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Why People-pleasing Doesn't Work

Updated: Oct 10, 2019

girl hiding from fear of judgement
girl hiding from fear of judgement

The first time I recall hiding what I loved out of fear was in the 4th grade. I had just moved to a new town and Lynette, a girl in my new class, was asking everyone what their favorite song was.

People were giving names of songs from the radio that I had never heard.

You see, I was still totally into my Disney record player. My favorite song had to do with singing mice and took me to castles and fairies and gowns and crowns. I would sing it all of the time. I still can, as a matter of fact.

I didn't have any older siblings that blasted the radio while they hogged the bathroom so I couldn't even pull one out of the hat.

I had a micro-second of a thought that it might not be the best thing to do to truthfully respond, but after more coaxing from Lynette...I did.

I remember every detail of what happened next.

Her brown permed hair.

Her freckles.

Her hazel eyes getting big.

Her smile exposing her braces, which I would try to fake using a bent paper clip in the 5th grade.

She hollered to everyone that she had been friends with since birth in this small town and they gathered around me while she repeated my favorite Disney song confession.

There were snickers and jokes and a lot of unwanted attention for the new girl.

I spent a good deal of that year hiding in the half-buried tires at recess. And a lot of years following, hiding anything that I suspected might lead to ridicule.

It's easy to see how these patterns start in childhood, become a thought that turns into a belief that affects us for the rest of our lives until we become aware of what is behind the hiding.

We are often still doing it in adulthood, without realizing the purpose it serves...trying to achieve intimacy and connections with other humans...and the actual effect...decreasing actual intimacy by projecting a false representation of ourselves.

We believe that if someone really knew who we are...they wouldn't like us.

They say that we are losing connection with others. It may be because we are losing the ability to speak with others face-to-face or work through conflict together, but somewhere in there is that we don't know how to be okay with who we are and allowing others to make the choice to love us or leave us.

And then have faith that our people will be the ones who come into our lives because we are who we are. Not because we excel at pretending.

As adults we may do things like

Always going out to eat where everyone else wants to go.

Not speaking up when we really do have a preference about what movie to see.

Saying yes to the project someone else agreed to but is asking us to take over since they just don't have the time this week.

Sometimes we do this so often that we actually get out of touch with the things that we genuinely love and get a sense of not knowing who we really are. Or harbor resentment toward others for not caring what we really want or for not respecting our boundaries.

Or have a feeling of hiding. Scared. On guard.

This is not a safe, connected, happy, carefree place of healing to be.

If you identify with this you're not broken or messed up...just out of practice with being you.

And out of practice with loving and accepting yourself; trying to get that feeling from others.

So if you are ready to be yourself...

1. Start by finding what is awesome about you. Right now. Because you are you. What do YOU like about you? Hold onto those things.

2. Don't do things you don't want to do.

HOLD ON a minute! You're telling me to be a selfish person, only concerned with my own comfort and accommodation??

No, girl. I'm telling you that the minute you do something you see as being against your will, aka, "I have to...", you just put yourself in the victim seat. Don't do that. If you can show up as the person you want to be: genuine, open, then do it. Because you WANT to. Because you chose to. But don't ever do something you don't want to do.

3. Believe that there are other people out there who like Disney records

Or your version of the same idea. I see this as being an exposed-hand version of Go Fish. If you are holding out your goldfish card where everyone can see, you're going to bring the people who want a goldfish card into your circle. They are out there.

4. If people don't like you because of who you are, allow it to be about them.

Have you ever heard that amazing quote, "You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there's still going to be someone who hates peaches". You don't need to be everyone's flavor. Allow others to have their preferences and not make it mean something about you.

5. Only change things you want to change

Let's say that you have several people giving you feedback that you are too hard on others. Is that something you agree with? Is that something that you like about yourself or not? If you don't, why not work to create a version of yourself that you think is consistent with who you want to be? Just don't change to make someone like you more. Do it out of love for you, not fear of what could happen if you don't and you will find a much more powerful energy motivating your work.

There was one time in my life I got feedback that someone did not like my laugh. I'm not going to downplay this, I have a belly laugh that rings for miles when I cut loose. And I LOVE to laugh. A lot. For a half a second I considered if I should laugh more quietly or stop laughing...half a second of the girl hiding in the tire...and then I decided that I LOVE my laugh. I chose to let the other person just hate my laugh if they chose to. I like that part of me. I'm keeping her.

It's time to come out from inside the tire at recess. It's time to face your cards out and bring those to you who like what you are. It's time to blast your favorite music and be you.

It's time to stop trying to change your amazing self just to please others and be the person YOU are pleased with.

Stop hiding and come out to play.

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