925: How to Stop People-Pleasing and Feeling Guilty with Dr. Aziz Gazipura

By January 4, 2024Podcasts

Dr. Aziz Gazipura explains the dangers of people-pleasing tendencies and shares actionable steps for overcoming it.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The massive costs of being a people-pleaser
  2. How to not feel guilty when saying no
  3. A surprising strategy to build your discomfort tolerance 

About Aziz

Dr. Aziz is a clinical psychologist and one of the world’s leading experts on social confidence. In 2011, Dr. Aziz started The Center For Social Confidence, which is dedicated to helping everyone break through their shyness and social anxiety.

Through confidence coaching, audio and video programs, podcasts, a detailed blog, and intensive weekend workshops, Dr. Aziz has helped thousands of people all over the world increase their confidence and lives out his mission: To help every person who is stuck in shyness liberate themselves to pursue the relationship, career, and life they have always dreamed of.

He lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife Candace and son Zaim.

Resources Mentioned

Dr. Aziz Gazipura Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis

Could you kick us off with a dramatic tale about the dangers of people-pleasing?

Dr. Aziz Gazipura

Yeah. Well, I don’t need to make anything up here. And it’s the kind of, like all good dramatic stories, it’s a slow build, where maybe it’s like imagine a character in a movie where they go out and have some drinks, and they really like it, and it just seems like a good time. And then, flash forward many years later, and they have the shakes in their hands because they have to have a drink of alcohol. And that’s actually what niceness is like, or people-pleasing, specifically.

So, you basically make a choice to not be yourself in order to smooth things over or be liked or be accepted. And maybe a classic tale would be you did it when you were young, you did it to fit in at school, you did it to fit in with family. And that was not all horribly off-kilter then. But then I talk to, man, dozens of people every week, where now they’re 37 or they’re 43 and they’ve done pretty good, like inauthenticity and fitting in works. It’s this somewhat adaptive strategy, but it works the way that that drink worked to take away your anxiety, but it doesn’t actually give you what you really want.

I was just speaking with a woman just two days ago, she’s about mid-40s, successful in her career, has a family, has a husband, and feels incredibly lonely, and doesn’t even really know what to change out there anymore because, “I have all the things.” And she’s lonely because no one, not even her husband, really knows her. And that might not sound bad. Some people might hear that and say, “I’ll take the family and the money and the career, and then I’ll be fine.”

But actually, when you get there, and you don’t feel like anything out there is going to change it, and inside you feel profoundly lonely, it’s a story of a lot of suffering. And it’s a story that hundreds of millions of people live out, and feel like they’re the only one, but they’re not.

Pete Mockaitis

So, can you make that all the more real and clear for us? To feel like no one really knows you, what might be some examples of the false impression others on the outside have in contrast to the reality that is within?

Dr. Aziz Gazipura

Well, the impression people have on the outside is what you learned will keep them close to you, and it might be different. And I call them the roles that you’re going to play. So, at work, you have a certain role that you play, “I need to be confident-sounding, in charge, certain with my partner. I need to be pleasing. So, what do they want me to be? I’ll agree to things that I think that they’ll want me to agree with. I’ll focus on the things that they want. We’ll talk about what they want.”

“I also know that they don’t like it if I’m irritable, or if I’m sad. So, I’m going to downplay that or hide that.” And that’s true for friends as well, “I got to be up. I got to be on. I don’t want to be boring. I don’t want to be a sad sack. I don’t want to bring people down. I don’t want to burden people with my feelings, and my woes, and my problems.” So, therefore, at work, you’re going to be that way. And inside you might feel nervous, you might feel insecure, you might question yourself but you don’t show any of that.

And that, people can tolerate a certain amount of inauthenticity at work. But then where it really starts to get to them is when they can’t even be themselves around their friends, their loved ones, their family. You got to hide it and pressure yourself, and so you can’t reveal that you’re feeling sad. You can’t reveal that you feel like something is missing. You can’t reveal any of these things. And that’s where the loneliness comes from for people.

And it might not be these big dramatic things, like, “I can’t reveal that I’ve secretly wanted to leave.” Even just, “I am feeling sad today,” and it’s so simple but it’s a world of difference when you have to keep it all inside, all hidden. And sometimes people, really good pleasers, and I know this because I lived this for many years, you’ll even hide it from yourself, “I’m not sad. Everything’s okay. I just have a stomach ache. I just am tired.”

