Being a people pleaser of the worst kind, I used to try to make others happy and dodge their displeasure at the cost of my own happiness. With this mentality, I created a world in which I placed my well-being in the hands of others for them to crumple like a piece of paper.
When a school party needed organizing, baking, or decorating, I was your girl. When a friend wanted someone to watch her kids, I was a sure go to. You name it. I did it. While I was always available for others, I neglected to take care of, give to, and help myself.
Being a People-Pleaser Leads to Unhappiness
I realize, now that my people-pleasing tactics were really a veiled attempt to sway others’ judgment of and reciprocation to me. While compassion and generosity are generally positive attributes, I gave from a place of insecurity, low self-esteem, and a sense of lack, unknowingly, in an attempt to bolster my feelings about myself. That’s giving to get which is taking in the end.
Like an unspoken insurance policy, I thought that the more I contributed to others, surely, the more they would give back to me. Right? Wrong! I attracted people in my life who were more than happy to take and take and keep on taking, and I ended up depleted, resentful, and empty.
This is a perfect example of life reflecting back to me a part of myself that I refused to acknowledge. I didn’t love or respect myself and allowed people to treat me the same.
The flip side of people-pleasing is resentment and hostility. Even if people did respond graciously to my efforts, I couldn’t allow myself to genuinely receive their kindness and, instead, stockpiled animosity. Because I didn’t like myself, I was numb to most considerations that did come my way. Compliments slid off of me like a Teflon frying pan. In order to keep up the pleasant, people-pleasing front, the bitterness I felt got buried until it erupted in angry outbursts or came out passive-aggressively.
Being Wise Selfish vs Foolish Selfish
The Dalai Lama had this to say about taking care of your own needs, which he calls being wise selfish:
Being wise selfish means taking a broader view and recognizing that our own long-term individual interest lies in the welfare of everyone. Being wise selfish means being compassionate.”
I’m not a people pleaser anymore, and, in fact, I’d bet that some would say I’ve gone too far in the other direction and gotten too comfortable saying “No.” While rehabilitating from a brain injury, the result of a pill-popping suicide attempt (the ultimate passive-aggressive act), I had to learn to say “No” and meet my own needs.
First and foremost, I have to meet my own needs because I figured out that, before having anything to offer anyone else freely, I’ve got to give to myself. The brain injury taught me how to make myself a priority because I absolutely had to in order to recover.
In every situation, there is always a caring way to respond considering what is being asked of me while factoring in my own needs, happiness, and wisdom from my head, heart, and gut. The response doesn’t have to be “yes” or “no,” and is usually something in between.
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