People Pleasing is a Prison


(Photo of “Captain Wil” October 2008)

Live your life as a people pleaser, and you live without true confidence and without true expression. People pleasing can only offer a fleeting false confidence that is buoyed by another’s acceptance of your a…ctions that just as quickly dissipates when that acceptance is denied or not forthcoming.

I know this because I have lived it. On occasion, I catch myself going back to that dreadful people pleasing place, but once I notice it, I put a screeching halt to it. It is a prison to live there, and I never want to go back.

If I was still a fully functioning people pleaser, I would not be able to write this. Admitting this side of my personality gives you the opportunity to judge me, and people pleasers immediately cringe at the thought of being judged, because their whole existence hinges on being accepted.

I still prefer to be embraced over being rejected, but it is now for a completely different reason. If am trying something new or just putting myself out there for any reason, as long as I have an inner confidence about it, positive comments from others now serve as encouragement rather than validation. If I receive negative comments, depending on the nature of the comment, I now view them as expressions of someone who cares and is worried about me, or someone who simply doesn’t agree with my choices.

Validation is not needed if I already have an inner confidence that what I’m doing is right for my own growth. The beauty of not needing validation, is I do not fear the judgment of others if my new venture does not succeed. That fear alone would have prevented the people pleasing me from trying new things. Now, if I do not succeed at my new venture, even if it is viewed as a failure by others, it is not a failure to me. It is a learning experience that has given me more perspective on my strengths and weaknesses, and further increases my confidence in which way to direct my next steps. The pure freedom of allowing myself to experience new things is exhilarating.

Fear has the power to deprive us of this exhilarating feeling if we require acceptance from others every time we want to have a new experience. If we look into ourselves, and gauge our decisions by our own inner compass, then trying new things serves as development for our own personal growth regardless of the validation of another. We may or may not succeed, but if the focus is our own growth, the fear of failure has no power. Whatever the outcome is of our new venture, we have learned and grown from it.

Though I’m advocating our decisions be our own, there is absolutely nothing wrong with sharing your ideas and thoughts with friends. Sharing with a trusted friend only increases your valuable bond and encouragement from friends can be a powerful motivator. The point is your strongest motivation must come from within. If we do not have that strong inner desire to try something new, then we are setting ourselves up to be swayed by the opinions of others.

We all have strengths and weaknesses, period. Do not view them as good or bad, they just are what they are, and once we identify them, and really get to know them, we can better build our confidence and direct ourselves to more fulfilling experiences.

Sometimes we do not make the best choices for ourselves, but like anything, practice makes perfect. The more we work to hear and follow that voice, the more we learn about ourselves, the clearer that voice becomes, and the more success we experience. I’ts not an easy path, but unless we follow a path that is truly ours, we cannot experience lasting fulfillment and confidence.

Shortly after our son, Wil, was born, and we were told he had Down syndrome, my inner voice spoke up loud and clear. It told me I knew absolutely nothing about what was going on, and what Down syndrome meant for Wil or our family as a whole, but no matter what, I loved my son completely. That voice practically shouted in my ear, “If you want the best for him, you have to start with getting yourself educated and get your family some supports. Now go!”

Most parent’s biggest desire is for their kids to lead fulfilling, productive lives. The only way Wil can have this opportunity is if he and others know his capabilities. This can be accomplished by first educating myself, so that I can support him and find others to support him in every way possible to be the best he can be. If I’m educated, I am also able to educate others on how bright a future he can have if given the chance.

I simply could not advocate for Wil if I did not step out of my people pleasing shell. By stepping out to advocate, I immediately put myself in a place to be both applauded and criticized. The latter is not a comfortable place for many, especially a born people pleaser. This experience has literally shed me of the shielding power of this shell, and for that I am very thankful.

Having this experience, I believe that we need a focus on something much greater than ourselves to get over ourselves. Being a people pleaser is very selfish and very limiting to personal growth. People pleasing is selfish because the focus is on yourself and other’s opinion of you. It’s nearly impossible to truly give of yourself if your focus on what you give is how it will be perceived. How freeing it became when I got over myself and got out of my own way!

This experience in advocating has taught me to try new things in my life regardless of the opinions of others. I continue to value friends’ and family’s opinions and advice. There is so much to be learned from one another, and the bond I share with those close to me is immensely treasured. However, the final decision on how to proceed can only be mine and not persuaded by another.

It is a beautiful irony of life that when we truly follow our own hearts, the focus on ourselves evaporates and we become fully able to give of ourselves to others.



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Be Yourself | Life is Mysterious

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