The following was originally published on literallydarling.com and can be found here.
I have four mothers.
OK, so that’s not exactly true, I only have one biological mother, but I also have three older sisters, all of whom, at times, have seemed like mothers to me. Perhaps because of our stark age differences (11, 13, and 16 years older than me) they carry more than one title in my life.
Not just sister. Not just friend. Not just mother. All three.
So really, this overwhelming need to please others, to make everyone around me happy, was bred into me. It runs through my blood, I think. As a child I wanted to make all of my mommies proud. I needed to.
Then, as we all got older, our ideals and beliefs shifted. Two of my mothers were conservative, the other two, liberal. Me? I’ve spent most of my life stuck in the middle. I’m the youngest, the baby; I’m used to people adoring me, doting on me, loving me. Because of that, I don’t know how to not please others.
I think pleasing others has gotten a bad rap in our society. If you’re a people pleaser, you’re a doormat, you have a weak spine, and a million other cliches that are quite honestly tired and offensive. Just because I like to please others doesn’t mean that I’m insecure or have some innate need to be constantly validated, and I definitely don’t need to be psychoanalyzed by anyone either. All of us, the doormats, the people-pleasers, we all have reasons for being that way. I grew up with people constantly cherishing me, so now, if someone doesn’t act that way around me, I kind of freak out.
And that’s where the downside comes in. Because I don’t know how to not please others, I sometimes end up sacrificing my time when it seems like I can’t make someone else happy. I’ll fret over what happened, making up scenarios in my head if it seems like I let someone down, or they weren’t 100% happy with me. And then, I’ll sometimes even compromise what I believe to be true in order to appease someone. To me, that’s the worst part.
I really don’t mind spending a little extra time to make sure I’ve done something the way someone wants it done, but I do mind lying about who I am or what I believe in order to make someone else happy. I don’t like forcing myself to laugh at an offensive joke so everyone at the table will continue to have a good time. I don’t like telling people “I don’t really know yet,” when asked who I’m voting for, because I really do know, but I also know they wouldn’t like the truth.
I don’t know how to not please others. It influences how I do just about everything. And I know I’m not alone. I know there are so many of us out there, and that sometimes we start to think that we need to stick up for ourselves more, or that we’ll never get anywhere in life without a little more umph, but I also think we’re kind of awesome.
Not knowing how to stop pleasing others sucks sometimes, it just does. It’s draining, and exhausting, and you can feel like you’re losing yourself. But that’s not true, because you’re being yourself. You love making others happy, you enjoy doing things right, you like to please people! You have a quality that makes work so much easier, because you just have to make your boss happy. You’re a fantastic friend, because you would do just about anything to see a smile on your friends’ faces. You’re you, you’re a people-pleaser and it’s okay.
So whatever it is that has turned you into someone who doesn’t know how to not please others, whether it’s having four mothers, or an overly-demanding father, or ultra-competitive siblings, own it. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If you have the need to please others, then start focusing that attention inwards, at you. Start pleasing yourself, make yourself happy, and then maybe this people-pleasing “curse” won’t seem so bad after all.