I’ve spent my life perfecting the fine art of people-pleasing.
When my kiddos were babies and we would go to a restaurant, you could find me crawling under the table, picking up dropped food with my hands before we left. Never mind that I was on all fours in a restaurant; I couldn’t leave the floor messy. What would the restaurant staff think of me? What would the neighboring diners think?
The one time I chose to leave the four or five piles of crumbs (and only because I was wearing a skirt), I looked back at the table, and my mother was crouched down, picking up the tortilla chips. Apple. Tree.
It might seem considerate, but it’s insane. Restaurants have brooms and mops; I was using my hands! My 60-something mother was then using her's. Not that I didn’t think about bringing a portable broom and dustpan in my diaper bag. (Totally did.) But why did I not have the moving-on gene—where I could tip the waitstaff well, leave a “thank you and sorry we’re so messy” note, and be just fine? It was not in my DNA.
How many of us are spending our time people-pleasing? Texting people we don’t even like? Bending over backward to impress people who are sucking the literal energy out of us?
'What is this people-pleasing costing me?'
People-pleasing can be summarized as putting the needs (actual or emotional—or both) of others above your own—in a habitual or neurotic manner. And it doesn’t necessarily matter who the people are. For example, you might not even like the people you are pleasing. Hence, the neurotic manner.
Learning about our people-pleasing tendencies (no matter how hard it may be to admit) is a special type of freedom. The way we try to please people says more about ourselves than anything else. Chances are we are not dealing with our own fears and destructive habits.
Once we recognize the people-pleasing tendencies, we can then begin to ask the questions: Why am I trying to please this person? What does it matter? What is this people-pleasing costing me? What do I truly want?
Of course, a desire to make your boss, family, and other people proud is a natural tendency. We want love and acceptance—that is not a bad thing, of course. But looking for this love and acceptance from strangers by crawling around under a table, picking up crumbs?
That, my friends, is total nonsense.
Meredith Atwood (@SwimBikeMom) is a former attorney, speaker, and author of the book, "The Year of No Nonsense: How to Get Over Yourself and On with Your Life." She writes at www.MeredithAtwood.com. This is an excerpt from her book.