Communities: a gentle note of caution for people(pleasers)

I am a huge advocate of community and – perhaps more accurately – connection.

Ever since I was part of a career-changers' programme, went to a life-changing conference, I have many times witnessed (in others) and experienced (for myself) many times how transformative and nourishing communities can be.

I'm currently a part of a handful of communities, mostly online but also real-life (IRL) ones. Though similar rules apply to IRL communities, this piece is going to primarily be concerned with the digital world that is online communities.

I’ve shared plenty before (see links above), on the joys and the magic of community. To this day, I consider connection one of my deepest values.

And, to me, connection is found in community.

Or, rather, the most meaningful and delightful communities are those with connection at their core.

There is, however, a flipside to these online and physical groups of people.

Let's take a closer look.

The flipside of community

However, as a people-pleaser-in-recovery I've learned first-hand about the flip-side, and I’m sharing this ‘gentle note of caution’ for folks, and especially who recognise people-pleasing showing up in their lives.

You see, in the past, it's been very easy for me to lose myself in helping out others in the community, to the detriment of my own time, energy and focus.

To be clear, the best communities are a mutual giving and receiving. Or, rather, as mutual as can be. I wouldn’t advocate one necesarily stepping into a community with the expectation of “I’m giving this out, so I deserve this back”, but as a general rule I feel – at least over the course of a few weeks – one should be receiving some form of a mutual exchange in time/energy given out in any community.

It's a useful barometer to check-in with how much *giving* vs *receiving* is going on for you; it's easy to slip into an imbalance.

Here are a few of the things I like to do to engage with, and contribute to, a community in a healthy way:

- ask: is this community serving me?

- generally I prefer lower-touch communities, run on forums rather than Slack. It has been my experience that these places are more conducive to gentle-but-deep connection over time, versus the more fleeting-and-instantaneous nature of Slack or Facebook groups

- I ask if my own needs are being met... how much am I giving vs how much am I receiving? Am I benefiting from being a part of this community?

Whether it's a blogging community, a forum-based community or a slack community, it's important to check-in and notice what's going on for you.

Community “burnout”

Once upon I time, I used to be someone who gave freely and uninhibited, exhausting myself and sometimes even burning myself out in communities. Ironically, helping others became a strange form of codependence (and procrastination). This would often happen very gradually, and wasn't (and isn't) always easy to spot whilst it's happening.

Which is why I recommend checking in with yourself each month, by asking one or more of the questions above. (Answering them out loud or through writing them down).

I also avoid community apps (eg. Slack) on my phone, and am conscious as to how much time I'm spending in online spaces.

Over the coming weeks I am going to continue step into a couple of communities to help support my journey as an independent creator. I feel fortunate to live in a world where I have access to such wonderful communities, though reminded that – as is often the case in the online realm – managing our personal time, energy and boundaries is so important. For all of us, not least those of us who identify with having people-pleasing tendencies, or are “recovering people-pleasers”.

I feel incredibly fortunate to exist in a world with access to some of the fantastic communities I’m mentioned, and many, many more.

However – for my own sake, and actually the sake of others too – checking in with myself regularly will continue to be very important indeed.

I wonder if it could be handy for other people(pleasers), too?