People Pleasing vs Hospitality: How Spending Time In The Mediterranean Helped Me Learn The Difference

We've all been there, accepting extra work or commitments even when we're already overwhelmed and running on empty. Whether it's volunteering for additional assignments or joining school committees to subconsciously seek approval or avoid harsh judgment, people-pleasing is utterly exhausting. While our intention is to be seen as dedicated and willing to go the extra mile, doesn’t it often leave us feeling rushed, frantic, and unfulfilled?

By Elizabeth Donat4 min read
shutterstock 277166531

We’re told to counter this with more "self-care," right? We're encouraged to "treat ourselves" to pricey new outfits, indulge in sweet treats, get manicures and pedicures, book expensive retreats, or renovate our kitchens. While these activities are certainly enjoyable and have their place, are they truly the long-term solutions we're seeking?

Psychology Today states that the self-care industry, valued at a staggering $11 billion, has been successfully monetized by “almost every other consumer industry: spa, bath, water, beverage, skin care, essential oil, travel, food, home design. You name it. Everybody’s got a hand in the self-care market.” Paradoxically, it goes on to say that “the more products and services we purchase and practice, the more stressed out and exhausted we become. The more we focus on well-being, the more unwell we actually feel.” 

This realization had me shaking my head and thinking, "There must be a better way." To my delight, while spending time in Spain, France, and Turkey (my husband's home country), I stumbled upon a transformative approach to self-care and nurturing others. It was a gentler, warmer, and more authentic way of living that truly rejuvenated my mind, body, and spirit – unlike the designer candles I've splurged on in the past. How could I have overlooked this for so long? And how could I bring more of it into my life? The secret to slowing down, reconnecting with ourselves and others, and finding purpose and community became evident through the whole-hearted hospitality of the Mediterranean. Here are my key takeaways:

Hospitality Is a Mindset

Hospitality transcends the excitement of lavish parties with VIP guestlists and extravagant kids' birthday celebrations. It embodies a daily mindset rooted in warmth, unhurried moments, and genuine curiosity about others. As you stroll along the cobblestone streets of Mediterranean coastal cities, the smiling faces and warm exchanges that surround you highlight the importance of prioritizing time for those in our midst, recognizing their presence as an opportunity for connection rather than an obligation, means to an end, or inconvenience. Hospitality is a way of creating an inviting environment that embraces people with care and appreciation. 

Open Your Home Often 

If your blood has ever run cold at the jarring sound of your doorbell ringing, rest assured that you’re not alone. In today's fast-paced world, with packed schedules and the constant rush from one activity to another, there are moments when we simply long to retreat to the comfort of our homes and shield ourselves from the demands of the outside world. And when we do have guests coming over, it's not just a matter of power-cleaning, grocery shopping, and creating Instagram-worthy charcuterie boards – we also need to "mentally prepare" ourselves. 

However, my experiences overseas have shown me a different approach. Hosting is not just an occasional act but a way of life, taking on various forms, from elegant dinner parties to casual gatherings, and often happening unexpectedly, with both familiar and unfamiliar faces gracing your doorstep.

The size or layout of your home doesn't matter; what truly counts is the warmth and connection that emanate from within.

You Don’t Need To Stress About It

Nothing's worse than the quiet freak-out just minutes before expecting company, worrying if your home is perfect enough or how you'll be judged on your furnishings and décor. But while traveling, I learned a refreshing lesson: The size or layout of your home doesn't matter; what truly counts is the warmth and connection that emanate from within. Opening your home is one of the simplest yet most effective ways to get to know someone on a deeper level. Your pictures and knick-knacks on the bookshelf serve as great conversation starters, sparking interesting exchanges. While fancy restaurants and exciting events have their appeal, nothing expresses the desire for closeness like hosting in the comfort of your own habitat. Embracing the role of a gracious host not only brings you enormous enjoyment but also sets the stage for a reciprocal exchange of hospitality, inspiring your guests to extend their own invitations in the future.

Healthy Food Is Simple To Share

If you get anxious about what to serve when you’re hosting, just take a deep breath and remember to keep it simple. One of the best lessons from my trips is that delicious food doesn’t have to be fancy. During my travels, some hosts offered a plate of sliced fruit and nuts from their pantry, accompanied by a cup of freshly brewed black tea. Others proudly presented their loaves of newly baked bread alongside homemade preserves and local cheeses, all with a beaming smile. And for unexpected guests, a comforting scoop of whatever was simmering on their stove did the trick. The focus was not on the extravagance of the food, but rather on its freshness, availability, and the love with which it was given.

There is no shame in offering what you have. The essence is to serve your guest and convey the message: “You are welcome to stay. Please don’t rush out the door. Let’s sit, chat, and connect for a while.”

Experiencing the gift of being truly listened to, and learning to love listening in return, brought about a wonderful new awareness.

Conversation Connects Us

We're all familiar with the dreadful feeling of being trapped in a conversation, anxiously waiting for it to end while offering insincere agreements and nods. However, my explorations uncovered something extraordinary. Instead of individuals yearning to say their piece, complain, and vent, they actually reveled in the art of listening. This revelation brought me to a profound understanding: There is no greater gift than sitting and holding space for another person. It's a genuine desire to hear their stories, exchange wisdom, share laughter, and discuss current events without any expectations in return. In a world consumed by shooting over rapid-fire texts and impersonal emails, we often overlook the pure joy of sitting face to face with someone and engaging in magically meaningful conversations. Experiencing the gift of being truly listened to, and learning to love listening in return, brought about a wonderful new awareness.

Don’t Ask, Just Offer

Instead of the usual half-hearted offer of "Let me know if you need anything," I witnessed something truly remarkable – a genuine eagerness to take action and care for others. Whether it was offering a helping hand to an elderly neighbor, escorting someone to their destination, or a shop owner surprising a child with a small toy or a free treat, these small but powerful acts showcased the transformative power of proactive kindness.

Inspired by these moments, I've learned to be more attentive to those around me and extend a helping hand whenever possible. When a coworker, cousin, or classmate is in need, I no longer hesitate to bring them a meal, offer childcare, provide a ride, or run an errand. These acts leave a lasting impact, motivating us to pay it forward and demonstrate the depth of our compassion. It's an empowering approach that allows us to support others without sacrificing our own well-being.

Closing Thoughts

If you're like me, you strive to give your best, go the extra mile, and be highly efficient and productive every day. However, stretching yourself too thin to seem helpful or avoid judgment can lead to burnout. While modern self-care solutions offer temporary relief, they don't provide the lasting fulfillment and meaningful connections we truly need. My travels in the Mediterranean taught me a valuable lesson – embrace hospitality, and turn your attention from worrying about yourself to serving and connecting with others. Tap into your intuition to discern whether your actions seek approval, drain your energy, or come from a genuine, honest intention for meaningful exchanges. Before committing yourself to someone or something, pause and consider if there's a more rewarding, heartfelt path to take. You’ll know you’re on the right track when it feels like a worry-free win-win!

Support our cause and help women reclaim their femininity by subscribing today.