I feel like this is some kind of 4pm slump Buzzfeed article. You know, one of those that try to change your life with deep, meaningful posts that you tend to forget about once you take that quiz on ‘What IKEA furniture are you?’
I promise it won’t be like that.
I wrote this piece last year to air my own grievances (which may be considered an immature reason to write such a post in the first place, especially one that deals with a topic like this) for the simple reason that I don’t believe that one’s anger and frustration should interfere when offering advice.
I am genuinely interested though as to why we go out of our way to please people who simply do not care? Why do we pay someone so much attention when we receive very little in return? Why do we go out of our way to appease people who constantly put us down?
There’s nothing categorically wrong with pleasing people. It’s a part of the push and pull of human interaction, relationships, and life but when we take it too far, it can be mentally destructive.
I can only speak for myself here but I think my desire to please other people comes from the desperate desire to be liked. If someone who I don’t know that well ignores me, I think “they must be important”, which pushes me to think that I have to be somewhat ‘accepted’. Similarly, if someone who I know rather well suddenly doesn’t talk, I immediately believe that I have done something wrong. Similarly, we might do it because we feel as though we have something to prove to ourselves. As in, if we make X amount of friends, we’ll have “made it”. Or if I do Y amount of things for people, they’ll definitely do the same for me. Not always true. I know for most of us though, it’s a sign of insecurity and low self-esteem. If we please people, they will like us, which automatically makes us a better person. Definitely not true.
For me, the cycle starts like this. Someone I see as “important” doesn’t give me attention, then starts of trying hard to get a response from them, anything, that makes me feel like I’ve gained their trust. I waste a lot of energy trying to please them. The more they don’t respond and go about their daily lives, the more frustrated I become, the more I think it’s because of me, that there’s something wrong with me, or that I’m not good enough, or that I’ve done something wrong and the negativity spiral just unwinds and you slowly begin to think that you’re not worth it. Eventually we’re left with one person with a destroyed sense of self-esteem and the other really, really pissed off. Catastrophising.
People can ignore you for any reason. Most times, it’s because they are occupied and you don’t enter their realm at all. You are not the centre of everyone’s universe. Sometimes, they might just not feel like talking to you, or they themselves have an issue with their own self-esteem. Or maybe you’re just a horrible person. But nine times out of ten, they are not doing it on purpose. Yet we take it heart so badly.
Same thing goes again if you’re trying to please someone to the point that they begin to use you. This is especially true in a work ethic sense. The more you get a response from someone you admire, ie, boss, supervisor, team leader, the more you will want to please them and leave yourself open for exploitation. Do your job by all means but recognise when your desire to leave a good impression results to very little return. You just end up making one person feel very powerful and leaving yourself devoid of any real sense of yourself.
As this is an issue I’ve been dealing with a lot lately, I have been thinking of ways to try to rely on other’s approval less, especially among your peers.
- The most important person is you. Not that person you see as higher up in the hierarchy, not that ‘it’ girl that everyone wants to be, or that guy who you like but won’t call you back. You. You are equal to everyone else. You do what you need to do to please you. Great if that standard hits the same standard as someone else but don’t do things purely to please other people. It gives them power.
- Your sole worth isn’t based on someone’s opinion of you. That person who thinks they’re too important for you, they don’t matter and neither does their opinion. It takes a cruel person to think they’re too good to talk to someone based on an initial interaction, never judge a book by its cover and all that. So if you don’t please someone and they discuss you in a less than pleasing light, take no notice. Your actions of not grovelling to them says a lot more about you than the off-handed comments the say when they’re pissed off.
- No one is worth the hassle. If someone doesn’t respond, don’t push it. Good people come around in their own time.Very often, if they don’t reciprocate, they’re just not worth it. No person is worth mentally destroying yourself over. Period.
- Be aloof. Okay, not advocating being rude here but the best way to get people’s attention is to simply not look for it. Turn the tables on yourself. People will come to you when you don’t try hard and if you respond appropriately, the right kind of relationship can develop.
- Don’t compromise on yourself. Easy. Don’t sell yourself short because you feel that’s the only way to ‘get in’. It’s like when girls were once told to play dumb to get men. It’s archaic and not in any way positive for your mental health. If you really need to please someone like an employer, do your job but please don’t be anything other than yourself or put yourself to fit an ideal. A little modesty is good but too much makes you look desperate.