“Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Success, popularity, and power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection. When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap, however, is self-rejection. As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, “Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody.” … [My dark side says,] I am no good… I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved.” Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.” ~ Henri J.M. Nouwen (one of my favorite authors)
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” ~Steve Jobs
For those of you non people-pleasers out there, I’d like to introduce you to a very unfortunate lot of some pretty great people who don’t realize just how great they are…the people pleasers. You may be related to one, you may work with one, you may be married to one, but I can guarantee that you have at least one in your life. You can recognize these sorry chaps by some of their distinguishing qualities of…drum roll…people pleasing! This takes many forms, but translates to people that are friendly, outgoing, easily liked, helpful, supportive and are generous with their time and energy. They’ll usually be smiling and will be encouraging and fun to be around. They’ll also be the first to volunteer when needed, and they’ll be the ones to keep the peace in families and at work. Most of them are talented, creative, loyal, gregarious, encouraging, warm, popular, and seem to have it all “together.” You may be asking yourself how all of these traits could be in any one person, and why in the world it would be a bad thing?
People pleasers crave and can even be addicted to attention and positive feedback from other people – it’s like a drug to them – and they will do whatever it takes to get another hit. And just like drug addicts, their own inward health and mental well being are the true victims that suffer quiet atrophy from perpetual neglect. While a people-pleaser will go to the ends of the earth to help other people live more fully, they slowly lose touch of their own voice and soul.
On the outside, these people are the ones other people are drawn to – they have it all. But on the inside, they are a dark, decrepit void that is dominated by fear. They fear rejection, they fear failure, they fear loss of personal identity and self worth. They feel inferior, undeserving, and not good enough. They isolate themselves and are afraid to make decisions lest it be the wrong choice. They live in a constant fear they will let others down, and constantly feel unappreciated, taken for granted, and taken advantage of. They are exhausted and run down from always trying to be perfect and make everyone else happy…which is impossible, so they always feel like a miserable failure. Is it any wonder that they suffer from low self-esteem as they ignore their personal rights and deny any personal problems? Can you begin to see why I call these people a sorry lot? They give and give from ever-depleting inner strength until there is nothing left but a carcass of what used to be a beautiful person. You may think I’m writing over-dramatically, but in my desire to help people recognize their true worth, I have experienced and witnessed this cold way of life. Many people-pleasers end up in abusive relationships because they stay around trying to please unpleasable partners. They don’t realize they have the right to demand respect and mutual, giving love, and instead they settle for being yelled at, pushed around, belittled and hurt. And the crazy thing is, they would rather remain in that state over letting the person who hurt them down or “found out” that they are not as good as they appear to the world.
It breaks my heart to see these poor, generous souls decay toward empty bitterness. They end up with no personal identity or rights. They can’t achieve personal goals or handle leadership roles because they can’t make decisive decisions or solve problems. They are immobilized by irrational beliefs and guilt of not doing enough, not pleasing enough, not accomplishing enough. They don’t trust the sincerity of others because they themselves maintain a helpful and giving façade. They often burn out both at work and at home, and they rarely have genuinely intimate relationships because they’re so guarded and scared to reveal their own vulnerabilities…but they never even give themselves permission to be on equal footing with everyone else in their life. Oh, and did I mention they can’t relax and can rarely enjoy themselves? It’s criminal!
Now I turn my attention to you people-pleasers that might be reading this. This is a dismal life path you are choosing – and make no mistake, you choose it each and every day. You will continue to choose it until you comprehend the true, immeasurable value of the treasured soul in you that you continue to ignore, neglect and abuse. You may get some mini high off helping others, or you may not be able to stop yourself from being the one to break uncomfortable silences and inject yourself into fights to smooth tensions. But you either strengthen or weaken yourself with every word and every act, and if you continue on this people-pleasing trail you are on, you will end up bitter, empty and withered. You will hate everyone you’ve “sacrificed” for because they willingly took your time, your help, your love, and your energy over the years, and you will never understand that they didn’t do this to you – you did. Here are some hard truths for you to swallow: you don’t need to be liked by everyone, people do no like you in proportion to how much you give them, you’re allowed to upset other people, you are not responsible for other peoples’ happiness, you are allowed to make mistakes, there is strength in vulnerability, it’s who you are and not what you do that counts, and hardest to believe of all, you please people simply by BEING YOU. What’s more, IT’S OK NOT TO BE LIKED BY PEOPLE. I should also add that you don’t need to be understanding or tolerant of people who hurt you.
