One of the most challenging things for me on my journey into myself is letting go of control of any part of what I consider my “responsibilities.” I’m not just talking about my hygiene (thankfully) or my diet or my physical activity, I’m talking about things that no one said were my responsibility because they aren’t. What I’m talking about are some of the biggest, most hypnotically influential things in my life: other people’s happiness, other people’s satisfaction, and other people’s approval. I am a people pleaser. I just realized that about a year ago.
People pleasing isn’t as nice as it sounds. At least, not for the people pleaser. And maybe not for the people I try to please, I’ll have to ask them at some point. Shoot, most of them probably don’t even realize that their happiness and well-being have taken on such a big role in my psyche and that’s not their fault. Making people happy, anticipating their needs and wants and doing things just how they’d like it isn’t an altruistic act for me. I mean, I do it for the person, at the time with the sole intent of making them happy, but it gives me pleasure and I kinda expect that they’ll treat me in the same fashion. If they did a scan of my brain when I deliver something I made for one of these special people, I’m sure they’d see a flood of endorphins. So what’s the problem, then, you ask?
Well, here’s the problem: after a while, after you’ve been doing all these things and making people happy, a voice somewhere in the back of your neglected – probably the self achievement parts – of your brain says “isn’t this a little one-sided?” And THAT is when the thief of joy rears its ugly head. Comparison. You start thinking about how much you do and how “considerate” you are, how “thoughtful” and “accommodating” you are, and the seed of resentment is planted. You start – well, I should say, I start, to feel like it’s an obligation because now I’ve set this precedent and what would happen if I just stopped. Sometimes I do stop. For a while. But it is seriously an addiction.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I really like the part of me that does things for people I care about, I really do. It’s just that I think I’ve been doing it wrong or I’m missing a step somewhere. Sometimes I think it might be that the people I’m doing these things for maybe aren’t the right ones to have in my life. That last thought scares me. This was a big part of why I quit my job. Speaking of jobs…
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” Steve Jobs
The Fear monster is back and bigger than ever because that’s doable for work, but I can’t as easily quit my life. Can I?
Sometimes I think it’s just the way I was raised, because my mom always has something she saw that she thinks I’d like, same goes for my sisters, and I hear similar complaints from them, from time to time, about other people not appreciating the consideration and thoughtfulness that’s lavished on them. So maybe it is us. But what should I do about it?
With my job, I told myself that I was not going to change that about myself. I wasn’t not going to do the best I could for my next work team, even though it hadn’t worked out for me at the last place. I like that part of me; the part of me that figures things out and is the first to raise her hand. So what if people call me teacher’s pet behind my back. They stop snickering when I do the same thing for them that I do for my boss. It’s not about who I do it for on the team, at work, for me, it’s about the team and my being a valued member. So I told myself that I would find a place that would appreciate my commitment to the team and my efforts towards our shared success. I mean, you know what team stands for, right?
See, I never cared about recognition from the corporate level, or what my title was, or even how much I got paid – it was nice, don’t get me wrong, but not my motivation. My motivation was being a valued contributing team member.
With my life, it’s a little more…delicate. In arguments, it’s been pointed out to me that the person didn’t know I cared that much, didn’t realize that it meant that much to me, and I remember thinking, “what? Don’t you know anything about me?” And maybe they didn’t and don’t, but who’s responsibility is that? To convey my true feelings and what I want? Oh, wait, that would be me. But I thought I did? See, I think my mind tells me that by doing things for others, it shows them how you want to be treated, but what I’m still trying to reconcile myself to, is the fact that my language of love is specific to my family. In order to teach someone my language, well, first they have to know what language that is, then they have to want to learn it, then I have to be patient while they create their own dialect; one that not only speaks to my heart, but that speaks to theirs. And the final step, I think is that they teach me that dialect. Well, that’s my hypothesis, I’m still in the trial run stage of it. Wish me luck 🙂
XO – K