I would like to pass along a riveting piece of advice an dear elder of mine in AA shared with me some years ago. She didn’t share it nicely but she did share it with love and good intention. The love was to propel me to be honest with myself and the intention was to shatter a false reality I had lived with most of my life. Her missions were accomplished and then some. I have never looked at the type of thoughts and behaviours in question the same since then, and have been able to change many of my actions around them because of her. For that, I remain forever grateful.
News Flash: People Pleasing Isn’t About Them – It’s About You
If it may please you, allow me to me explain …
When we people please, although on the surface we believe we do it for the other person / people, the reality is we are doing it for ourselves. It is because we want or do not want something to happen as a result of the people pleasing behaviour we endeavour in.
I’ll share with you some examples from my own life …
- I used to be a ‘Yes Ma’am’. I took on extra responsibilities in a volunteer position I had, even though my current role was already taking more time and effort than I was prepared to give. I didn’t do it altruistically, as my elder friend pointed out. I did it because I didn’t want to be rejected by the group if I said no. I wanted them to like me, and to value and appreciate my kindness and my efforts. I’ll say it again – I wanted them to like me.
- In my marriage at the time those years ago, my husband was a ‘neat freak’. One of his behaviours was to go around and re-do any cleaning or tidying the kids and I had already done, or make the kids re-do it. Instead of discussing the issue of his extreme expectations with him, I ‘trained’ the kids how to do the things the way he wanted them, even though I knew damn well it was above and beyond the responsibilities children their age should have. I didn’t do it to have a cleaner house let me tell you. I didn’t do it to make him happy. I did it because I didn’t want to get into a fight with him. I did it because I didn’t want to lose such an argument. I did it because I wanted him to keep loving me and the kids.
- In work settings, I regularly would agree with the boss or co-workers, even when I thought differently. Instead of pitching my own ideas for consideration, I would go along with the group. I didn’t do it because I wanted to affirm the others. I didn’t do it because I believed it was best for our organization. I did it because I didn’t want them to think I was crazy because of my ideas. I did it because I didn’t want to be ostracized from the team. I did it because I wanted a promotion I knew was coming up soon. I did it because I wanted them all to like me. Yep, there it is again – I wanted them to like me.
And that’s the short end of the stick that got swung on my butt by my elder AA teacher. The strapping sure did hurt a little, I didn’t like it much at all. But it helped me learn how to get off my perverse self-pleasing butt, and actually stand up and speak my truths. That life lesson learned continues to please me immensely.
Featured image: Mike Licht user on flickr.com, CC 2.0 Generic