I am, by nature a people pleaser. I never really rebelled against my parents as a teenager and I rarely make waves with the people I love. Best friend fights? Never really had those. I prefer to keep the peace, smile and pretend I don’t care when I’m feeling left out or unsupported.
I’m currently going through a massively upsetting break-up. It’s particularly devastating because he left me twice. Once was a mistake, then he came crawling back and before I could even gain his trust back, he was gone again within the week. Of course this would be devastating to anyone, but in my case? I am most upset that I made him so unhappy, he couldn’t even stand me for a week once he came back. And as a chronic pleaser, I feel unsettled. It’s been eating me up inside to know that despite my every attempt to make him the happiest guy in the world, that it wasn’t enough.
The problem is that I should be enough.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make people happy, but when you thrive on that happiness, and when your own inner serenity hangs in the balance based on others around you, there’s something wrong. So here’s a reminder to myself, and to all of you people pleasers out there who have the tendency to define your own self-worth by your relationships. Because I know I’m not the only one out there who does this, and the first step in fixing a problem is identifying that it exists.
Stop right now. Stop that war in your head that has you counting the number of times your best friends hung out without you. Stop crying your eyes out because your significant other is telling you he’s unsatisfied, or that you shouldn’t have been upset over X, or you should change your relationship with your mom right now. Stop running around, and molding yourself and your self-worth to fit the expectations of people around you.
Do not ever apologize for who you are. There will be times in life, every day in fact, when those you love and care for will “tut-tut” your decisions, will stop wanting to hang out with you and will even break up with you. But the only person who has the ability to do peremenant damage or make you question your actions is you. Dr. Seuss once said “you are you, that is truer than true, there is no one in the world who has been youer than you.” And no one is better at “doing you” than…you guessed it…YOU.
Here’s the thing: despite what you might think, oh people pleaser, you will never be able to make everyone happy. So when your boyfriend decides, as mine did, to leave you because he couldn’t understand your imperfections and had a list of expectations for the relationship, do not let it break you. You may want to run again, as you have before, to change who are, or to apologize for your baggage or your inner self. It’s so tempting.
We smile and glow because of the joy we bring others, when we put their happiness before ours. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But inner peace comes from loving and respecting yourself first, and being happy with your own decisions, before you focus on anyone else. So what if people think it’s ridiculous to take a year off and travel the world? Will the world end if you decide to speak your mind and be rid of a toxic friend? Will you stop falling in love simply because this last boyfriend wasn’t happy? No.
So, people pleaser, stop checking your phone obsessively to see if he or she has texted you back yet. Stop replaying that conversation over and over in your head, wracking your brains to see what you did wrong. The only relationship you should define yourself by is the relationship you have with yourself. Because hey, you’re awesome. Maybe take an afternoon off, just to do something for you and your own growth. Learn to expertly curl you hair, go bird-watching even though no one’s talking about it on Twitter, read that weird non-fiction philosophy book even though there’s no one to chat with it about.
And if you decide to change something about yourself, if you decide to take lessons from failed relationships and polish the awesome person you are, do it for one person only. Do it for you. Because no one will be as supportive during these 8-ish decades on this here blue planet than you. Be your biggest cheerleader, baby. And the rest will come.