Is People Pleasing, Pleasing?


Everyone applauds kindness extended towards fellow human beings. All of us grew up in some capacity endeavoring to please our parents or other caretakers. And, I can’t think of anyone that doesn’t take some pleasure in making other people happy. But, what happens when your desire to please people comes at the expense of your own pleasing? Have you become a people pleaser and if so, could there be something behind it that isn’t very pleasing at all?

In childhood, our behaviors were distinctively shaped by our parents. We learned very early on that certain things we did were met with stern disapproval. While other things seemed to garner their favor. The more we behaved badly the more we subjected ourselves to unpleasant correction. But, when our behavior touched on those things deemed good, we were rewarded for our good behavior. We were perhaps too young to recognize that both the good and the bad were often subjective. Some good behavior was represented by sitting still and remaining quiet while bad behavior may have included horseplay and uncontrolled giggling. So on we plodded by trial and error urgently seeking for those things that were approved. As we grew older, if we were healthy and well-adjusted, we began to understand that the approval of others, while always encouraging, wasn’t necessarily the measure of how well or poorly we were doing. Conversely, if we grew up in an environment where the chastisement was arbitrary and capricious, rendering us unsettled and confused, we likely assigned too much merit to the opinions of other people. Thus, the people pleaser was born.

People pleasers always appear noble and beneficent. In fact, they are likely some of the most popular people you know. Who does not love them? They mold and alter their opinions to match the majority and are loathe to reveal their true feelings about a thing. They pretend to enjoy music they don’t enjoy. They laugh at jokes that aren’t funny. They feel a sort of false superiority in their benevolent approach evidenced by their unique ability to sublimate their own ideas for the ideas of other people, or their stellar self-confidence found in allowing others to take shots at them, while never shooting back in return. People pleasers often make the best employees and the best followers in their profound unwillingness to make waves or present dissenting ideas. In the end, these ignoble characteristics reveal formerly unrevealed pain, festering wounds without a salve, unresolved childhood issues, and an unusual, extraordinary over-reliance on the approval of others. People pleasing is not pleasing at all!

While all of us have to start somewhere, the true measure of a real man or a real woman is found in their learned ability to stand for themselves. As Emerson once eloquently penned, “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius.” Until then, you will find yourself acquiescing to this and capitulating to that… You won’t be a real person at all. You will be merely a shadow of a human, plagiarizing other people’s feelings and desires. You’ll be all hat no cattle, fraudulent and duplicitous, rain without clouds, unsubstantial, inconsequential, fake! And, you will be damned unhappy! The lie in people pleasing is found in a faulty starting premise, namely, that you need the approval of others to be found okay. No-one does anything of magnitutude or consequence while also pleasing all the people. There will be times when you will need to exclaim, “I have had about enough of this shit!” There will be moments when you need to turn into the wind and press forward. There will be flashes of clarity that only you and you alone can see. In so trusting, you will find what is only yours to find; to give; to offer to the world!

When you peel away all of the layers, the people pleaser is afraid! He is the victim of pervasive disapproval he erroneously assigned as from himself based on something he did or did not do. He fails to see the disapproval for what it really is, the opinion of another imperfect being or collection of imperfect beings also much like himself. But, he need not remain a victim if he so manfully desires as he must but consult with himself, honor himself and what his soul has to say to the world. He already knows how he feels and what he thinks. His task is simply to say them and express them and stand behind them no matter if the entire planet disagrees. He must decide to please himself and only from that honest platform may he be in a position to actually help his brothers and sisters. It’s the conviction for which a man stands that defines him, not the fleeting and whimsical opinions of the moment! People pleasers are not born, they are made!

Down deep, don’t you always admire the man or the woman that says the thing that needed to be said despite the onlookers; the awkwardness; the tension? Don’t you love the rare soul that will tell you what they like and do not like? Don’t you trust those dear associations that are willing to speak up out of love for you, though you’d rather not hear what they had to say? In light of this, you owe yourself authenticity. You owe yourself truth and honesty, sincerity and candor. Stop bending your back for other people who aren’t bending their back towards you. Stop holding supreme the approval of people from whom, despite your arduous efforts, you will not gain approval. Stop living for and out from the fallacy of other people’s opinions concerning what is best for you and your experience! Instead do you, be you, without apology! The world needs you, not some charlatan falling in line with every whim and idle wish of the masses. The world needs you; the unique, strange, different, inimitable you! That person you will find sublimely pleasing in every way…

Just some good thoughts…

Do You Approve…of Yourself?


