conflict because they see it as some people are like, "Oh my gosh, conflict means that's the end of the relationship." Until you have said no, you've expressed limits, you've expressed your boundaries, as in your boundaries are who you are as a person. So it's not just about no, it's about yes. Until you are truly showing them who you are and you're running the risk of conflict, you do not know this person as well as you think.
There are people who can be married for a long time. I talk about the five stages of relationships, and I talk about how intimacy is what determines where you are at a relationship, not a title. And there are people who've been together for decades, and they have the level of intimacy of people who are in that first stages of relationship because they never go any deeper than that.

Corey Allan: Right. That's so good. So Natalie, before we wrap up this segment, how can people find your work? Because it's valuable, I couldn't recommend it more. So tell people how they find you.

Natalie Lue: So my website is, so Natalie then L-U-E dot com. I also have my podcast, which is the Baggage Reclaim Sessions, which is on all podcast players. And I have hundreds, well, nearly a couple of thousand articles at as well. Social media wise, the best place to get ahold of me is on Instagram where I'm @NatLou, N-A-T-L-U-E.

Corey Allan: Perfect. Well, Natalie, thank you so much for the work and from one recovering pleaser to another, this is incredibly valuable. So thank you.

Natalie Lue: Thank you, Corey.

Corey Allan: All right, so now that everybody's listened, Pam, what's you? Which one of the five?

Pam Allan: Totally efforting, efforting totally. I just try and I think there's all these little tidbits of things that I can do to, I don't know, make you happy, make my kids happy. Maybe if I do these things, they won't think that I work so much, or I'm gone in tax season, so I feel like everything, every moment we have together has to be meaningful. And if I do certain things, it'll be a meaningful, it's just over the top. So relax, be me. And I've got to say no to myself, I guess more than saying no to them, I think is a lot.

Corey Allan: That's a fantastic point, because I think there's this element of us as people, that the ultimate goal is how is my yes, yes and my no, no. And they're authentic, because she even made a comment about how an inauthentic yes helps no one.

Pam Allan: True.

Corey Allan: So this is about being just more engaged with my own life and standing up and taking care of my needs, my wants, my desires, and seeking them, knowing that I got to then collaborate with those around me to actually make a lot of those happen.
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