Kicking the Hobbit of the People-Pleaser Mentality; What Keeps Us From Achieving Goals

A young woman kisses her husband goodbye as she heads off to work. She thinks nothing of his subtle coldness towards her on the cool October morning. On her way out, she receives a phone call from her sister. “When are you going to wake up? Do you realize he’s cheating on you?” A chill passes through her body. It can’t be. Don’t panic, she tells herself, and decides to go back to the house and see for herself. Sure enough, a pretty young girl is at the door ringing the bell. I stop dead in my tracks.

A little background into my personal story: I moved to the US from Russia in 1996, the year the Yankees won the world championship. From one standpoint it was exciting, the lifestyle here was luxurious as compared to where we came from. The choices for food were endless and we actually didn’t have to stand in line for bread for once. After settling in, I started attending school and immediately felt different. I had to learn the language and start from scratch, make new friends and try to fit in as best I could. This was quite a significant and traumatizing change for my eleven year old self.

Going forward, I was always acutely aware of how I appeared to others. This self-created complex followed me all the way to my adult years. How did this hold me back? By constantly worrying about what other people might think of me and in turn influencing my decisions, big and small.

I used to think I was completely independent and practicing my own free will, at the time when I got my first real nursing job. I thought money was what gave me that independence. I was partially right and partially a prisoner of my own mind. How can one be truly considered free and independent if their decisions in life are dependent upon others’ opinions (what to wear, how to smell, what job to take, which college to attend)? Think about it, the last time you had to make a decision to pick out of two choices, what was the thought process, what were your arguments to yourself that led you to choose the thing you chose?

The Precious Self-Image

Another object which may tend to hold us back from growth is our perceived self-image. Our perceptions of ourselves on the surface are amazing and perfect. We then like to go and seek acknowledgements of this perfection, of how great and amazing and caring we are. We find proof with confirmations of others’ opinions, with external evidence (e.g. compliments, medals, awards, praise, etc.) and without any disconfirming evidence. If any such disconfirming evidence comes at us we cringe and reject it. For example, when being yelled at by the boss, our body automatically resists, because this is going against what we believe ourselves to be, perfection and liked by all, or at least what our mind wants to think. Which is why doing everything to please the boss may be going against your own wants and needs.

Here’s a tip: this people-pleasing mentality is actually crippling. It is going against our very own nature, against our very own values and goals. All because we are constantly concerned of what others think of us, most of the time even strangers! But sooner or later this will come out of the shadow and bite, hard.

Giving Up Control

What I used to care about, and still struggle with, are the opinions of others and pleasing others. I decided one day that in order to fit in I’ll do my best to be liked by everyone I meet. But what is that opinion that I was so worried about? It is a thought in someone else’s head. A figment of someone else’s imagination. And there goes my delusional “independent, free-willed” self. I was letting someone else have power over me! For example, I used to have my nails done all the time. When I couldn’t do it anymore, when the kids were born and I gave up that time for them, I’d have mild anxiety and actually be upset over it. Upset over not having my nails done! Why? For fear that someone might think I’m a slob, unkempt and unladylike. I would then spend at least an hour of my precious time painting my nails at 11pm, after the kids were asleep, in my bed, hunched over, back aching, right before falling asleep in an uncomfortable position to prevent the nail polish from smudging. All for the sake of pleasing others.

Recognizing and Conquering a Weakness

I will never forget that feeling of complete letdown, of utter disappointment and giving up on the idea of what I thought was an amazing, fulfilling relationship, after waking up from the horrific dream. Where is this coming from? After pondering for some time, it came to me. I have started on a new venture several weeks back and ever since then I’ve been seeking approval, subconsciously, from my friends, family, spouse, and even co-workers. The negative responses nearly had me give up, multiple times. Could others’ approval of my life choices really have such a strong influence on which direction I choose to go? Just like I gave up on the relationship (in my dream), I was about to give up on my dream career in reality.

This kind of thinking is what holds us back. It holds us back from achieving our dreams and living a truly fulfilling life. The key point here is that if you have a vision, of where you want your life to be, recognize that your biggest enemy is actually YOU. But it’s ok to be different! It’s ok if others think you sound foolish by going for something you believe is amazing and meaningful!