And it becomes this vague thing that you don’t even know. You don’t even know where you are in all of it because then it’s scary to know what that is and maybe share it with others.

Pete Mockaitis

And so, this loneliness, what are the knock-on, follow-on consequences of that?

Dr. Aziz Gazipura

There’s a variety of different studies around loneliness, but loneliness is pretty much associated with all negative health outcomes and a much shorter lifespan. That’s like the big hammer, right?

Pete Mockaitis

Yup, dying.

Dr. Aziz Gazipura

And quality of life, but sometimes people hear that, and like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s about everything in life. Too much peanut butter kills you. You got to live.” But actually, not only is it a shorter life, but let’s just talk about the quality of life. And there’s the longest study in the history of human psychology, it’s decades. It’s been going so many decades that they’re now the second generation of people.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, Waldinger.

Dr. Aziz Gazipura

This is the one done with Harvard students, yeah. And the short version is, it’s relationships. That’s what makes us feel good in life, that’s what makes us feel happy in life, that’s what protects us from hard times in life. And not just you got somebody in your house that’s your roommate. No, we’re talking about confidantes, real relationships, people where you’re in life together.

And so, the loneliness, the cost is you don’t have that, or you have a very limited amount of that, and that is the biggest determiner of true success, which, for everybody, I don’t care what they value in life. True success for everybody is actually to feel rich inside, like feel full of success, of love, of meaning, of resources. And so, you can have external success and feel empty inside, and not have the thing that we all really want, which is those real connections with people.

Pete Mockaitis


Dr. Aziz Gazipura

But other than that, it’s great that we should just keep doing it.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. Well, can you give us a ray of hope then, an inspiring tale of a people-pleaser reformed?

Dr. Aziz Gazipura

Yeah, the ray of hope is people-pleasing is not who you are. It’s a pattern that you run. And that’s fantastic news because any pattern that you run you can change. It’s an active process, it’s a verb, like walking or eating. And so, you can put down the fork and no longer be eating. You can put down the people-pleasing pattern and no longer be pleasing. And you can still be very loved by more people than you could ever need to be loved by. And you could be more boldly yourself and actually enjoy who you are and stop trying to be somebody that you’re supposed to be for others.

And I think this is the biggest risk, this is the leap of faith, and that’s why I think people who read my books or work with me because there’s some part of them that says, “That sounds a little too good to be true. You’re saying I can be me, and have love, and belonging?” And the good news, the ray of hope is absolutely yes, and it’s on the other side of that risk, the other side of what we fear, which is, “If I’m really me, everything is going to fall apart, and no one’s going to love me.” But that’s the whole source of the problem to begin with.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, warm, loving relationships, longer life, higher quality of life, that sounds swell. And then your organization is called the Center for Social Confidence. Tell us about what that confidence picture looks like on the other side of the people-pleasing.

Dr. Aziz Gazipura

Yes. Well, there is the outer layer, which I think we all may be focused on at first, which is, “I want to be more confident.” What does that mean? Well, that means I can be more bold, I can walk up to people and talk to them, I can initiate conversations, I can network with people, I can just walk into a room and not feel afraid of what people are going to think, I can really just be myself. That means more power in leadership, and influence, and impact.

You can share your idea more directly, more broadly. You can advocate for something. You can advocate for yourself, for your ideas, for your team. Also, that shows up in relationships and love. You can go approach someone that you really are drawn to, who you really want to spend your time and your life with, and you can let them actually see and know the real you. So, those are the outer observable effects.

And then the inner effect as a result of that confidence is that you feel like you belong in this world, and that sense of insufficiency, not enough-ness, and all the scarcity, there’s not going to be enough love, there’s not going to be enough people, like, that dissolves. And that is worth way more than all the promotions, and all the dates, and all the stuff but sometimes we have to start with that outer stuff, and then realize, like, “Wow, me just really feeling that peace inside, that is worth its weight in gold.”

Pete Mockaitis

Well, that does sound absolutely delightful, yes. So, lay it on us, how do we pull this off? I imagine it’s easier said than done.

