People Pleasing: Virtue or vice?
In social situations, when the chips are down and I feel under pressure to perform, people pleasing is my go to strategy. However, since I committed to the 365-Days-of-Self-Love challenge, that strategy and its value has been called into question. How can I love myself and not be completely myself? Although I am leaning towards scrapping this seemingly tried and true tactic, I would like to examine the role people pleasing has played in my life to see whether or not it really is worth dropping completely.
Considering the fact that I’ve used people pleasing for most of my adult life to get by in social situations, it is clear that it has served me in some way. Otherwise it would not be my default persona. I’m comfortable in my people pleaser mask, so much so that it is hard to discern the mask from the real me. There are so many advantages to being a pleasant, agreeable, and nice person. For one thing, people tend to like me. They seem at ease around me and to enjoy my company. I rarely encounter any conflict with others because I usually don’t rock the boat. It also means I can get along with a lot of different people, which makes working with me a pleasant experience. It also makes me very empathetic. I can sense what people want and I immediately give them what they want.
Despite these advantages, there is a dark side to people pleasing. One thing that leaves me feeling icky is the fact that as a people pleaser, I have no real loyalty. I tend to agree with the person with the strongest opinion in the group regardless of whether I believe they are right or wrong. In fact, so strong is my desire to please that I often convince myself that I agree with whomever I happen to align myself at the time. I think this makes me unreliable, which is not something I want to be. Another disadvantage of people pleasing is that I cannot have deep meaningful relationships with others. Almost all of my friendships are superficial and that is because I rarely show more than just one aspect of myself-the people pleaser. At the same time, it is not only the people around me who do not get to know the real me, but I am also at a loss as to who I really am and what I really want and need. As I mentioned before, I wear the mask so often that I don’t know if that part of me isn’t the real me.
The most damaging thing that people pleasing does is it sends the message that I am not good enough. It reaffirms the harmful core belief that I must be perfect to be loved. If I believe that I have to be someone else to receive love and attention then I will always be reluctant to be authentic. Although pleasing people protects me from being hurt or rejected, it also prevents me from connecting with people on a deeper level. More importantly, it also prevents me from connecting with myself.
I imagine that having been in the habit of pleasing others and putting others’ needs before my own, it will be difficult to truly retire this aspect of myself. I am not that sure I want to completely leave her behind. She has some really great qualities. As an advisor, she’s great, but as a leader, she’s too myopic. If I am ever going to truly experience life, then I have got to stop being a player on a stage. There is so much more to me than a pleasant smile. The question is am I ready to share the with the world? Am I ready to be me and reflect all the aspects of myself including the ones I have deemed unlovable?
I honestly don’t know, and the thought of putting myself out there and showing my not so pleasant aspects scares me. However, in order to experience love and acceptance for who I am, I’ve got to love and appreciate myself no matter what mood I am in. Part of loving myself is being authentic, and embracing those parts of myself I abandon every time I favor my people pleaser over every other aspect of myself. It’s what someone who loved themselves would do, so it is something that I will do from now on.