I don’t hold it against those who doubt me anymore. I now realize that they don’t have my vision and they don’t know how truly determined I am to accomplish this. A big achievement always has to start small, a thirty foot tree doesn’t just sprout up from the ground in one day.

Why You Don’t NEED Others’ Approval

The self improvement ideas I had and put into action have been successfully improving and at the same time simplifying my life (cutting on spending, budgeting, decluttering the house, learning positive parenting techniques, etc). So why was I still seeking approval for my decisions? I now realize it was all for validation. But isn’t the positive result of a project validation itself? It seems that we tend to complicate life with things and actions which we believe will actually improve our lives. Caring what others think of my budget or spending habits, or my messy house,  or my getting rid of credit cards (“OMG what if there’s an emergency!!!”-yes, if the tornado takes me, so be it, credit cards won’t help) used to bring extreme anxiety. 

Why did I have that horribly unpleasant dream from which I woke up almost kicking my husband off the bed for? I was losing my own self-acceptance because an important person in my life was doubtful about an important life-changing decision I’ve recently made. My husband wasn’t comfortable with the idea of switching careers. After all, from his perspective, I have spent over eight years as a nurse. Such a change sounds scary and involves venturing into unknown territory. A place we naturally tend to avoid like the plague. What we don’t realize is that that kind of negative thinking pattern will keep us from succeeding in anything great. It will keep us living at the average level. Living an average life, never really growing to our full potential.

I am still working on grounding myself in my own values and re-learning to accept and actually go after my goals and dreams, no matter how others perceive this. It has been difficult but extremely rewarding. At times I have doubts, but my vision gets me back up and keeps me going.

After all, rejection doesn’t have to hurt me, because I don’t reject myself.


Author: Tiffany Olson



Score Big Without Getting Any…The Truth About Credit Scores

“Quick! Run!!!” As soon as my friend and I run out of Macy’s, I whisper into her ear, “I can’t believe it, I just got a free $100 bag, they forgot to charge me!!!” Walking fast, heart beating in my throat, I felt like I beat the system. The cashier lady had me fill out some application, scanned the bag and gave it to me without taking any money.

For the next few months I started receiving letters from Macy’s, which I disregarded and threw away, thinking it was advertisement. Four months later I actually opened the subsequent letter. It was a bill. Confusion. I thought they didn’t charge me for that bag, but now the total bill was over $200…!

I received my first credit card when I was sixteen. All I needed was my mom’s name and social, which I incidentally knew by heart, and an ID. I signed up quick and easy, for what I thought was a store rewards card, and hence disregarded the bills coming through the mail after my “free” bag incident. “Who knew this existed?!” I thought. It’s free money, I’d just have to work more and pay it over the next few months. But it is a genius ploy for the card companies. Offer people more than they can afford and then create a slow repayment plan for their convenience, with other fees and charges spread throughout the years.

Once again I was lost. “Is this worth it?” the sixteen year old me thought. So I went around asking people for advice. Everyone I spoke with seemed to agree. Having a credit card is the first step in building a good credit history. Why? Well, at the time the “why” wasn’t of interest to me. Main point is that I was doing the “right thing” because everyone else was doing it, the teenagers and the adults alike. It was built-in in our minds that a good credit score = future success.

The Holy Truth

Multiple studies have been conducted on the topic of spending and its impact on our neuroscience. It has been noted that spending cash actually activates pain receptors in our brain as compared to spending using credit cards, in turn causing us to spend 15% more on average (Scott Rick PhD, psychology today; Carnegie Mellon University). Let’s also consider the convenience factor of credit cards. If you’re out of cash and have an urge for that thick, moist, savory brownie in the bakery window, BOOM, instant reward! Use a card = get a sweet. No pain of giving away cash involved. This is the exact reason more and more businesses accept plastic today, including vending machines.

And what about all the rewards being offered, from travel points to sign-up cash bonuses. But consider this: are the credit card companies really that holy that they are willing to give away free things without a substantial gain? Of course not! They know that a little honey brings all the bees to the yard! This, in the long run, earns them millions of dollars through late fees, interest on those cards not paid off monthly, etc.

The Credit Score

What comes to mind when we think of the credit score? The Bigger the Better! Right? Wrong!!! For years I believed that having a great one would somehow lead to financial success in the future. Now let’s think long term. What does a high credit score actually get you? MORE DEBT! Better score = better car [loan], bigger house [loan], bigger engagement ring [loan], more bottles at club Marquee and bigger-chested ladies at your table, followed by a smaller savings, smaller investment, more stress, and a later retirement, if any.

