There should be rehabilitation programs for people, like me, who are addicted to people pleasing. I say that jokingly, but in all sincerity, a lot of us could benefit from a people-pleasing detox.
Growing up, I experienced a lot of criticism and rejection, creating in me an insatiable need to receive approval and validation from others. For most of my life this kept me bound to my insecurities, constantly trying to please everyone. The idea that even if someone didn’t like me, I might still be an awesome person was completely foreign to me. I suspect that I'm not alone in this.
So many of us live in fear of rejection. This fear becomes a prison of our own making, as we constantly worry, “What will ‘they’ think of me?” At some point our souls begin to wither under this pressure, and we become depressed, even resentful, that we feel unpermitted to be ourselves. Yet in reality, no one is forcing us to conform to his or her ideas of what we should be. We create that expectation in our own minds, out of our own fears.
After years of doing and being what I thought others expected of me, I found myself depressed and angry. I knew that I needed to make some changes. I had to be rid of the very hungry insecurity beast. (I picture him much like Jabba The Hut, but less charming).
The first step was simply accepting that I had the right to feel good about myself, to be loved, and to be unapologetically ME. More importantly, I had to accept that not everyone was going to like me, and that that was OK.
I could live my entire life altering myself to please others, but what would that accomplish? I would be well liked and meet everyone’s supposed expectations of me ... maybe. But would I be fulfilling my unique purpose on this earth? Probably not. Would I be being true to myself? Absolutely not.
I can’t say that I’ll ever be a person that doesn’t care what others think; I’m an eternal work in progress. But at some point I became exhausted with constantly worrying what others thought of me. There's no freedom in living that way. In fact, it feels a lot like not living at all. I knew that if I was ever going to be truly happy, I had to get to work on changing my faulty belief systems.
I started to thoughtfully analyze what was me, and what wasn’t. What was my authentic expression and what was just a put-on to make others like me? What negative beliefs or thoughts about myself had I accepted as truths? It sounds very simple, but it’s a a lack of self-love affects many of us in profound ways.
The idea of loving ourselves may seem trite, but it's the root of so many of our issues. We lack self-love, so we search for it from every outside source we can think of. It’s never enough. We're like a bag with holes; no matter how much we try to fill it, we come up empty, because it has to start from within.
If we deeply love and approve of ourselves, even with our undeniable imperfections, we won’t worry so much about pleasing others to be accepted, because we will know and love ourselves deeply. The need for outside validation will become smaller and smaller, until it’s virtually nonexistent. It will always feel nice to be praised and liked, but we won’t need it to subsist.
We should always seek to do good for others, be kind, generous and loving, and in that regard we will be “people pleasing,” but we will be pleasing because we are a light in the world, not because we are altering or hiding our true ourselves in order to be accepted. There's no one else in this world like you. Some will accept you, others won’t. The ones who do, these are your tribe; the ones who don’t, weren’t meant to be in your life anyway. So just be unapologetically, authentically, enthusiastically YOU.
When we love ourselves, we radiate love and acceptance to others. In a world where people are so starved for love, what better way to make an impact, one person at a time. Like a tiny pebble thrown into the water, the ripple effect carries on and on, touching hearts and healing souls.