All my life I have been a people pleaser. I swam for my father, got good grades in school mostly out of fear of having to sit at the desk instead of going out with to play with friends, and even went to school for waitressing for three years to try and make someone else’s dreams happen. I slaved over my guild mates back when I was still an avid raider and FFXIV player. So what made me want to change?
The social norms
As with anything in life, we human folk tend to like to fit in. We are pack animals, social creatures. We fear being cast out of the group we think we belong in, and if we don’t belong to a group we are desperately trying to change that.
From a child, we are taught to be selfless, to help those in need, and to always take care of our fellow human beings. We are taught to share our toys and to not put up much of a fight in fear of punishment if we don’t conform to the adult’s idea of a ‘’good girl/boy”. I must also say that I fear we women have had to deal with this more than men. Being the ‘’good girl’’ seems to carry more weight on the sentiment of being proper and innocent at all times.
The problems arise when we start ignoring our own needs in favor of pleasing others. This is how I lived most of my life in the past, and even now, after several years of working on it, I struggle with the fears that come with upsetting people. However, I started to understand the causality of neglecting myself. The bitterness and anger would build up over the months, and eventually blow out in an enormous wave of hatred when I finally had had enough.
My past ideal
Having been a pleaser all my life, my ideal of myself was someone who would never let others down, ever. If I could do anything, if I was asked to do anything, even if I just came by someone asking money for god knows what on the street, I was compelled to help. I saw it as the only way to be that ‘’good girl’’ everyone else wanted me to be. After all, it is our responsibility to carry those who can’t walk on their own, right?
I have struggled greatly to try and rid myself of this very unhealthy way that I’ve been looking at the matter of helping people. It ended up with me losing my identity and building a chameleon skin that would always be able to please, at least to the point of them not abandoning me. I was never truly happy with myself or the world, and I have a sneaking suspicion that most of my horrendous thoughts about life, in general, were due to not taking myself into account.
That image, that fake facade of mine came down when I met my husband and had a very enlightening talk about ‘’The good kind of selfishness’’. These days I understand that my being this creature of immense will to care and help is amazing, though, it needs to be managed and directed properly. Not every person on the streets is entitled to our hard-earned euros. Not every soul calling themselves family or friends is entitled to expect us to bend over backward for their sake. I need to put myself and my family, my husband, first.
The consequences of pleasing
Besides me losing my identity and growing darker each day that I was living the life of a people pleaser, there are also consequences to those that we think we are helping. Turns out that life is a bit more complicated than given coins on the streets, and we should never feel so high and mighty as to think we would actually be doing any good by meddling with other people’s private affairs when they have nothing to do with us.
The impact my ‘’charity’’ had on my close circles was not even on my mind before my husband kindly woke me up to some realities. Everything I give, I am taking away from us. Every moment I put into someone else’s problems and serving others, I am taking away from serving us. Every ounce of energy spent on others is not spent on us, bettering our lives. And quite frankly, to me, our life ought to matter more than the life of anyone else.
And what about the people I thought I was helping?
Well, when someone comes to talk to me about their problematic love life and issues with their significant other or anyone else for that matter, they are not doing it with the person that they should be doing it with. Giving hours upon hours to make people feel good about themselves, taking on problems I have no place taking on… People, don’t be doing this to your spouses or yourselves. It is a relationship wrecker if you can’t muster up the courage to talk to the person you have the issues with, to begin with!
Be kind, first to yourself. Then to your loved ones, and after that start seeing if it is your place to be showing all that generosity to the world outside your sphere. Take care of yourself first, as per the infamous airplane instructions, and only after your life is in order start humoring thoughts about being that righteous savior for everyone else.
Shining our light on people can make us feel amazing, but we have to keep in mind who we are shining it on. Does this person truly need, deserve, or even want our light in their life? Will this light ever shine back? I dare say, the ones that truly deserve our charity, kindness, and light are the ones that share our everyday life with us. Our husbands and wives. Our family. And only after we have given our all to them can we honestly start being philanthropists and go on that egotistical journey of charity.