I have at various times in my life been a people-pleaser. Some times more than other times, and less now than ever before.
I don’t like this about myself, but I admit it.
Whenever something happens in life, I turn to Google. Maybe it’s a Millennial thing. I don’t know.
Google tells me that people-pleasers don’t truly believe that they too have the right to be happy. Or that they too have needs that should be asserted. Google tells me that people-pleasing encourages one to attend to others to the detriment of self.
And there may well be a breed of people-pleasers the undercurrent of whose behavior is some kind of selfless attention to others. There may be.
There may be a breed of people-pleasers whose “pleasing” is tinged with sacrifice.
There may be a breed of people-pleasers who prioritize the well-being of others, underestimating their own value.
I’m sure there are people like that. I’m sure they exist. They are the noble people-pleasers of the world.
But I am not one of those. Maybe you aren’t either.
These are the far less impressive characteristics that define me as a people-pleaser:
-Prioritizing the worst parts of myself over the best parts of everything else
-Aversion to discomfort/addiction to approval
-Desiring others to provide my self-image and resenting them when they fail to do so to my liking
These are terrible qualities. If I was watching a movie and the heroine possessed these qualities, I would hate her. I would want her to get hit by a bus, or at least grazed gently by a bicycle.
The difficulty of talking about these sorts of things is that for some people it’s hard not to people-please, and it requires courage. But for some people it’s natural. Not being a people-pleaser is not brave in and of itself because, for some, the notion of displeasing generates no fear. Whether it’s nature or nurture, I’m not sure – probably depends on the person.
But being a people-pleaser is definitely not brave. It is a quality defined by cowardice.
And, on top of that, it is most certainly not a quality defined by over-emphasis on others.
Imagine approval is a drug. Instead of finding a healthy way to handle your problems and stand (however waveringly) on your own two feet, you choose to use drugs instead for the easy high.
Do you care about the drug dealer? No. Do you give a dealer money because you’re concerned about their welfare? No. You have merely prioritized your need for drugs above your need for the cash.
It’s the same with approval. What you seek is the fleeting, warm emotion you feel when you receive the approval of others, and your other needs are the currency you are willing to exchange for it. You have prioritized your need for approval above your need to be “valued” in a relationship.
In addition to that, you have taken your internal barometer for gaging your own value to yourself and you have handed it to another person completely outside of your self and said, “You do it.”
When they do it “right,” you feel nice for 5 seconds. But it doesn’t last because, like a chemically-induced high, it’s not real. It’s not native. It doesn’t live inside of you and cannot sustain you.
And when, heaven forbid, others fail to provide the high, you feel resentful to them for failing to fulfill a role they have no business fulfilling.
Being a people-pleaser is not tragic or interesting. It does not conceal hidden depths.
It is a choice to be dependent.