It is imperative that we be our own champion – we need to be in our own corner of the ring rooting and standing up for ourselves. But right now you are in someone else’s corner – be it your spouse, your boss, your friends, and absurdly enough even total strangers. I’ve spent over three decades being in that other corner, and the universe has started to teach me a thing or two about the value of loving, knowing, and standing up for myself. The wonderful news is that in your “disease to please,” you have cultivated some very great traits if they can be used from a healthy place. If you can understand that you are actually beautiful, then you can give to others from a genuine place of love and concern. If you see yourself as worthy, you won’t need to get approval and affirmation from others through your deeds – and instead you can give for the sake of giving and let it restore your reserve instead of empty it.
Stop putting yourself last and realize that you serve the world best not through your littleness, but through your living fully. Set your own boundaries and say NO MORE to being the best doormat around. Your worth does not come from your deeds or from how liked you are – it is an intrinsic quality already present in you. Cut yourself some slack and let go of this unquenchable need to be seen as perfect. Can you imagine how much energy you could save yourself? That’s energy that could be used toward actually living a full and healthy life…and maybe for once, you could relax and enjoy yourself!
“Social chameleons, though, don’t mind in the least saying one thing and doing another, if that will win them social approval. They simply live with the discrepancy between their public face and their private reality.” ~Daniel Goleman
“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” ~Dr. Suess
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” ~Oscar Wilde
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ~Marianne Williamson
This blog is dedicated to my very beautiful friend, Miranda. I hope you can come to see how incredible you are!
Resources I used to write this blog:
“This is an important lesson to remember when you’re having a bad day, a bad month, or a shitty year. Things will change: you won’t feel this way forever. And anyway, sometimes the hardest lessons to learn are the ones your soul needs most. I believe you can’t feel real joy unless you’ve felt heartache. You can’t have a sense of victory unless you know what it means to fail. You can’t know what it’s like to feel holy until you know what it’s like to feel really fucking evil. And you can’t be birthed again until you’ve died.” ~Kelly Cutrone
I’ve always been of the opinion that there are certain life lessons we must learn, and until we learn them, they will keep popping back up in our lives until we get it right. Then and only then can we move on to the next lesson or set of lessons. I’m not sure if this is a hierarchy of life lessons – if certain lessons need to be learned before others – or if each set is different for each person. It seems that we can learn multiple lessons at once – unless I’m just unusually trusted by the universe which I highly doubt – but these pesky little lessons absolutely will not go away until you score a high enough grade of understanding. Even when we lapse and mess up and make embarrassing mistakes that make us want to burry our heads in the sand, I sense that’s all part of the giant Life Lesson – and it’s not going backwards at all – just finding a different path forward.
I’ve also always been of the opinion that our talents were meant for the benefit of others, while our weaknesses were meant to allow others to help us through their talents – like a puzzle – where our talents and skills is the part of the puzzle piece sticking out which fits into another puzzle piece’s (person’s) cavity or void or shortcoming…so that in the end we’re all one big puzzle together…or as the Bible says a little more eloquently, one body. But that’s another blog entirely!
Lessons I’ve learned in the past: (pretty much in the order they were learned)
Lessons I’m learning now:
I found the below insert from an online search, and interestingly enough, it talks about the very concept of life lessons I’ve always imagined…
10 Rules for Being Human by Cherie Carter-Scott
1. You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it’s yours to keep for the entire period.
2. You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called, “life.”
3. There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial, error, and experimentation. The “failed” experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiments that ultimately “work.”
4. Lessons are repeated until they are learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can go on to the next lesson.
5. Learning lessons does not end. There’s no part of life that doesn’t contain its lessons. If you’re alive, that means there are still lessons to be learned.
6. “There” is no better a place than “here.” When your “there” has become a “here”, you will simply obtain another “there” that will again look better than “here.”
7. Other people are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects to you something you love or hate about yourself.
8. What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.
9. Your answers lie within you. The answers to life’s questions lie within you. All you need to do is look, listen, and trust.