Dr. Aziz Gazipura
Yes. So, the good news and the bad news. The good news is this is all possible, the ray of hope stuff we were just talking about. The bad news is you probably are going to feel like you’re going to die on the way there. That’s all. But it just feels that way because, let’s rewind, what is people-pleasing? People-pleasing is a survival strategy that you picked up that’s based upon an idea, a conclusion, that’s not even true. But the conclusion you came to is, “I’m not okay as I am. There’s something just me as I am being totally lovable, I don’t buy it.”

Maybe someone told you that. Maybe you interpreted that. Maybe someone wasn’t there for you. Maybe you were abused. I don’t know, but there is some messaging that you picked up, and you’re like, “Wow, just me being me is not enough, and so now I have to do something. And what I need to do is I need to observe you, and if I can keep you happy, then you’ll probably stick with me. And I got to observe if you’re upset, and make sure that I don’t do the things that upset you. I got to see what makes you smile, and make sure I do more of those.” And now a pleaser is born.

And so, it’s rooted in fear, in the fear of abandonment, fear or not surviving, “Because I’ll be left, I’ll be lost. So, now I’m going to live that out for much of my childhood but as a personality, as a whole life strategy.” And so, why it feels like you might die is because it triggers this kind of fight-flight survival response inside to challenge you, which is why most people don’t.

But if you get up to that, like, fed-up point enough, and you’re like, “Well, I don’t want to keep living this way. All right, let’s take the leap,” you don’t stay in dying forever. You don’t actually die but it feels very ungrounding because there’s a sense of certainty and familiarity in that way of being, and you are going to challenge that. That’s why most people don’t just say, “Oh, I’ll do it,” and then actually execute on it.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. Well, so then what does the execution look like in practice? What are the step-by-steps? Do I just go give people a piece of my mind, Dr. Aziz, “Let me tell you what I really think”?

Dr. Aziz Gazipura

So, I have two books on the subject. One is called Not Nice and the newer one that just came out is called Less Nice, More You. And I talk about the pendulum, where people who have been overly passive and pleasing at some point can swing, “Now, I’m going to let the world have it,” and that’s okay.

Maybe that’s a phase to go through but, ultimately, there is a set point that’s much more effective. And I think the key steps from a higher level are these. Number one, you have to decide that you no longer want to be so people-pleasing and nice. And that might seem like a strange step, but it’s like, “Isn’t that what we’re talking about?” Well, no, because many people have a lot of their identities wrapped in, “But being nice means I’m a good person, and I don’t want to be a bad person.” No one wants to be a bad person.

And so, the first thing we need to do is we need to upgrade our understanding of being people-pleasing is not the same thing as being kind, or generous, or loving, or whatever it is that you actually value as a human. And that people-pleasing is more of a compulsion and not a choice, and so you have to be giving, you cannot say no, and that can be very detrimental.

So, someone is struggling, you take an extra hour to support them seems kind, right? The nice person and the people-pleaser doesn’t have that choice, so they could be being eaten up inside. They’re all stressed.

Pete Mockaitis

Eaten up inside and bitter, they’re like, “This jerk is always hogging my life.”

Dr. Aziz Gazipura

“I got too much on my to-do list.” So, now you’re talking about resentment. So, the compulsion part of it, the “nice” person feels like they have to. And any time we feel like we have to do something, and we don’t want to in that moment, that’s a formula, a human formula for resentment. So, now we’re going to start that.

Now, the kind choice is like, “Okay, this person wants this. Do I want to give it? Does it feel right to give it?” And it doesn’t mean it’s comfortable. Your kid is sick or something is happening, and you’re just like, “You know what, but it feels right, it feels like I want to do it.” Then you do it, and you say, “I want to give it.” Then we won’t feel resentment.

Kindness, true kindness leaves a glow inside, you’re like, “I feel good about that.” Whereas, when we’re like, “I couldn’t say no. I mean, look at them, they need me.” And the nice person likes to create this elaborate world in which everybody is super dependent, like, “They would die without me. They would be, oh, my gosh, if I left this partner, or this boyfriend, girlfriend, they’d be devastated for years,” and they don’t even see how it’s a little bit of a…it’s a way that we’re trying to get some sense of significance, perhaps.

