I’ve been a serial people-pleaser since I was a wee fritter. From an early age (the Palaeozoic, if I’m not mistaken), my go-to strategy for pleasing people has primarily been through humour. Back in the seventies, my folks got divorced (divorce was quite hip at the time, of course; although I’m almost positive there were other extenuating circumstances), and I can recall doing my best to intervene in whatever dysfunction was unfolding at the time, in my self-appointed role as goodwill ambassador to the universe. Of course, much later I discovered, luckily for me, that dysfunction=comedy. Ka-ching! And part of that comedic mandate comes from compulsively trying to make the people around you happy.
Obviously, you don’t need to work in comedy to be a people-pleaser - comedy just happened to be my defense weapon of choice for defusing conflict and tension (if ONLY I could have rolled myself into a ball like an armadillo instead...now THAT’S a marketable act! I really should have stretched more. Is it too late? NEVER! HOW DARE YOU SUGGEST IT’S TOO LATE!!). You may express your people-pleasing through various strategies of sly manipulation, but the underlying fears assemble themselves in very consistent patterns: constantly worrying that everyone’s comfortable and happy, feeling responsible for people’s bad moods, insisting on doing everything for everybody so you feel valuable; walking six miles around any potential confrontation, constantly worried that you may have offended someone, etc., etc….you get the gist. And if you’re not a people-pleaser, you likely know somebody who is (perhaps you know ME, for example..and we all know you find me fascinating ADMIT IT FOR ONCE WOULD YOU?). Even if you’re not a manic pleaser of people, you probably do still seek approval and validation from others from time to time, and, unfortunately, the result is forever the same...suffering. Anger, paranoia, anxiety, dismay, despair...dealer’s choice!
One time, many years ago, I was asked to speak with a misbehaving colleague. Essentially, I was to talk this individual down from the coconut tree. Why me? Everyone else was too chicken to, that’s why! I certainly didn’t want to let everybody down, so I felt I had no choice but to try and save the situation, and potentially the world as we knew it (I’m building suspense to keep you interested). From my standpoint at that time, I was asked to sacrifice my own peace of mind (which I needed to do my job well) - in a scenario where I knew I would genuinely have to give of myself in order to get through to the person in question. I knew I could do it, but there would be a personal price. And, ever the pleaser, I was willing to subject myself to a debilitating experience for the good of all.
Suffice it to say, everything went beautifully! The colleague went away soothed, the day was saved, and I was exhausted but contented - knowing that I had given everybody a wonderful gift, even if it was somewhat at my expense!
Contented, that is, until NOBODY CARED. Nobody thanked me, nobody acknowledged what I had done for them...there were no roses, no moving tributes...NOBODY. CARED. And I was offended, deflated and devastated.
And now...strap yourself in, and let’s play SPOT THAT DELUSION!!
And so many delicious delusions to choose from this week, Bob!
First of all, let’s talk about sacrifice. Whenever we “sacrifice” ourselves for others (which is embossed on a people-pleaser’s business card), instead of love, we dole out a big helping of guilt.
“I gave up this for you, out of love...I don’t need anything in return...just your UNDYING GRATITUDE. Just a phone call every once in a while would be nice.” *cue debilitating guilt
Lordy help us if the sacrifice goes unappreciated…then it’s a whole banana split of guilt. With the optional nuts.
It brings us back to giving to get. In the above scenario, it seemed like I was being generous, but really I was giving to get something. Adoration, approval, appreciation. All those things I don’t actually need from anybody but my own rogueish self! And if I wanted to be truly helpful, there would naturally be no thought of any sacrifice or reward...I would have just been happy to help. And when you strive to be truly helpful, and give without expectation of getting, that is living in the fast lane of love, babies!! That is the Disney FastPass© to Happytown!
I didn’t lose anything by helping. You never lose by helping, unless you’re expecting something in return. Giving my colleague a helping hand down from the coconut tree not only helped that person and my other colleagues, it helped me. My false judgment of the situation led me to believe that I would be drained by helping, but I was actually energized. It reminded me that I actually loved my colleague, and by extending love, instead of judgment, I received the same in return. Exhilarating!! Giving for the sake of giving is like handing someone a small soft-serve cone and getting back an entire ice cream cake in return! Like Fudgie the Whale size! (where is Fudgie now, I wonder? I hope Dancing With the Stars is reading this…I smell a comeback!)
Apparently, the ice cream cake wasn’t enough for me - I demanded recognition, as well. And when you long for recognition and you don’t get recognition, suffering awaits - reclining in an easy chair, beer in hand, and hunkered in for the night. And then, of course, you must judge every single person who didn’t give you your due. Now that’s exhausting. News alert: I didn’t need any kind of appreciation for showing kindness. The delight I received in showing it was all I truly required! That’s the T, gurl!
So if you’re a pleaser, and you’re giving out of fear of conflict, or giving out of fear of what people will think of you, or giving out of obligation, or giving for validation, or giving because you want to be seen as “good”, GIVE IT UP. Just give. Give without getting. It feels soooooo much better.
And FURTHERMORE (grandiose word for compelling summation), give up longing for external validation or appreciation. Nothing external will bring you the happiness you yearn for, and that includes the approval of other people who cannot see your goshdang grandeur!! You are SO MAGNIFICENT - YOU DO NOT NEED ANYBODY ELSE’S APPROVAL. Seriously. Just look at your glorious self for one sweet moment and approve of THAT. I’m telling you! You may think I get tired of telling you but I DO NOT. I cannot take my eyes off of you!!! I WILL NOT BE STOPPED.
I LOVE YOU. It gives me great joy to tell you that! I need nothing more in return. 💖