10. You will forget all this.
“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy…I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.” ~Art Williams
1. Wealth without work
2. Pleasure without conscience
3. Knowledge without character
4. Commerce without morality
5. Science without humanity
6. Worship without sacrifice
7. Politics without principle
The Seven Blunders of the World is a list that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi gave to his grandson Arun Gandhi, written on a piece of paper, on their final day together, shortly before his assassination in 1948. Gandhi called these acts of “passive violence,” and said that preventing these is the best way to prevent one’s self and society from reaching a point of violence.
Survival tools for life: Optimism, appreciation, faith, hope, belief, love. We can cherish them and use them, or keep them tucked in our tool belts and be tools ourselves. Bad joke, sorry.
But seriously, you know what’s not in the survival tool belt? Negative self-talk, doubt, and pessimism…trust me, I’ve checked. So stop telling yourself that you’re incapable or ugly or that you would be prettier if you lost another 5 or 10 pounds. Stop feeding yourself this endless negative monologue of “if onlys.” Stop telling yourself that you’re worth less than you actually are, and above all, stop believing it! You are your biggest cheerleader, and you’re cheering for some other team…namely the waify airbrushed models and celebrities in Us Weekly that you just saw in the grocery store aisle. How much power those unknowing models have over millions of women in grocery store aisles each week! Well, I’m sure they have some idea of their power, or they wouldn’t be starving themselves for a living.
You bring wonderful and amazing gifts to the table each and every day. My friend who called me this morning was weary but trying to keep a smile on her face for her kids so they don’t see the worry over money problems that is beneath the surface. She is a great mom and wife, and doing the absolute best with what she has. How disturbing it is to think about hard working moms and women like her who doubt themselves for one second because they feel they somehow don’t measure up to what the media and society says they should be?
That negative self-talk can be more caustic to a woman’s health and well-being than disease or drugs or anything destructive in nature…ok at least on par. That internal stress actually impairs a person’s health…but this is constant internal stress, so the damage is ongoing and never-ending. It kills me to see bright, beautiful women think less of themselves because someone else tells them to think it.
Stop shrinking inside of yourself and letting your light get dimmer with time. Put down the magazine, take a good, hard look in the mirror at the miracle that you are, and go out and live brightly, fully and unabashed in your own skin. You are great, but no one will see that until you yell out to the world, “I’m gonna show you how great I am!” (Muhammad Ali said that in a press conference before a fight when he was coming in as the underdog in 1974…he won.) It’s his voice you hear in the video below. I realize it also has the Rocky quote again, but you can’t hear that enough!
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ~Marianne Williamson, Return to Love
― Mother Teresa
There’s a woman in my life that I didn’t care too much for. From day one, she rubbed me the wrong way and I kept a cold distance from her. She acted as if she was above the law, talked meanly about other people, name-dropped (one of my big pet peeves), and dressed in really skimpy clothes…which doesn’t really bug me but I’m trying to think of things to add to her bad list. She seemed to lack all of the qualities I admire most in people – warmth, compassion, friendliness, acceptance and being down to earth. I wasn’t mean to her, but I certainly wasn’t any of those qualities I just listed to her either.
Then I something happened that changed my mind. I overheard her talking about herself and her life. She’d been through multiple divorces, and was now trying her best to put herself through school so she could stand on her own and make a new life for herself. With that insight, I saw her as a human being doing her best, and the rest didn’t really matter anymore. Maybe it’s a cover – maybe she puts on a tough bitchy face to make herself seem less vulnerable. Maybe she’s still in a lot of inner pain and drowns it out by cutting off emotion to other people. Whatever it is, all of her caddy stuff suddenly looked like surface, exterior fluff. Those annoying things weren’t her. Once I saw a glimpse of her humanity – the person behind the symptoms – I saw her through different eyes – with compassion.
The whole thing made me think about how quick we are to judge other people strictly based on the outer fluff stuff. Maybe not everyone judges, but it is certainly a vice of mine. I’m an analyst, I’m paid to make assessments and judgments, and I let it spill over way too disproportionately into the real world. But quick judgments are the reason reality shows thrive – because the people seem so ridiculously stereotypical that we can’t believe they’re real, but can’t look away either. The bitchy housewife, the machismo guido, the trashy hoarder (no pun intented), the street thug…we actually enjoy making snap judgements on them. But I digress because those are just masks.
It’s finding the humanity in other people – all people – that’s the challenge. If I stop and catch myself before I put a relative stranger into a superficial category in my mind, and see them for a human being with challenges and bucket lists and heartbreak and victories, then their depth reveals itself and compassion comes easily. Now it’s time to put theory to practice!