The truth is that people have many ways to meet their needs, and you’re just one of them, and you’re not the only one. So, yes, that’s exactly what you’re talking about. That’s the stew of resentment that can form. And so, back to this first step of, “I need to decide I’m not going to be so nice and pleasing” is actually an important first step because, otherwise, we remain in this pattern where this is the only way to be, this is the right way to be as a good person, everything else is bad. And then we will perpetuate that indefinitely.

Pete Mockaitis

And that decision, boy, it just seems like the distinctions and the commitments are so myriad in terms of the boundaries that we’re down with, in terms of “I am committed to doing this and being generous or loving in these domains. And I’m not so much down to do these other things.” It really kind of feels like we got to go, behavior by behavior, or relationship by relationship, when  we determine what that decision really means in practice.

Dr. Aziz Gazipura
Yeah, that’s a great point. And, yes, it is, and there’s a shortcut to doing that, which is it can be distilled into one question, which is an extremely liberating question but it also, if you’ve been living a people-pleasing life, can make you very uncomfortable. And the question is, “What do I want? In this situation, what do I want?”

And even just asking that can push a lot of the buttons for someone who thinks that that’s selfish, “Your life shouldn’t be about what you want. That’s the problem with the world, is too many selfish people.” But actually, we’re just talking about asking the question. You might still choose to say, “Well, what do I want? I want to not take care of my son.” “Well, he’s five and he needs someone tonight. So, you’re going to find a way to work with it.”

So, it doesn’t mean you instantly just, “I do whatever I want. I don’t even care about anyone.” It’s like, no, but you start that behind that question is not just the data of the answer. It’s actually caring about yourself just like you would with someone you love, “What do you want, honey? It doesn’t mean you get everything you want, but I want to know. I want to know. Maybe we can work with it. Maybe we need to compromise here. But what do you really want? And what do I really want?”

I was just talking with a friend earlier today, and he has some friends visiting out of town, they said, “Hey, we want to come have some dinner with you.” And he’s like, “Oh, that sounds good.” And then they’re like, “Oh, also, we’re flying out somewhere the next day. Can we spend the night at your place then we’ll go to the airport?” And he said, “Well, let me talk to my wife and we’ll make sure.”

So, he’s about to go talk to his wife, and he’s like, “Hold on a second. Before I even talk to my wife, what do I want here?” And that’s such so small, we could just steamroll right over the moment and go on with our lives, and that might seem so trivial but, man, you add up those trivial moments, that’s your whole day, that’s your whole week, that’s your whole life.

And you might say, “Well, that’s horrible. How could you not have your friends stay the night? They need a favor. What a bad friend.” Ah, now we’re looking at the roles of the rule of friend, and many people have extreme rules, “You must always say yes to a friend.” But instead, if you tune in and say, “You know what, it feels kind of, I don’t know, confining.” And he got curious about himself, “Why? Well, I was just hoping to have the one evening a week that I can spend with my wife, one on one. She’s so busy. I’m so busy. I just don’t really want to give that up.”

So, now all of a sudden, we discover that the saying no there is actually a loving act for himself, for his wife, for his relationship, so we’re prioritizing something else. We would not even discover that. Now he’s trying to please his friends, so he says, “Yes,” and then he’s feeling maybe his wife is going to be upset with him, so he’s trying to please her. And then the whole evening, he’s just anxious and secretly resentful, which is a disaster.

So, yes, we want to go, day by day, decision by decision, slow down and start to really ask, “What do I want here?”

Pete Mockaitis

That’s good. And what’s interesting is by surfacing that, and if you do make the choice, and maybe, well, one, I think that can generate kinds of creative options that you didn’t even think about to start with, it’s like, “Hey, you can come over between 9:30 and 10:00 p.m. and, yeah, it’ll get you to the airport on time.” And so, there it is. So, you had your cake and eat it, too.

Now, sometimes you can’t but then I guess if you do choose to make a sacrifice on behalf of another, I think you can do so all the more eyes wide open, it’s like, “I am choosing to do something for this other person, knowing it’s inconvenient for me, but because I value this relationship more than I value binging Netflix, or whatever I was in the mood to do that evening.”

