If your plan for building a life of happiness and satisfaction is to please everyone else— or, at least, avoid displeasing everyone else— there are a few things you should know.
One, it’s not going to work.
And two, you really will lose yourself in that project.
Building a large chunk of your identity on making other people happy just doesn’t work, for a variety of reasons.
For starters, what pleases other people tends to change and vary. Often unpredictably.
What pleased someone one day, may not please them the next day.
And what pleases one important person in your life, may not please another.
Your very best case scenario is that you’re constantly left trying to shift back and forth, frantically trying to adapt to what you think will please most of the people in your life, most of the time…and never fully succeeding, due to the impossible, futile nature of the task.
Not to mention, you’ll only ever be kind of guessing at what pleases others, anyway.
You can’t read other peoples’ minds. All you really can do is try to discern their likes and dislikes from the feedback they give you…and even then you’re still operating at a disadvantage.
Basing your personal identity on guesswork and projection is a bad idea. Not to mention an exhausting and depressing idea.
And all that is aside from the fact that you really will lose your sense of personal identity and integrity if you build your life around trying to build other people.
Self-esteem is literally the esteem in which we hold ourselves. It involves our own perception of our ability to accomplish things in the world (self-efficacy), and our own perception of whether we deserve good things to happen to us (self-worth).
If you’re out there trying to please everybody, all the time, your self-esteem is going to crumble.
Your sense of self-efficacy will take a hit, because you simply won’t be able to please enough people, enough of the time, to scratch the itch you’re trying to scratch.
Your sense of self-worth will take a hit, because it will begin to feel very conditional— i.e., you won’t feel as if you’re worthy of happiness unless you can make other people happy.
Trying to please everyone else, as a life strategy, is just an unworkable proposition from front to back.
I know, you may feel you NEED to please everyone else.
You may feel the only way to stay SAFE is to try to please everyone else.
You may even feel pressure from other people to devote your life to pleasing everyone else.
But building real self-esteem— and the real capacity for satisfaction and enjoyment in your life— is going to mean giving up your addiction to the approval of others.
Like every addictive substance, approval is a drug that can turn deadly if it becomes your only way to feel good.
Like every addictive substance, approval can rob you of options in your life.
Like every addictive substance, approval makes false promises about what it means and what its value is.
When you feel the obsessive pull to please others, get in the habit of pushing the pause button.
Get some breathing room. Take a moment.
Get some space between stimulus and response.
And, if necessary in that moment, go back and read this blog entry from the top.
Remind yourself of why people-pleasing, in the end, doesn’t work as a life strategy.
Pushing that pause button within yourself, and reminding yourself of the real factors involved, is a skill.
Use it. As often as you need to.
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