If someone out there hates what you are doing…
If someone out there wishes you’d stop doing it…
If someone out there wishes you were dead…
Don’t stop. Whatever you’re doing, it’s working.
The evil people-pleaser
If I’m about anything, it’s trying to live with intention. I want to live a good life, and I want to share what I find along the way in the hope that it might help you live a good life too.
Well, one of the greatest obstacles I have found to living a good life is trying to please everybody all of the time.
For one, it’s impossible. You can’t, you won’t, so don’t try. But you already knew that, didn’t you? I’m preaching to the choir. What you might not have thought about, however, is this angle:
People-pleasers are actually evil. And they do not get the stick they deserve.
They often get a lot of sympathy instead. Unlike the way we treat other addicts, we justify the bad things people-pleasers do by saying they were operating with ‘good intentions.’
So what? The junkie was just trying to make himself feel better. Why don’t we give him a medal…?
The dirty truth people-pleasers don’t want you to know is the real motive behind their trying to please everyone.
They are not saints who wish to please everyone because they’re made of more saintly stuff than the rest. They are simply cowards who try to please everyone so that they don’t have to face their fear of being disliked.
And the icing on the cake is that they don’t even really end up pleasing anyone.
I should know. I’m one of them.
I’m a recovering people-pleaser
Just like how a racist will claim they can’t be a racist because they have a black friend, I feel I am allowed to be pretty nasty about people-pleasers because I am one.
And I can confirm what I said a second ago to be true – I am not a saint who wants to please everyone. I’m just terrified of displeasing them. But why?
Because – and this is my lizard brain talking – if I don’t try to please them, they might reject me. And – again, lizard brain – if they reject me, that would be awful… for some reason. So I’d better live carefully. I’d better avoid doing anything that might upset or offend. Anyone. Just in case.
Fortunately for us all, there is more to Oliver Manning than just his lizard brain. I have two more newer brains on top. And using the third one – the uniquely human neo-cortex – I can attempt to see this in a more rational light.
You know the whole fight-or-flight thing, right? Well, that’s what it boils down to, more or less, neuro-chemically.
When confronted with the thought that someone might dislike me, my survival feels threatened. This causes a surge of adrenaline. I then misread the adrenaline – the emotions it creates cause me to conclude that I must have done something wrong, or else why would this person be anything less than enamoured by everything about me?
Compulsive people-pleasing is nothing more than the fear of being rejected. Repeat this pattern enough times, and you’ll find yourself avoiding taking any actions that could possibly upset or offend anyone – real or imagined.
You’ll find yourself miserable.
There is a better way
At various times throughout my life I’ve noticed this sickness and tried to deal with it using the apathetic posture of the teenager: “I’m just going to be me and if everyone doesn’t like it, forget them!” Reject everyone before they get a chance to reject me.
But it’s a dead-end, believe me.
We live in a world where, whilst we might not need every single person on our side to survive – let alone thrive – we do need the co-operation of at least some people. And so rejecting everyone is a bit like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
So what’s the alternative?
Well, we can’t please everyone. And when we try, we end up pleasing nobody. And we can’t reject everyone – we need some people.
But we can please some people.
The smallest number possible.
The smallest number possible
When I was single, I cared a horrible amount about what women I didn’t know and would never know and wasn’t even particularly attracted to thought about me. Worse, I didn’t want to make any rash decisions that might put any of them off – if I had a haircut that was too slick, I’d put off the girls who preferred guys with messier hair, for example.
This was not a fun way to live. Nor was it a particular fruitful approach to meeting women. Bad all round.
But then I fell head over heels for Emma, and as we got to know each other more and more, I noticed that I’d stopped giving a shit at all about what any other woman in the world thought of me. I’d gone from trying to avoid – in anticipation – the rejection of millions of women I’d likely never meet, to trying to make one real woman happy.
It felt a lot better.
The point of this is not that you should find a Danish girl to marry. It’s that there’s a magic that happens when you narrow your focus, when you focus on as few people as possible.
When you try to please everybody – when you avoid rejection from anybody – you really have your work cut out for you. You’ve got to try and stay on ‘the right side’ of 7 billion people. What do you think your chances are?
Willing to be hated
The final piece to this is that whilst choosing the smallest possible number of people to focus your energies on is a great step, it’s just one half of the equation. It’s like putting your foot on the accellerator pedal whilst the handbrake is still on.
If you want the car to move, you need to release the handbrake. To do that, answer me this:
Who are you willing to be hated by?
There is no dark without light. No day without night. And no love without hate.
If you want to do anything good, anything real, anything that means anything, you are going to be opposed, perhaps violentally. The better, more real, and more meaningful that thing is, the more hate you will get. And you will drastically slow yourself down if you are always trying to avoid that hate.
Invite it instead. If you’re living right, that should upset some people. It should offend some people. Some people should be pissed off by your very existence. This is not something to be feared.
Earlier I mentioned that my big people-pleasing mistake was that I misread the signal – if someone seemed to disapprove of me, I would take it as a sign that I’d done something wrong. The confusion was that I had never defined who I was for, and who I was – by definition – against.
If I had done that, I would have known when somebody opposed me whether they were opposing me from my side or not. I could have thought “Ah, you hate what I just said. But I didn’t say it for your benefit, so that’s fine.”
Once you have defined who you are for, then you can happily ignore the judgment of every other human being in the world. Because it means nothing.
Who are you for?