The Benefits of Self-Disclosure.

Self-disclosure of my people-pleasing often leads friends and followers to tell me not to be so hard on myself. It’s true that I feel mad about the times I didn’t stick up for myself and I feel shame in admitting what I see as a weakness.

But sharing my truth means I can’t hide from it. Once it’s out, I’m confronted with its destructiveness and feel I have no choice but to change. Sharing my truth makes me stronger.

Meme: Sometimes you just have to step out into the hard places. You may be surprised at your own strength.
Lily of the Valley fighting their way into my driveway.

Self-disclosure makes me stronger because I can’t deny the truth.

The change is S-L-O-W but S-U-R-E. In that vein, I’m sharing this story with you so I can’t hide from my need to please.

In May 2016, I had to take medical leave from a job I loved due to my increasingly disabling and difficult-to-diagnose gut problems. My employer encouraged me to take advantage of their short-term disability policy, which turned into long-term disability.

What a blessing. Not my illness, but the disability benefits. That income took the edge off leaving my job and helped to cover the thousands of dollars I spent (and spend) on out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Then, in September 2019, I received a call from my disability representative. I’ll call her Mary.

“I’m sorry to have to tell you this,” Mary said, her voice wobbling. I could hear the emotion in her voice and I knew it was sincere. We had become fond of each other in a weird kind of way during our three-year phone relationship. She was always professional and business-like, but with heart.

“Our medical directors have determined that you are no longer eligible for benefits.” She gulped. “Your cased is being closed as of today.”

Shit. I felt my shoulders and chest collapse, and my breath, my hopes, my future squeezed out of me like toothpaste.

I had wondered if I might face a reduction of benefits someday. I’m not bed-bound, after all. I’m not immobile. My mornings always suck, but I can usually leave the house in the afternoon or evening if I need to. I can take care of myself and do household chores and tap away on my laptop.

But I never expected a complete benefit mic-drop without warning.

As crushed as I felt, I also felt bad for Mary. My instinct was to comfort her. My people-pleasing kicked into high gear.

What happens when you please others instead of yourself

“It’s OK,” I told her. “I won’t starve.” And I blathered on about the benefits being a blessing, and how grateful I was, blah, blah, blah.

I heard Mary typing to transcribe our conversation, like always. It’s her job. I knew she did it and I wasn’t worried because I had nothing to hide.

A few weeks later, I decided to appeal the decision, so I requested my full medical file—all 2,400 pages.

I read or at least skimmed most of it. When I came to my final conversation with Mary, my stomach lurched. I wished I had sewn my lips shut. It sounded like I was overjoyed to be losing my income. Blessing this and blessing that and all kinds of gratitude shit.

Nowhere did it say Client expressed anger and disappointment. Client Cried. Client said it must be a mistake because her health has not improved. Nope. Client was as agreeable as always. I saw it for myself in black and white.

I haven’t received the results of my appeal yet, but I suspect my people-pleasing will work against me. It won’t be the first time. There’s a scene in my memoir when a similar thing happened, only that time, it was a doctor I acquiesced to, and the patient was my son.

Self-disclosure is intentional.

I share this embarrassing story intentionally. That’s what self-disclosure means– to intentionally share personal information about ourselves with another person­. It sheds light on my struggles so I can learn the lessons in what happened.

And, in hearing my vulnerability, you may feel free to share your own vulnerabilities. And maybe others will learn, too.

In her book, The Disease to Please, the late Harriet B. Braiker said:

Sometimes we see in others what we can’t see clearly in ourselves.

If you see yourself in my stories, stick around. We’ll figure this out together.

Have you checked out my Ten Signs You May be a People-Pleaser?



  • Karen DeBonis

    Karen DeBonis writes about motherhood, people-pleasing, and personal growth, the entangled mix told in her memoir "Growth: A Mother, Her Son, and the Brain Tumor They Survived" forthcoming in spring 2023. Subscribe today to receive Chapter 1: A Reckoning.

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  1. judy lawless on February 28, 2020 at 11:53 AM

    Karen, you are such a strong woman! You are bravely facing your mistakes and doing something about it. I admire that. I am often told (mostly by my husband) that I say too much in situations when less is better, and now I see it myself, but it’s sometimes so hard because the words just flow out of my mouth. I think it’s because I want the listener to have the whole story! Is that part of being a writer? 🙂 Maybe.

  2. Jack Herlocker on February 28, 2020 at 1:08 PM

    Karen, I can be an upfront, in-your-face, take-no-prisoners type in situations like you describe. Just give me warning, explain the details, and let me get psyched for it. Surprise me with something like you describe, especially from someone who already feels bad and with whom I have a previous relationship? “Oh heavens, Mary, no no, don’t you worry, we’ll be fine here!” 🤦‍♂️

    • Karen DeBonis on February 28, 2020 at 3:20 PM

      I was thinking about that the other day, Jack – that if I like the person, I’m sunk. I want to protect them, even to my own disadvantage. If someone’s acting like a jerk, or it’s some pushy saleperson, I can be much more direct. My therapist once gave me great advice–keep business relationships business; don’t let them become personal. Not always easy, but wise.

  3. Karen DeBonis on February 28, 2020 at 3:15 PM

    Thank you, Judy. I’m finding that the more I push myself into uncomfortable areas, the more I see and feel my strength! And, of course I haven’t met you (in person), so I can’t judge if you talk too much or too little, lol. But telling a story in person is different, I think, than writing it. I think the challenge for writers is to find the fewest, absolutely necessary words, and let the reader come to conclusions on their own. It’s why I sit for hours and hours over days and days to finish one measley blog post!

  4. […] I’ll continue to tell you of coffee floods, and buying the wrong milk, and my people-pleasing backfiring, and other silly and not-so-silly trials of […]

  5. […] potential for conflict is anxiety-provoking. I’ve been actively working to escape the unhealthy people-pleasing box I built for myself. Now, when a voice in my head says, Karen, speak up, I do. I don’t give […]

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