What is a credit score really? It is the measure of how well we can borrow money and how well we can pay it back. Did you know that when we stop borrowing money, in about a year our credit score disappears? And if I were to rent out a house and had to choose between two tenants, who’d be more reliable, the guy with the 800 credit score, with $30,000 in credit card debt or the guy with a zero score but who has $30,000 in the bank, lives on less than he makes and budgets his money?

So once I realized I actually did not beat the system and did not receive a “free” bag from Macy’s, it clicked. But it’s ok! I still have free money! So what if I can’t afford it at the moment, I’ll pay it back eventually. And so I continued to live, through the college years and up to only two years ago. At one point my college grades were suffering and I decided to quit work in order to have a better chance of getting into nursing school. At this time I ended up paying credit cards with other credit cards. Is this pathetic? No, I just didn’t know better and didn’t realize the long-term consequences that would follow.

The Homeless Fella

There is a man I pass every morning on the way to work. He’s got a sign up, “looking for work, have three kids, please help.” He wears regular clothes, a bit worn by the look of it. He has a cane, occasionally smokes and kindly smiles at the passers’ by. And I realized one day. This lovely homeless man, with the two front teeth missing, has a bigger net worth than I do! If he made five dollars that morning, that was five dollars more than I was worth (monetarily, mind you)! My net worth in 2013 was negative $100,000 (bank account = $200, Macy’s card = $800, chase card = $5,200, Sally Mae loan = $94,000). Net worth = what you own minus what you owe. How’s that for a reality check.

From that day I swore off using credit cards ever again. Cut them up. Not only did they keep me in a delusional world, where I could afford anything, but also kept me from planning my future properly. At that point I would have to work till I was way over 70 and would not get to spend my time how I really wanted, with my family and traveling. Instead of revolving my money in and out of credit cards I could be regularly investing that same amount, building on compound interest and retiring way before social security will “allow” me.

No longer will I be that naïve sixteen year old. Even if that means not stealing any more “free” bags. We all have the power to take full control of our lives and be more than just average. We can also tell ourselves stories about the different perks of things like credit cards and high credit scores. It’s easy for us to get lost in the details, but let’s not forget the big picture goals and the consequences of straying away.  After all, life is lived best when lived simply.

Author: Tiffany Olson


You’re Fired!! How I paid off $40,000 of debt in a year, after losing my job.

Inside a building, walls bust into flames. As the temperature rises and smoke fills the air, a young woman is sleeping next to her newborn in a room down the hall, unfazed and unaware of the impending doom approaching. Finally, she wakes up, but she starts vacuuming! What’s the matter with her?! How could she not realize her and her baby are about to be burned alive! As the room gets hotter and she goes to open her door, she finds the handle burning hot. Then reality sets in.

That young woman was me. I was deep in debt, stressed beyond belief and I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. Until it was too late, until I had a newborn baby, a mortgage, had just gotten laid off from my nursing job and realized I was $80,000 in debt, that’s not including the mortgage. It felt like my life was over. I felt like a failure. I have failed my husband, my baby and myself. My mind went to scary places, thinking we’d end up homeless, my husband will resent me forever and my child will not have the kind of life I had wanted for him.

So I sprang into action. I applied to a bunch of nursing jobs and finally got a call back within that same week. This new job wasn’t full time and all the bills weren’t being covered month to month. Turned out it was more of a trap, the illusion of stability. I wasn’t getting the hours I needed and we ended up living paycheck to paycheck, accumulating over $10,000 in additional credit card debt. I was missing something.

A Breakthrough

After doing months’ worth of research I realized what the problem was. The debt was holding us back! It felt like an anchor was tied to my leg and I was thrown deep into the ocean. It felt like there was no way out. But the first step is admitting you have a problem. That was difficult. What was more difficult was showing my husband the total outstanding debt we had on paper and our current income with which we wouldn’t cover our bills anymore.