226ASP6179944780The world we live in is an approval machine! From birth forward we were all taught suggested behaviors, traits, personality types to help us gain the approval of others. As we matured, we started getting additional messages from the ‘system of things’ on how to continue garnering approval. I suppose it makes sense, in some respects, that if you are going to live in a society then you have to abide by certain societal expectations to be accepted. You generally have to wear clothes and you’re not allowed to pick your nose in public, for example. On the surface, it doesn’t seem like there’s anything wrong with wanting to be accepted. I mean who doesn’t like receiving approval from others? But, there’s something infinitely more important that being approved by others and that is being approved of yourself. Do you approve of yourself? That’s a question worth answering!

You being the only you, you have; begs the question, do you like yourself? I’m not talking about publicly where we’ve all been taught to develop a cheery public persona. I’m talking about you, home alone, staring in that mirror. Do you love and accept how that guy or gal acts? Or are you pissed at that image for its apparent failure to live up to…wait for it…what everyone else thinks he or she should do?

You may not realize it, but all of us were conditioned very early on to seek the approval of our parents. It wasn’t such a bad idea because we were children and didn’t have the wherewithal to make good choices yet. Some parents gave you unconditional approval. Some parents provided you with conditional approval or said another way, “If you obey what I say, you are good. If you disobey what I say, you are bad!” Some parents gave you very little or no approval no matter what you did. And finally, some parents were just not there! If you were unfortunate enough not to get the unconditional love parents, as many people were, then you learned very early on in life that you needed other people’s approval to be okay. Then your life mission became, what do I need to do to be approved by others?

So, here’s the rub. Assuming you are an adult now, you have to learn to get approval from that person staring back from the glass:

The Man in the Glass

When you get what you want in your struggle for self
And the world makes you king for a day
Just go to the mirror and look at yourself
And see what that man has to say.

For it isn’t your father, or mother, or wife
Whose judgment upon you must pass
The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the one staring back from the glass.

He’s the fellow to please – never mind all the rest
For he’s with you, clear to the end
And you’ve passed your most difficult, dangerous test
If the man in the glass is your friend.

You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years
And get pats on the back as you pass
But your final reward will be heartache and tears
If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.

~ Peter Dale Wimbrow Sr.

You see, us humans are a peculiar breed. We all have our own weirdness, quirks and undesirable characteristics. We all make mistakes. We’ve all zigged when we should have zagged! We are all imperfect and have all been broken in some respect. The trouble is we don’t want anyone to know it. So we parade around in our masks literally hating the person we are or have become. Our love and acceptance of ourselves is conditional and we don’t meet the conditions. It may have worked to shape your behavior when you were five, but it doesn’t work now!

You have to get to the place where you approve of you, no matter what. “He’s the fellow to please – never mind all the rest, for he’s with you, clear to the end. And you’ve passed your most difficult, dangerous test, if the man in the glass is your friend.” Make your mind, your friend!

Now track with me here for a minute… Let’s say you’ve done some pretty gnarly deeds. Let’s imagine you’ve hurt people in catastrophic ways. Or maybe you just haven’t lived up to what you know in your heart you should be. In any case and in every case, you don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of ever doing better or being better or getting better if you don’t love that person in the mirror. No one beats themselves into becoming something admirable. Instead, self loathing and self hate only issue in more awful results. The past is passed and cannot exist in the present unless you make it so (including your upbringing). What is in the present is you, with all of your faults and failings and human frailties. Love that guy anyway! Love that gal anyway! Approve of yourself anyway!

You just make the decision that you are worth something. You matter. You do have value. You’re not of value because you do everything right. You have value because you are a living, breathing human being, formed and made by God Himself.

Step out of the ‘wheel of things’ and finally recognize that you don’t need other people’s approval to be okay. Stop masquerading, it’s exhausting. Cease changing colors to match the whims and fancies of every person you meet. Do you, be you in all of the glorious you, you can possibly be. The world doesn’t need another me, one is enough ;-). What the world needs is you; the real you; the true you; and nothing but the YOU!

Just some good thoughts…