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…