Are you a people-pleaser? Do you often do things hoping it makes other people happy, only to become miserable in the process? While I’ve worked hard to remove much of that side of me, I discovered the other day I still have some work to do surrounding it. How I discovered this, was unfortunately only after the fact, after I had begun an act of people-pleasing I wasn’t even aware I was doing.
This act of people-pleasing was with a good friend of mine who I usually enjoy a coffee with on Sundays before our home group in recovery. When they indicated several Sundays ago that they didn’t know whether they’d be available for coffee or not the following Sunday and would let me know on the day itself, at first, I was totally ok with that. But as the week wore on, I began to feel totally overwhelmed with my health issues and with keeping to the other obligations I already had for that day. Frankly, I was just tired and didn’t want one of those days where I was running from one thing to the next. My gut told me to just let my friend know I needed to cancel and aim for the following week instead. But, I didn’t do that, solely because I was so afraid of letting them down. So, when the night before our coffee get-together came upon me, I saw they were online and sent a message asking if they knew whether they were going to be able to meet with me the next day or not. Truthfully, I silently hoped they weren’t, as that way I’d be off the hook from my fear of letting them down if I had to be the one to cancel.
Regrettably, my inability to be fully honest with them and my attempt at people-pleasing completely backfired, causing more annoyance for them than any good. They had inferred through my words that I’d rather cancel, even though I hadn’t directly said that, and wished I had just been more forthcoming about it. And to be honest, looking back, so do I.
While I’ve grown quite a bit from being the people-pleaser I once was that originally stemmed from an unhealthy relationship with my mother growing up, there’s obviously a part of me that continues to do it with those I feel the closest to in life. That’s mostly because I’m afraid to lose any more friendships, given I have so very few of them. Unfortunately, though, this unwanted behavior doesn’t actually help to prevent that. In fact, it tends to have quite the opposite effect, frequently causing more stress and strain on the connection than anything. Thankfully though, my friend helped me to see how people-pleasing is more of a self-centered act and told me how the only cure for it is to just be honest and up front from the start. And I totally agree!
While I do consider myself an extremely honest person, sometimes too much so, I can see how on some level, I’m still being dishonest through any act of people-pleasing. The fact is, I’m sure if I had just told this friend that I wanted to cancel, once I had started to feel so overwhelmed during the middle of the week, they would have been 100% ok with it. Instead, my act of people-pleasing only caused them greater frustration and grievance.
This is precisely why any sort of people-pleasing isn’t healthy, because most acts of it don’t stem from the soul and aren’t spirit-led. Rather, they tend to arise from the ego and it’s attempt to control and please the masses, which I for one, know nothing good ever seems to come from trying to do that.
So, I’m just going to have to work a little harder on being honest the next time something like this comes up, where I begin to feel the need to people-please rather than be true to myself. Because I’m quite sure any good friend would rather have a fully present me who wants to actually be there spending time with them, than a barely present me, who’s only there out of people-pleasing, fear, and trying to check a box…
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson