Monday, January 16, 2017

Maybe They'd Be Happy For A While

I have always been one of those people who want to please other people.

As a child, I spent more time trying to make sure my parents, grandparents, brother, and friends were happy with me. So much so that I was pretty miserable.

The people I was trying to please would be happy with me for a while, but then they wouldn't be. Frequently, I have learned as an adult, this had absolutely nothing to do with me, but as a child I internalized it and it didn't help that at various times my parental units didn't mind letting me know everything was my fault.

So I spent much thought and effort trying to keep the peace, keep things smooth, keep things calm. To this day, I dislike strife, I keep my opinions to myself if they may cause rancor (Facebook posts tend to be deleted frequently on my account if something I thought innocuous blows up in my face), and I do better if I stay to myself.

Being a semi-public figure at one time as a news reporter, this is laughable, really, because I am pretty sure that at some point I angered nearly everyone in this county for some reason or another. Maybe it was because they misread what I wrote, or disagreed with the topic, but regardless of reason, thousands of articles appeared under my byline, and that meant I was the one responsible for whatever emotion the article called forth.

You try to keep 20,000 people happy and see how well you do.

Trying to make everybody happy is exhausting. I don't do it as much as I used to. The older I've grown, the less I care what others think. They don't mind hurting me, or causing me distress, after all. My feelings don't matter to them. Why should theirs matter to me?

Being a stronger person than the people pleaser is hard work, too. I think I find most of life to be hard work. I know there are people who flit through like butterflies, and others who plod through but never give it a moment's thought, and some who skate across as if born with polar bear paws on their feet. And then there are people like me, who never go in a straight line, who climb mountains only to fall off the other side, and who cross deserts in the middle of rain storms without a glass anywhere in sight.

One of the first things a person who is a people pleaser must learn is how to say no. And it needs to be "no" without excuses. Saying "no" is perfectly fine, and no reason is needed. People in my circle want a reason, so I have come up with the solution of "It's not my policy." For some reason, if something is a policy then it is perfectly fine not to do it. I don't know why, but it works.

The other thing I have trouble with is asking for what I want. Frequently that is because I don't know what I want, except that I don't have whatever it is I want, because I am uncomfortable and feeling, well, wrong. So this one is difficult for me. I can ask for some things - I am very good at asking for hugs, for example. However, I don't do many things simply because I don't ask anyone to go with me, or I don't ask it of myself. For example, I would like to go to the local museums more often. I don't. That's me not asking what I want either of myself or of my husband or a friend. I am sure a few of my friends would be quite happy to accompany me to a museum if I asked. But I don't ask.

I also have trouble with boundaries. I think most people pleasers have problems with this. Being grabbed in your privates is an unacceptable boundary that apparently many now find acceptable, but I assure you on this particular point that if I am touched inappropriately, I will be visiting the magistrate. I can set those kinds of boundaries.

Emotional boundaries are harder. For example, being told that the reason Person A does something is because Person B made them is just wrong. Reactions are a choice, but this is a tactic frequently used by bullies. "I have to hit you because you said the wrong thing." We all know that is stinking thinking, but after a while you tend to start believing there must be something wrong with you, if you keep doing the wrong thing and deserve to be hit all the time. (For the record, no one has hit me in a very long time. And anyone who did would find themselves behind bars.)

People pleasing is a need for outside validation. It means I can't validate myself, that something inside of me is broken. Call it lack of confidence or lack of self-esteem, something is missing.

But you know what? I'm okay, really. I'm a decent human being with a lot of empathy for others. I give money to worthy causes, and when I was well I gave a lot of my time and energy to my community. I check on my friends and I try to be nice to everyone.

So what if I can't make everyone happy all the time. That's really not my problem, is it.

It's my life. My rules.

I'm all grown up now.


  1. This post has done a world of good for me. I'm sure that it resonates with many, many people in your readers.

  2. I never thought of myself as a people pleaser however, trying to please the boss, the husband, the son, etc. was never a problem for me. I truly never cared what others thought of me. I beat to my own drum and am glad of that. You wrote this quite well and it gives me understanding into another realm.

    1. Thank you. I am glad you beat to your own drum, too!

  3. I find that my people pleasing is out of control. I don’t just go out of my way to make them happy, but rearranging my entire life to suit them. I change everything so that they can pencil me in whenever they need me. I’ve spent nearly all of my adult life being the maintenance person for their lives. Waiting for their promises to happen. Waiting to be taken seriously. Waiting for them to remember their words to me.

    It hasn’t happened and I know that it never will and I am mostly to blame. I allow this to happen over and over, the same people offering the same empty words hoping to pacify me for a while. I tend to take someone at their word and would do anything I could to see them happy and at the end of the day I know that they wouldn’t do the same for me. I know they’d be willing to have me walk away from them for good than to allow me to be a real part of their lives because it may cause an inconvenience to them or those around them.

    That’s the most heartbreaking part to accept. None of the pleasing that I do for them is good enough to make me someone of worth. My sacrifices for them are expected while it’s simply not an option for them to make any for me.

    My life is played by the rules of the people that I love that cannot love me back.

    1. Dear SleepyPanda, I hope you are getting some help for this. Your life is yours, not someone else's. That is hard to accept for some of us, I know. Time to take control and learn to say no, perhaps? Some of that comes with time and maturity, but in the meantime, you can have a lot of your soul zapped from you as others take advantage. I hope you will consider reading some books on this topic, if you are not seeing a therapist. Be blessed.


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