Who are you trying to please?
That’s what it comes down to. We live our lives seeking approval. We do strange things and make critical choices based on what we want other people to think of us.
The problem with this is that those people we’re trying to please aren’t living our lives. They ultimately have no bearing on who we are meant to be. Yet we operate most of our lives out of this intense desire to be accepted by someone who matters to us.
Let’s be clear. I’m not saying it doesn’t matter what other people think of us. Our integrity and reputation often rely on a perception of what people think. It is generally a good thing to want to make our parents, teachers, peers, and so on proud of us.
The problem arises when making people proud becomes more important than doing the right thing. You get into trouble when you do things repeatedly solely because you think it will make someone else’s life easier. This is a breeding ground for a life of heartbreak and frustration.
Self-sacrifice can be noble. It is a huge part of living an epic life. But there is a fine line between self-sacrifice and martyrdom. More often that not, you must make decisions that might seem selfish but in effect are what’s ultimately right. Again, you’re the only one who is actually living your life.
The sad truth is that when you make decisions out of these noble but falsely-based desires, you become pigeonholed. People quickly pick up on the fact that they can push off the things they don’t want – be it emotions, physical labor, relationship problems, etc – effortlessly onto you. They know that you’ll just accept it.
This results in a life of never enough. There is never enough time, energy, money, emotion, etc., because everything is out of balance. This person can never concentrate or assess what is truly important in their own life, because they are so busy trying to keep everyone else’s leftovers in order.
I used to sit in a cubicle next to someone who had this complex. She was the most negative person I’ve ever met in my life. Seriously, she had a black cloud hanging out over her cube.
Every day I’d ask her how she was, and she’d reply in this pitiful, nasally voice “Oh, you know. Just hanging in there.” I would try to offer encouragement, but for the most part my efforts were wasted. She was the one that everyone else knew would do the dumbest, most inane work, the stuff no one else wanted to do. And guess what? She did it, whatever “it” might be. Did she complain? Yeah, a little. But she knew and everyone else knew that at the end of the day, she’d be the one stuck with “it.”
I wanted to shake her. It was so frustrating to observe. I tried building her up and help her grow a backbone, but she was so stuck in her ways of self-mutilation and self-pity.
This comes down to a belief. It is a deep, core belief that is formed somewhere along the way. It is the issue of worthiness.
When we don’t think we’re worth it, we operate out of a position of lack and fear. We defeat ourselves, sabotage our own plans and desires because we are craving that acceptance. We tell ourselves that “if I just do this one thing, then this person will think I’m a good person.” Or “I can’t say no to this person. They’re too nice.”
We make all kinds of excuses about why we should do these things for all these people, believing that by doing whatever it is, they will somehow validate our worthiness. But do you know what people generally respect more?
Someone who is strong.
Someone who has boundaries.
Someone who can say no and give reasons why they said no.
Someone who believes they are worth more and deserve better.
Someone who makes a decision and sticks with it.
Making the Change
Maybe this article hits really close to home. Maybe you’ve been struggling with feelings of worthiness and are constantly taken advantage of. Here are three action steps to take that can help you change the way other people view you, and more importantly, how you view yourself:
- Learn to make a decision and stick with it. The sooner the people around you see that you’re serious, the less likely they’ll be to even try shoving their garbage onto your plate. People learn quickly, but you have to draw that line in the sand. Today, tomorrow, seven years from now, you have to abide by the new boundaries that you are setting. Otherwise, you’ll permit the whole process to start over again anew.
- Operate out of confidence and faith. You must believe that it is good and right for you to have these boundaries and principals. You must respect and love yourself before anyone else will. What you believe about yourself makes all the difference in the world. If people reject you for standing firm, it’s not the end of the world. Your true friends and family will always stay by you, even if it means a short period of adjustment.
- Build for the future. Decisions we make today shape our tomorrow. If you make the best decision today, you will thank your tomorrow self. Don’t you want to find yourself in tomorrow happy, peaceful, and sure? (Nod your head yes.) Take the hard steps today that will make you whole tomorrow.