And then, as you said, there is sort of a glow. You can feel good about that choice. You made a values-driven decision and chose that which is good in your value system above that which is expedient, and you did so, knowing full well the consequences that could flow from it.

Dr. Aziz Gazipura

Yeah, I love that nuance. And sometimes people hear this, and they think you’re going to become this very stingy person, not just with money but with your time. And that’s actually not the case. It is very much more intentional and you’re linking it with your values. My younger son, who’s eight, we eat a pretty similar breakfast every morning. And one of the ingredients is from downstairs, and he doesn’t like to go downstairs because he’s afraid of whatever, monsters. That’s what lives when you’re eight years old, that’s what lives downstairs in the basement, is monsters.

And so, there was this time when we were trying to help him face his fear, but that one was just so kind of just an uphill battle, and I was like, “You know what, as a loving act, I’m really okay just going downstairs to get the thing. I’ll help him fight his fears in other places, and he doesn’t need to tackle every fear because his dad freaking is obsessed with confidence.”

So, I just decided that, and it’s this kind of sweet act of generosity. He’s not going to be eight years old forever. And when he’s a big hulking teenager and could care less about going anywhere in the house, then that’ll be a sweet memory.

And so, you can actually be really loving and generous in all these different ways. It’s just not coming from this pressure that you have to or else. I think that’s the biggest freedom.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. Well, walk us through the next steps.

Dr. Aziz Gazipura

All right. So, you’ve decided, “I don’t want to be nice,” and then you start to ask yourself, “What do I want?” Then the next step is going to be you do the things that are “not nice.” And that might be saying to your friends, “Hey, I’d love to see you. You guys can come. We’ll get some dinner. It’ll be awesome. And then you’re going to be staying near the airport or something. I want to have the evening to myself with my wife. It’s our one night and I really want to preserve that.” And it’s, “Oh, my gosh, so you’re saying no in that situation.”

Yeah, another not nice thing might be to inconvenience someone by asking them for something, “Can you help me with this?” or, “Can you do that?” There’s disagreeing with somebody, “Ooh, that’s real unpleasing of you.” So, maybe you have a different opinion, it’s relevant to something in business, a decision, whereby it feels high stakes and it’s important to share it.

It might even be just a different idea or preference that doesn’t even seem that important to share but you just share it instead of smiling, and saying, “Oh, yeah, me, too. Me, too.” You’re like, “Yeah, I actually like the person that you seem to dislike. Hmm, that’s interesting.” So, whatever it is, it’s just a small smattering of the potential behaviors of you being more you, more authentic, more real, more bold.

That’s all the “not nice” behaviors. And every single one of those is going to produce probably some level of anxiety at first because that’s me being testing out what could happen, which is going to be some sort of calamity, “If there’s conflict, the relationship is over. If I say no, the person is going to never do anything for me ever again. If I ask for what I want, they’re going to hate me.”

So, we have these dramatic predictions, and we test them out. And it’s a form of exposure, really, like behavioral training where we need to do the steps, which tends to bring about the discomfort. And then there is another step about working with that, but I’ll pause there to see if there’s anything you wanted to ask about this step.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s good. That’s good. And what’s funny, though, is the asking for help, we think that’s not nice or imposing or burden, yadda, yadda, but, in reality, when I’m asked for help, I often am delighted to be trusted, relied upon, to be confided in on the matter, and I really like it. And I guess not all the time. Some things are like, “I really don’t want to do that.”

But I think that’s interesting that sometimes these not-nice behaviors are, in fact, what people really value. Maybe some people don’t get people who disagree or challenge them enough.

So, it’s interesting what we think might be not nice could, in fact, be just what the doctor ordered on the other side of the table.

Dr. Aziz Gazipura

Yeah, and that highlights something really important, which is this strategy of people-pleasing is not a very well thought out effective model of human relations. It’s like, “This is the best predictors and most intelligent, socially intelligent model I can…” No, it’s a cautionary model. It’s, “Hey, any of those things might be a problem so don’t do any of them. That person might respond well to that but they might not, so just, no, don’t.” So, it’s not a very sophisticated or intelligent interpersonal model. It’s just safety-oriented.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, thank you. You got some more steps?

