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People pleasing paralysis

Updated on July 21, 2012

When I was growing up, the most popular people were the ones who wore a smile all the time and never said no when someone asked a favor of them. Unfortunately I was not one of those people. I was not popular in high school. I wasn't completely shunned and , yes, I did have friends. But you couldn't really say that I was popular. My sister, on the other hand, was. She was easy going, always upbeat and smiling, and everybody loved her. She was a real people pleaser.

For a long time, I tried to be like my sister. I watched how she interacted with people and would try to emulate her style. But, no matter how hard I tried, it didn't work for me. It came across as phony and I was totally uncomfortable with it. I would end up be angry with myself and with everyone else around me.

Then one day it happened. I decided to be myself. What a relief! Instead of killing myself trying to make everyone else happy, and not succeeding, I now had the time to explore what would make me happy. Sounds a little ego-centered, I know, and I still feel a little guilty saying it. But, honestly, in the long run, it was the best thing I ever did for myself.

Let me explain a little about myself and how, maybe, others around me would find it difficult to get along with me. I wanted to be myself. And, by being myself, I took the risk of confusing others. They didn't understand why I didn't jump on the bandwagon with everyone else. Or why I would want to spend time alone just drawing or reading.....or, for heavens sake, thinking! And why did I like classical music at age 15? And why was I so outspoken. Or so disagreeable? Answer: "I had a mind of my own and I wanted to use it".

Why is it that in our society it is so important to please everyone? Is it the promise that, if you comply, everyone will like you, you will get your way, you'll have a lot of friends? Do you struggle when you say something or write something because you want to say the "right" thing? You don't want to offend anyone, right? Just how honest and open should you be?

Today, people are certainly more willing to be themselves, but there is still a lot of "people pleasing" going on. And this could very well be stunting the growth, personality, and success of the people doing it. Do you habitually give in to other people because you just can't stand the thought of upsetting them? Do you put your needs to one side because you get a buzz from someone else's happiness, only to find that he or she is not a bit grateful?

Or maybe, you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. If so, you just may be a classic "people pleaser," and, in all probability, not getting what you want out of life. Maybe it's time to shift the focus from others to yourself, and stop being a martyr.

The irony of all this is that people pleasers fail because it is impossible to please all the people all the time. People caught in this vicious cycle end up sacrificing their entire personalities to the whims of others. They become hooked on the "high" of being liked and, in turn, become obsessed with finding out just what buttons to press in order to please; and in focusing on this they lose themselves.

They fail to meet their needs because they have ceased to be aware of them. They start to believe that the failure to produce the "high" is due to inefficient people pleasing, and this furthers the cycle. The need to be themselves is totally eclipsed by the need to please. They come to believe that nobody will like them if they stop doing things for other people.

You deserve to take time to yourself, to say NO, and to take care of yourself without feeling guilty. If someone stops liking you because you don’t do what they ask, then you’re being used by them and probably don’t want them as a friend anyway. People will like you for who you are and not simply for what you do.


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