Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Problems with People-Pleasers

Picture brought to you by one very cold walk 

I have a friend who is so massively consumed with what other people think of her and with comparing herself against other people that I have no idea who she is as a person.

I only know her in terms of her perception of what other people think. I have no idea what her passions are, whether her opinions are her own, or whether or not she is happy.

This friend is a blank canvas who paints herself in the reflection of those around her.

Life seems to revolve around everyone else until the people-pleaser has completely forgotten themselves and their own identity. They seem profoundly unhappy and unwilling to enact any change because they’d now have to navigate a completely new set of outside opinions based on that change.

At least, this is how my friend lives her life. And I’ve had to walk away from it. She comes to me with her unhappiness all the time, yet refuses to change anything. When I offer up ideas, the first things out of her mouth are: ‘well so-and-so did it this way,’ or ‘so-and-so will think this,’ or ‘I don’t want so-and-so to think that.’

And I want to scream, what the hell do you think? You, not them. You.

I honestly don’t understand how someone can live like that. Constantly filtering your thoughts and actions through someone else’s lens seems exhausting.

What is the point of it really? Are those people you’re so concerned with living your life? Are they going to wake up in your bed tomorrow and move through your day? Are they going to somehow be affected by your choice to have a cookie, or wear your purple pants, or go to work for you? Then why does it matter what they think?

I’m not saying to go out and be a narcissistic asshole. I’m saying that everyone should be able to look at him or herself in the mirror at the end of the day and know who they are and be proud of the decisions they’ve made. And if your making decisions based on other people, then they’re not really yours are they? None of the life you built around you is yours.

In addition, the problem with worrying about what other people think is that you have no idea what their thoughts actually are. You may ask them, but they may or may not give you a straight answer. Your identity becomes a culmination of hypothetical thoughts that are both impermanent and meaningless.

Do you know what’s real and solid and true? What you think of you. Why not concentrate on that? Why not make decisions that make you happy? Why not go after the goals that are based off your own desires?

We should all make it a goal to not be a blank canvas waiting for others to paint.
We should be intricate, crazy, colorful, hard to understand canvases. It doesn’t matter what people think of them. They are going to view them how they’re going to view them no matter how many signs there’re to guide them. We cannot control that, so don’t waste your time trying.

Worry about creating the kind of canvas that you understand and that you can be proud of. You’re the one that has to look at it everyday. Make it something worth viewing.  


  1. I'm a recovering people pleaser myself, to be completely honest. It wasn't until the last year or two that I realized just how debilitating it was becoming. Sometimes my people pleasing traits start to come out again, and I have to remind myself that it can seriously make me miserable if I give in. I don't so much have the problem of acting a certain way or not showing my authentic self, but I do have a huge problem saying no to people. Again, I am trying to move past that. It is IMPOSSIBLE to please everyone. And if we try to please everyone, we won't be satisfied. Thanks for this post. I've thought about writing about the same thing before, but from the recovering people pleaser's point of view.

    1. My friend is an amplified people pleaser. But, I also know a lot of "can't say no" people, too. Admittedly, I have a problem with that when it comes to my professional life. I'll take on a million assignments if my boss asks, even if I'm already drowning. It can back fire quickly.
      There should be a support group for people pleasers where we'd all learn how to grow a bigger back bone in the areas we need it. Of course, it'd only work for those of us admitting to our ways. Sadly, my friend isn't one of them.