Dr. Aziz Gazipura

Yes. So, after you spoke up, you did the thing, and you’re freaking out inside, then it’s time to do the work, which is to upgrade something inside of yourself. That’s where the real transformation is going to occur. People think the real transformation comes from the action, which is part of it, but then we have to upgrade, otherwise we just keep beating our head against the wall. And you can leave that situation, you say, “Oh, I feel so guilty I told them no. I’m so bad.”

If you just grind yourself through that meat grinder for two days, and then you come out of it, you haven’t probably really learned anything. And so, the next time someone asks you for something, and you think, “I should say no because that’s being less nice,” then you might remember the meat grinder, and you’re like, “I don’t want to do that.” And so, then you probably just go back to the old pattern.

So, to really change, after we say no, and then all that stuff starts to come up, then we get to upgrade our map of relationships. And there’s one that I really love, which is I call your bill of rights, so what you’re allowed to do, and the rules, basically. And so, when you feel really guilty, you can examine it, and say, “Wait a minute, what rule did I break? What did I do that was so bad there?” “Well, you said no to people.” “Okay, so what’s the rule?” “You should never say no.” “Well, to who? My friends?” “Yeah, you should never say no to your friends’ requests.”

“Okay. Wow, that’s a pretty extreme rule. Is that how I’m going to live my life? Are there some downsides to that one?” And then we upgrade with much more healthy, and nuanced, intentionally chosen approaches to life, rules for life. So, for example, you might say, and this is where the bill of rights is, “I have a right to say no to requests.” And that might sound like a simple statement, but if you really start to believe that and live that, that’s a whole different life, not just in terms of the behaviors but how you feel on a daily basis.

I don’t think we can totally upgrade these in a vacuum, where we just sit down with a sheet of paper, and we upgrade our bill of rights, and then we venture forth into the world, and everything is perfect. No, we kind of have to go through this process where we take the action, we feel bad, and then that’s the motivation to say, “Whoa, it’s time for something different.”

But if we do it, and we change, and we upgrade, it’s like a step-by-step. It’s almost like pulling out the faulty coding of the pattern and putting in a new coding, new software, that runs so much better. And it’s the software of more authenticity, more boldness, more actually being you in the world. And it turns out to work a lot better on your system than the nice people-pleasing software.

Pete Mockaitis

And it’s interesting, it seems like those exposures, those reps, really do build up over time when you work through those steps. I suppose I am a people-pleaser myself, and I’ve just sort of gotten clear that I’m disappointing people every day. Like, there are people, maybe this very minute, Dr. Aziz, someone might be unfollowing this podcast or unsubscribing from the Gold Nugget newsletter, which I don’t recommend taking those actions. But, nonetheless, they are taken.

Dr. Aziz Gazipura

Someone out there. There’s a loose cannon out there.

Pete Mockaitis

By the hundreds, by the thousands, and so this happens. And so, what’s empowering is to just, for me, as I just sit with that, it’s like, “Yeah, I have displeased someone, and that’s okay. I have not sinned, I have not violated my values, I have not been, I don’t know, fill in the blank: selfish, greedy, lazy, any number of things that seems to kind of be at the core of a lot of this, is we have these value judgments associated with what you’re calling rules. It’s, like, “I feel bad, therefore, I must’ve done something bad. So, I’ve done something bad. I’ve broken a rule. What was the rule? Oh, wait, that rule is kind of ridiculous. Huh.”

Dr. Aziz Gazipura

Yeah, and there’s what I found, and one of the reasons why when I work with people, and the main ways that I work with people, is in a group environment is because we can identify that rule, and think, “That seems kind of intense,” but it has such momentum of history that I find a lot of this is almost like we’ve been running a propaganda campaign inside of ourselves for 20, 30, 40 years.

And when you’ve heard something for 40 years, it doesn’t matter what’s true or not. It’s hard to challenge. I was working with a gentleman in the program, who has had a hard time, even his relationship with his wife, he’s saying, “This is what I’d like to do on a Saturday.” “I don’t know if I want to do that. Here’s what I want,” like basic stuff.

And so, it almost felt like for the first couple of months he’s in the program, he was, “Hey, it’s okay for me to ask for what I want.” And in some part of the lecture, I’m like, “Of course. Of course.” And then he looks, like, around the room, and like, “Is it really okay for us to do that?” And we need to hear that, we need to get reinforced from outside.

And, hopefully, it’s just reinforcing some new beliefs that are just more sane and healthy. And I think that’s really a key thing to come back to, is, “Hey, is the way I’ve been living really serving me? Is it serving others? Is it really? If I’m getting burnt out, and hurting inside, and experiencing all these mind-body issues, and pain, and illnesses, like is this really how it’s supposed to go?” And I would challenge that, I’d say, “We’re not meant to live and help others at the expense of ourselves.” I think there’s really a beautiful, a much more abundant, win-win way of going through life.

Pete Mockaitis

That is beautiful. And I’m wondering if you recommend starting, if it feels scary, starting big or starting small? Like, “Asking my wife what I want to do on a Saturday,” in that example, is it that you recommend that you have, I mean, a small request might be…?

I guess I’m thinking small might be like you can give a lot of advanced notice. Like, let’s say on a Tuesday, you say, “Hey, honey, I think it’d be really fun on Saturday if we got lunch at Jimmy John’s.” Like, “Okay, that’s an inexpensive restaurant. It’s four days notice. It’s lunch, not dinner. It doesn’t seem as big, primetime of a meal.” So, I’m wondering, is your professional advice to start with some of those smaller, non-pleasing moves or requests, or to go for the bigger ones right off the bat?

Dr. Aziz Gazipura

I would say both are beneficial and it’s going to be based upon your discomfort tolerance, which, by the way, is akin to a muscle that is worth building, and you will build it by doing this. And so, if one is going to just completely blow you out of the water, because our goal here is sustainable. Think of it like strength training over many months, and so you don’t want to go to the gym and just blow yourself out where you can’t work out for three weeks. So, maybe you do the lighter weight at first, then it’s a little easier, and that’s great.

You start to build momentum, and success builds on success, so you have a couple wins, and you’re like, “Well, that didn’t go so bad, so I think that’s a completely valid approach.” And if you want to go faster, you feel like, “I have been in this cage for so long that I’m just ready to do whatever. I got to get out,” then you might feel excited and exhilarated as you really test the edge quicker. But I don’t think there’s one approach that’s better or worse.

Pete Mockaitis

You say discomfort tolerance is a muscle, when we work that muscle doing exactly this. If people-pleasing is a diagnosis, that is apt for you. Are there any other pro tips you have on building the discomfort tolerance muscle? I’ve been into cold plunges lately, so if you can justify me that I’m not a weirdo, and this is actually super beneficial to all sorts of elements of my life, I’ll receive that, Dr. Aziz. But, is cold plunges one of the activities that increases the discomfort tolerance muscle? Or what are some of the other top prescriptions here?

Dr. Aziz Gazipura

As a matter of fact, the cold plunge is.

Pete Mockaitis

Thank you for that.

Dr. Aziz Gazipura

It’s actually cold showers for clients that I work with. And I, about six to eight months ago, invested in an actual cold plunge to take my cold to the next level. And there’s a lot of physical health benefits to them but, honestly, the biggest draw for me is that discomfort tolerance. It’s a training, it’s a visceral training to go into the uncomfortable every day, or however often you do it.

And the cool thing about discomfort tolerance is that it actually does generalize. So, if you took a cold shower that morning, and then later in the day, there’s an opportunity, someone at work is sharing an idea, and you have something you want to add to it, and you’re like, “Well, actually, I think this. I don’t know if they would think that that’s disagreeing, or I’m not sure.” And that back-and-forth kind of hesitant energy, when you’re in the cold shower, about to go in the morning, you’re like, “Uh, should I go into it?” you’re like, “Ah, let’s just…all right, here we go.”

And whatever that is, that ability to go into discomfort, and then withstand the discomfort, it translates because the circumstance might be totally different, one seems physical, one seems social, but on a physiological level in your nervous system, discomfort is discomfort. And when you increase your capacity to do it, you can actually transfer it.

And so, yes, physical feats of discomfort, whether it’s a cold plunge, or just going doing, you know, people will take the elevator instead of the stairs when it’s two flights of stairs. There’s just this unconscious addiction to comfort that we’re living in. So, finding ways, I’d say once a day, on purpose, you could go do a wall sit where you sit against a wall with your back against the wall, and your legs, or your thighs are at parallel to the earth. Hold that for 60 seconds and you’ll be quivering.

Is that going to make you ripped? No, but it’s saying, and it’s all about the framing of it. So, right before I go into a cold plunge, I remind myself, “This is going to make me stronger.” So, it’s framing. It’s the same thing with the wall sit. I’m not doing this just to build muscle or something. I’m doing this to say, “Hey, I can do things that are uncomfortable,” and that will exactly translate over.

And then, of course, there’s dozens of opportunities in your interpersonal social life. And how do you find them? You just know. We all have a radar going on all the time, and saying, “Is that going to be comfortable or uncomfortable?” And most of us are using that radar to say, “Well, if it’s uncomfortable, then go the other way.” And what we actually want to do is you don’t have to go crazy with this. It’s all in the dose. You don’t need to go insane on your dose of medicine here, this discomfort medicine. But a daily dose, even if it’s small, will radically accelerate how quickly you can make these changes in your life.

Pete Mockaitis

Cool. All right. Well, could you now share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Dr. Aziz Gazipura

Well, this one I like, this is Tony Robbins, “The quality of your life is directly proportional to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably tolerate.”

Pete Mockaitis

All right. And a favorite study or experiment or piece of research?

Dr. Aziz Gazipura

Ah, favorite has got to be The Boulder Study of Back Pain of 2021. There’s a book called The Way Out by Alan Gordon where they talk about it, but the Boulder Back Pain study was done to compare back pain treatment, treatment as usual, medications, physical therapy, and then also something called pain reprocessing therapy, which is treating the back pain with the mind and emotion, which has been fascinating for me with my own history of back pain and chronic pain, as well as nice-people developing pain.

There’s a whole chapter in the book, why it’s not nice about that. And so, randomized, controlled trial, gold standard evidence that we can use these mind-body approaches to not just reduce but completely transform back pain is revolutionary for the chronic pain world, and something I’m really excited about getting out into the world in a big way.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. And a favorite book?

Dr. Aziz Gazipura

There’s one I’m reading right now that I really enjoy, it’s called Free to Focus by Michael Hyatt, and I’m finding it really refreshing for how to reclaim your focus and your time.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. And a favorite habit?

Dr. Aziz Gazipura

It’s the best and the worst, it’s the cold plunge.

Pete Mockaitis

And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Dr. Aziz Gazipura

Yes, go to DrAziz.com, that’s D-R-A-Z-I-Z.com, and the goal is for there to be a wealth of resources for free. So, there’s a podcast on that page, under the Resources tab. There’s also a mini-course, a video mini-course called “5 Steps to Unleash Your Inner Confidence” also for free. I have a YouTube channel, you can get a link there as well from the Dr. Aziz’s homepage.

So, lots of resources for free. And then if you want to take things further, we have some training courses, and I also work with people in a 12-month life changing yearlong program. So, however far you want to go, I’d love to support you. And if you just want to start with the free stuff or get a book, that’s a beautiful way to really learn that there’s a pathway. There’s a proven pathway out of this stuff, and I’m here to help as many of us as we can to get across that.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Dr. Aziz Gazipura

Yes. Whatever is going to make you the most awesome at your job is also the thing that’s probably either scary or uncomfortable. It’s, like, really practicing that boldness and facing what we fear will not only produce just beautiful results in your career but will also make you feel good at your work, you’ll feel way more engaged.

Pete Mockaitis

Beautiful. Dr. Aziz, this has been a treat. I wish you much fun and minimal people-pleasing.

Dr. Aziz Gazipura

Thank you, Pete. What a fun and interesting and dynamic interview. Really appreciate it.

One Comment

  • Ed Nottingham says:

    @Pete M, another podcast that I will be posting on our corporate SharePoint site! In both my clinical (psychology) and corporate experience I have seen so many examples of People-Pleasing. Loved Dr. Aziz’s approach and suggestions.

    I know you will be making 2024 (and beyond) not only awesome but amazing as well.

    Thanks for all you do.

    Dr. Ed

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