Kathleen Katsikeas

Yoga & Mindfulness

Chicago based certified Yoga teacher (CYT), Kathleen Katsikeas (The Messy Yogi) believes in a supportive and nourishing practice for her students, whether they're in group yoga classes or one-on-one privates. Kathleen is a certified trauma-informed yoga teacher, and holds Circle of Hope classes at Room to Breathe CBM.

Episode 2 of a Chronic People Pleaser: You Don’t HAVE to be Friends with Everyone

I did not learn this lesson early enough in life, to be sure. I learned very early on that there were people who liked me more when I didn’t disagree with them, didn’t have an opinion, and laughed at their jokes. I invested time and effort into spending time with them, and shutting down who I was, and became who they wanted me to be. I was like a chameleon, over-adapting to different groups of friends and different people. But oh my god, was that taxing.

About half way into my college years, I experienced something traumatic that made me pull back from my many friends and social groups. Social life wasn’t a priority as I was trying to make sense and heal from what had happened. Now, I would never wish what happened to me upon anyone else, but I did find out who really cared about me during that time. And I got so lucky that I did have people to help me pick up myself and support me on the journey of healing and caring for myself again.  

When shit gets real, the ones who truly support and love you will be there, no matter what. These are the friends that want to hear my thoughts and opinions, who don’t give a shit if I laugh at their jokes, who call me out and tease me, who cheer me on.

So why do people pleasers waste time and energy on people who don’t give a shit about them? It’s because you want everyone to like you! That’s enough of a reason, and a totally valid one. You’re taught as a kid (especially little girls) to be nice and polite to everyone, to share and keep the peace, to not be too noisy to bossy. This is ingrained in your programming. Of course you want everyone to like you! That’s what you were taught was important.

I’m here to tell you, it’s so much better if you don’t feed into toxic relationships. It’s important to have quality friendships; to cultivate rich connections rather than giving into something that will never return the love.

Sometimes, I have been the toxic friend, I’m the first to admit that, but I’ve also been in unhealthy relationships where I’ve just tolerated behavior that I didn’t deserve. With experience on both sides of the coin, I have some tips that have helped me to identify those relationships in my life that I keep around because I don’t want to “make anyone mad”, I want to keep the peace, or I don’t want to burn any bridges.

How I identify if the relationship is no longer healthy:

1.       Does this person support me when I’m at my most vulnerable, stressed, anxious, beautiful mess? Do I support this person? Mutual support, in my opinion, feels beneficial for both parties. For me, it feels rewarding and nourishing to be helped or to help a friend. It literally could be sitting on a couch, drinking tea, and listening to each other. When it’s all about one person, the other person doesn’t get to have a space in the relationship.

2.       Do I find myself swallowing my opinion or my true feelings to avoid confrontation? Can I communicate honestly? In most of my friendships, I feel free to be called-out and to call-out my friends. What I mean by this is, you make each other better people by holding each other accountable: voicing feelings, opinions, thoughts, and ideas. If you can’t do that in a relationship, then you’re just their sounding board.

3.       Am I tense or stressed when hanging out/spending time with this person? Yo, hanging out is supposed to be fun. If I’m not happy to grab coffee or lunch with someone--if I am not comfortable spending an hour or two chilling with this person, then what am I wasting my time for? It’s not good for me or them; we both should feel comfortable and free to express. It’s hanging out and connecting, not a job interview.

4.       Am I happy for this person? Do I wish them well? Or do I compare myself to them/resent them for being happy/doing well? Resentment is a funny thing-- It can show up in the most interesting, subtle ways.  Let’s say a friend got a promotion or got an amazing opportunity: if I’m not excited for them, if I immediately think about myself (on the verge of throwing a pity party), this is an unhealthy relationship for me. If I don’t want to uplift and support someone as they move into a better life for themselves or when their down in the dumps, why am I in this relationship? If I’m not motivated by them, inspired by them, and visa versa, then what’s going on?

5.       Is this person using you? Are you using them? If I’m using someone, or being used, we are not friends. It’s one-sided and unhealthy. Plain and simple.

Now, I am not recommending cutting anyone out of your life because they “qualify” as an unhealthy friend from the above list. I’m simply saying, if you care about yourself, cultivate the relationships that mean the most to you. If your friendship is worth your time, then communicate how you feel so you can have a more rich foundation and friendship. Friendships aren’t always easy, sometimes they take compromise (as long as you’re not compromising who you are), so maybe some of these things happen, but you’re both working to be better. If you’re shut down by someone for voicing your needs and opinions, then perhaps it’s time to consider moving on. Ask yourself if you’re friends with this person for the right reason.

Chronic people pleasers know that it can be hard to say “no” to someone, to create boundaries, to give yourself the care you deserve. But it’s necessary.