Now, my husband is a great man. He seemed to have the better money habits than I did, never accumulating credit card debt, not shopping too much, putting away for retirement and even had a little savings account. BUT he was missing one big detail of being financially stable. A PLAN. There was no plan!!! How can we succeed in life, in marriage, in work, in anything without a plan??? We can’t!!! Unless we win the lotto. Oh Wait! Nope! Without a plan, we’d spend all that money again! And without correcting the bad money habits, we’ll go back into debt and back into the hamster wheel!

The Struggles

Once my husband was on board, or so I thought, the next step was putting the plan into action. This was painful. Here I am in LaLa land, thinking my friends would be so supportive of this life-changing decision, but all we got when telling them of it were looks of judgment and confusion. “So you can’t go out to dinner with us?” “You mean you’re going to sacrifice your lifestyle just to pay off your loan?” “YOLO! What if you die tomorrow, aren’t you afraid of regretting not living to the fullest?” No matter how I tried explaining how this will be better for our family in the long run, nobody understood. It became too frustrating.

Then a revelation came, at last! Our friends’ opinions, though we love and cherish their friendships, didn’t matter! They were only mere reflections of their own fears. Yes, it was difficult turning down dinner invitations, and it was even more difficult deciding on not going on a cruise that year and the year after, until we were debt-free. Did our friends abandon us? Did they start looking down on us since we weren’t wearing the latest fashions anymore or when we got rid of our leased car in exchange for a beat-up ten year old truck with the driver’s seat that moves like a Lazy Susan when you drive it? No! They’re our friends, they would accept us in any condition and without contingencies.

Two Steps Back, One Step Forward

Then football season arrived. Oh, how my husband loves football and everything about it. The fantasy leagues, the wings and pizza, people over every week, etc. I was never so mad and yet so confused at the same time. He wanted to join three paid fantasy leagues and to play on a team (NOT for free) for the season as well! But wasn’t he on board?! Didn’t he agree on our short-term sacrifice and long-term gain and vision? “Remember our goal,” I kept telling him! Nope. He was set on his “football needs.”

We stalled. The arguments were recurrent throughout the next several months. They weren’t pretty. I had this inkling of a feeling that he never was 100% committed to this plan of financial freedom as I was. Then it came to me. I asked him a question. “How do you feel about this?” And I listened, with a open mind, for the first time.

I did it all wrong in the beginning. Bossing your spouse, or anyone for that matter, into submission will never work. They will end up angry and resentful and will find ways to foil your plan. With that will go the quality of the relationship as well. But real growth only comes through such mis-takes.

“In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” -Abraham Maslow

Why do we torture ourselves so much? We are our own enemies when it comes to getting out of a rut. Why? Because we are naturally drawn to comfort and to what’s familiar. That is the job of our subconscious mind. To go where it’s most comfortable and stable. Because new things will trigger a fear of the unknown and that, to our mind, signals DANGER! But this danger isn’t real. We are not a tribe in the Paleolithic era. We live in modern society. Last time I checked, there wasn’t a tiger prowling outside my house. And when I stopped shopping for new clothes, I wasn’t sent into exile for not fitting in with my peers.

The Secret To Success

So how did I actually pay off fourty grand in a year? I had special secret ammunition…I was scared shitless! And soon to be shirtless! As awkward and painful as it was, my husband and I sat down and started communicating, for the first time in our two years of marriage together, about money. About how much we owe, about our guilty pleasures (shopping, new electronic gadgets, fantasy football drafts, etc.) about how much most of this was my own fault (and this was difficult to admit and take responsibility for), and we set a detailed plan into action. We then started looking into our spending habits. It was shocking to find out that we were spending $1,000 per month on food alone! Talk about food addiction! But that’s another topic I can discuss later…

In that first year, I learned a lot about myself, about money and about the destructive patterns we tend to get stuck in, without even realizing it. Once we had a WRITTEN plan and open communication about money, my anxiety seemed to melt away! It felt amazing! I felt freedom that I never thought I’d have… that I never even thought I wanted but which I needed. It’s been over a year since this new change in lifestyle has been put into effect. Our marriage and overall communication has improved, about money, lifestyle and expectations of each other.

And even though we have a little longer to go before paying off all the debt completely, it’s ok. Because there is a plan in action. I am not that clueless mommy anymore, putting my family in grave danger because of my own ignorance. There is no more fire in my house. Just on my stove. Under my direct control. With a childproof cover on it.


Author: Tiffany Olson