It’s impossible to please everybody. And even if it was possible, we shouldn’t try. True that we are meant to make connections throughout our lives; to foster relationships, love and be loved. Too often, though, we get caught up in making those relationships successful, those connections stronger, that we forget about the most fundamental relationship of all: the one we have with ourselves.
We let our own thoughts and desires fall by the wayside to appease others. We tell co-workers we will cover for them even though we have enough on our own plates. We tell our friends that we will help them do X, when they’ve already promised to help us do Y, and we don’t say anything. We hold our tongues to avoid upsetting the people we care about because sometimes the risk of displeasing others is worse than displeasing ourselves. After all, we know how to cope with our own unhappiness; we’ve become experts through a lifetime of saying “yes” when we want to say “no” and “No it’s ok, I understand” when in reality, we don’t.
Despite our best efforts and our usually steadfast notions of our own character, we sometimes let others’ opinions of us dictate what we do, how we think, what we say. If someone expresses dissatisfaction with us, even the strongest people can get caught up in self-critical thoughts. We forget that sometimes, other peoples’ critiques or complaints are their reflections of themselves, their own insecurities, and not of us, and we give more credence to it than we should. We overlook the fact that more often than not, they are telling us their story, not ours.
We feel compelled to explain. To tell that critical someone the why’s and when’s and what’s of our choices, even if those choices don’t affect them. We attempt to justify our actions, make them more understandable or relatable to someone who is displeased with us or who questions us, and forget that in the end, it is we who live with our choices, not them. And when we do stand up for ourselves, insist on putting our own needs and wants first, sometimes we feel guilty. We think we should have acquiesced or been nicer, or taken on something we couldn’t really handle, even if we shouldn’t have. We are far harder on ourselves than we are on others.
We make life plans and find jobs, partners and activities that make us happy, and then begin to question those plans when naysayers open their mouths. We assume everyone has our best interests at heart when they express their skepticism or tell us we are making the wrong choice, but forget that emotions like envy and fear can cloud a person’s judgment and color their entire perception of the world. That every now and again, even the people who love you sometimes lack the ability to remove their own problems and fears from the equation and instead project them onto you.
There is a unique way of seeing the world, of journeying through it, for every person on this planet. We should know and love ourselves better and more completely than others know and love us, and our relationships with ourselves deserve as much respect as our relationships with others. Our choices are our own, and in most cases, we are the ones who must live with the consequences. The way in which we live our lives could not possibly please all of the people we care about. The things we say, the ideologies we adopt, and the manner in which we choose to proceed through life will sometimes conflict with those same qualities in others. Instead of fighting it, we must learn to accept it as an inevitable aspect of the complexity of human relationships.
We must stop judging ourselves from the outside in, worrying whether someone else will think we’ve moved to the wrong city, married the wrong man, taken the wrong career path. Similarly, we must stop doing the same to others. It’s not our job to please everyone, to mold our choices into ones with which others are happy or comfortable. We should be at peace with our own choices, and others should be at peace with theirs. There is no requirement that one decision be the best decision by anyone’s standards, even our own; only the requirement that it be the decision we want to make, one that fulfills us or propels us towards our goal or, even more simply, makes us smile. We must be who we want and do what we want, because we are the manufacturers and guardians of our own happiness.