Episode 1 of a Chronic People Pleaser: Love Yourself Enough to Say "No"

I am usually nervous about first impressions: job interviews, meeting new people, first day at a new studio, going to networking events. And sometimes that nervousness, that anxiety, doesn't leave-- instead it transforms into needing to prove myself all the time.  The first impression truly does turn into a lasting impression. 

When this happens, I lose myself to an idea of me. I begin to be that trusty, dependable ol' Kathleen who will bend over backwards for anyone. That version of myself isn't bad (being dependable and responsible to commitments is great!), but it's not fantastic when I'm that person for everyone, when I turn into a "yes (wo)man" or feed into my chronic people pleaser. When I am that version all the time, I don't let myself relax, I take on extra work and jobs which makes me resentful, I am an unfocused, frazzled person being pulled in 15 different directions at all times worrying about failing other people all the time. Over all, I become exhausted, limited, and resentful. I am someone else's version of me, living by someone else's rule book and expectations, fulfilling someone else's desires of what I need to do and be to be "productive". 

Any of this sound like you? 

-No? Awesome! No need to keep reading.

-Yes? Keep going.

What to do: Friends, boundaries are one of the greatest gifts of life. Did you know that you can say "no."? That "no" is a complete sentence. And if someone gets offended that you're saying no to them, then they are probably a person who doesn't have boundaries as well. They're not wrong for wanting what they want, and neither are you! "Just say no" (the Nanciest of Nancy Reagan phrases) can be applied here. Do you want to do this extra project/meeting/2nd shift/"cool" once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? No? Then don't do it!

How to: Surround yourself with people who love, appreciate, and understand you. Who aren't draining or using you. I also have several accountabil-a-buddies: Friends who I text or call whenever I feel guilty for saying no. Friends who struggle with the same issues (hard on themselves, easy on others), who will bolster me up and validate my need for space.   

Most importantly, I take space and time for myself. I meditate daily, allowing myself to heal and create space. Quieting the mind and allowing your intuition (connection to that clear inner-voice) to thrive is so freaking important. You know what you and your body need, you know how to focus on your true passions and dreams. All the rest is just noise and chatter. And if meditation isn't your jam, there are a million other ways to get your space and thrive. Find yours!

What you get to have: Look at all the energy you have now!!! You said "no." and now you get more space and time for yourself! What are you going to do with that time and energy? Nothing? Cool. Piano lessons? Great. Art projects? Sweet. Self-care? Awesome. Walking by the beach? Perfect. Grabbing coffee with a friend? Wonderful. Starting that project that's been on the back burner for 5 years? Yay!

You get to express yourself in the truest version of you! You get to leave the print you want on this earth, and thrive in the way you want to. And if you struggle, that's ok! If you slip and say "yes" when you wanted to say "no", that's ok too! You'll learn, you'll get better, and you will thrive. 

You deserve to be happy. You are worthwhile. Your time is sacred. No one, I repeat, no one is more worthy of your time and energy than you. 

Finding the Guru Within


In yoga, it’s important to find a teacher or guru that resonates with where you want your yoga practice to go: someone you look up to, who shares your morals and ethics (or at least the ones you ideally want to cultivate). A teacher who knows the practice, who has a teacher and daily practice of their own, and who perhaps even comes from a yogic lineage (Ashtanga, Iyengar, Viniyoga etc.).

Finding a teacher is definitely significant. But what’s even more significant is being your own teacher. I’m not saying everyone should jump into a teacher training program; instead become reacquainted with your body and allow it to speak to you, to teach you.

The yoga practice includes developing different aspects of the self, the soul, and relationship to community.  But one of the most important things, in my opinion, is this flourishing self-awareness that yoga promotes over time. You don’t have to be a spiritualist or a “New Ager” to benefit from listening within.

My intuition is the best gift I’ve given myself in a long time. I use my intuition when I’m choosing what to buy at the grocery store, what will benefit my students the most in class, what path to take on my journeys. Listening to your intuition is key in your practice. When we clear our intuition of the fears, expectations, and doubts of others, we begin to let that small inner voice become louder. If your body wants that extra Surya Namaskar A (Sun Salute) then that’s what you need in that moment. If your body is exhausted and overwhelmed and wants to take child’s pose for 10 breaths, then let it. You will benefit more from listening to your own body and what it needs than going to a million yoga classes.

Listening to your inner voice, your intuition, will connect your body, mind, and spirit in ways you never even thought possible. Your practice will automatically grow deeper and better (and I’m not talking about touching your toes or putting your head behind your head here). You will recognize that your body is sacred, and that above all, it is your most significant, well-equipped teacher to guide you through life. Listen to it.


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