You can’t make everyone happy. So stop trying and start LIVING.

It might be the double latte talking, but I’m totally fired up right now; I want to shake my people-pleaser self, look her in the eyes and tell her to STOP.

STOP TRYING TO MAKE EVERYONE HAPPY ALL THE TIME!!

You can either go (emotionally) broke running around trying to please everyone, or you can spend your time creating, living and being AUTHENTIC to your own needs and desires. This is not new information — I’m sure countless blog posts exist on this topic (including my own Stop Auditioning for Other People’s Lives), but it’s time for a reminder.

This post is a letter to myself. Believe me — I am not up on a high horse…I am laying underneath one about to get trampled if I don’t turn this issue around! This post is also dedicated to any other “givers” out there (or Type 2/3 Enneagrams) who naturally get satisfaction from giving and making others happy.

A people-pleaser gets her wings

It started in Elementary School. I was a quiet, shy, fringe girl. I wore spandex shorts, baggy t-shirts, and Doc Martens. I wasn’t the pretty one or the popular one, but thankfully by third grade I had landed on a solid group of friends. Or so I thought.

We ate lunches together for months until one day they stopped talking to me and started pointing and laughing instead. Turns out the ring-leader of the group had bribed them all to STOP being my friend, but only after ALSO bribing them to entrap me into gossiping about her behind her back so she could later use it against me. “We never liked you, anyway” they all cackled during the lunch break in which they revealed the whole scheme.

From that day forward, I think I subconsciously decided to make it my life’s mission to never give someone a reason to turn on me. To impress, charm, please and befriend everyone I could so that I would never hear those dreaded words again; so I’d never have to watch my friends turn their backs on me (or stab me in mine).

Combine that with an ENFJ personality type that thrives on helping, teaching and serving others, and well — we are ripe for a major approval-seeking vulnerability!

It shows up in the pettiest, stupidest ways . . . all the way to much bigger fears and insecurities:

  • Worrying sometimes that if I don’t reply to every tweet, blog comment or email that people will never write again…or worse, decide they dislike me because they interpret my non-responsiveness as bitchy
  • Worrying that if I don’t say yes to all plans/requests or have a “good reason” for saying no, that I will massively offend the person asking (even if I have no energy to do said thing and would probably be a drag anyway)
  • When I haven’t heard back from someone, wondering if I’ve done something to anger or offend, then over-analyzing until I do get some sort of sign that they don’t hate me
  • Accepting less-than-ideal behavior from people I date because I don’t want to rock-the-boat by speaking up (even though when I do, I ALWAYS feel better)
  • Wondering, after some social interactions, if I’ve “met expectations” or not — and have been cheerful/happy/engaged enough, or if I’ve disappointed the other person
  • Generally being way more lenient and understanding with others than I am with myself

The wake-up call

Although I’ve been making a great deal of progress over the years, I continue to learn the following lessons:

  • People-pleasing is exhausting. It is inauthentic. It means placing everyone else’s needs above your own.
  • You cannot make everyone happy all of the time, and it is futile to try.
  • You have two choices: you can spend your time worrying about other people, or you can bravely follow your own wants and needs.
  • The universe rewards backbone.
  • IT PAYS OFF to stick up for yourself, to say the hard truth, and to make the hard choices about where to spend your time and attention.
  • It pays off in sanity. Ease. Lightness. Sense of self. Confidence. Clarity. And cajones.
  • You are no good to anyone if you run yourself ragged trying to please everyone.
  • Start with yourself so that you can give back (with gusto!) to those in your life who are worthy of your precious time, love and attention.

How to turn your attention inward:

  • Author Brene Brown suggests making a list of five Most Important People: “the short list” — of those who really matter in your life, or as she puts it, “would help you move a body.” Keep that list in your wallet, and when you ruffle feathers or do something that invites “haters” out to play, ask yourself what the people on your short list would say. If they’re on board, not much else matters.
  • In her book, Steering by Starlight, Martha Beck suggests using a “shackles on” versus “shackles off” approach. Does this request/person/action weigh you down and feel tiresome or draining? Or does it feel exciting, energizing and uplifting? Whenever possible, make decisions based on the latter. Homework: over the course of the next week, ask yourself whether things feel shackles on or shackles off BEFORE making decisions.
  • Free E-course by Martha Beck Certified Coach Amy Pearson called “I Don’t Need Your Approval.”  Pearson lists six steps for overcoming approval addiction: mindfulness, compassion, analysis, courage, vigilance and “enjoy!”

***

How do you scale back when you realize you’re people-pleasing or worrying too much about what others think? How do you reframe fear of rejection or the fear of letting people down? 

  • Mona

    wow amazing so true! i feel like i am a people’s pleaser and I always look out for others and not myself. thank you!

  • http://www.mlquotes.com/ ML Quotes

    There’s a person I know that sometimes complains about feeling down/a bit depressed, even if she spends time with her friends, family, have a good job, etc…

    But thinking about her, I think she’s feeling like this because she does exactly what you describe here…trying to please everybody. It’s a non-ending cycle.

    Great post! Loved it!

  • Pingback: Inner Critic Incarnate: 6 Important Lessons From Negative Reviews (Hint: They Don’t Kill You!) — Life After College by Jenny Blake()

  • Jason

    To a point I agree with this but, I say part of what is wrong with this world is not enough people care about one another. Everyone is out there for themselves!!

  • Yara

    hey you don’t need to reply lol but this article is legit to my life now. I just came back from a 4 hour morning walk trying to put things together and crying because of some emotional rollercaster ive been on for the last two years. its about this.

  • Suzie

    Just found this…and you described me exactly! Thank you for your insight!

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  • Angelene S.

    I was feeling really crappy today but this really brought my spirits up, along with doing some self-reflection and relaxing for a bit. Thanks for writing this wonderful article!

    • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org jennyblake

      Aw, I’m so happy to hear that Angelene! Thanks for taking the time to stop by and comment. And amazing that you were able to carve out some self-reflection and relaxation time for yourself — I find that always helps tremendously too!

  • http://www.facebook.com/denise.lafferty.353 Denise Lafferty

    THIS is me! And makes me so sad! Cannot stand up for myself or want to disappoint anyone!!!!!! hate this feeling, always taking care of other!!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jampa.wang Jampa Wang

    It is really true I am experience it right now.

  • Saima

    Jenny! You are God-sent(said the non-believer). I stumbled upon your blog looking for information on Bali and I am hooked. You seem to have articulated my life’s woes and answered/brought forth all my fears. I am not sure if I am any wiser or any more equipped to take on the world with my flawed self. However, I do feel not alone anymore. Knowing you (through your writing) lends to my sense of self and sanity. I guess, what I am saying in a very long-winded way is – Thank you!

    • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org jennyblake

      Wow, thank you so much Saima, that makes my weekend! I am thrilled to hear that my work has resonated with you in such a powerful way…you are definitely not alone in your fears! That means you are human…and onto something big and juicy :) Counterintuitive as it may seem at times, that’s actually where the good stuff and biggest lessons live :) Thank you for reading, watching and taking the time to leave a comment!

  • Chairman meow

    Story of my life.

  • ejbsinging

    Dearest Jen,

    I cannot tell you how timely things seem to happen. I came across this blog in the middle of what seems to be the most difficult time in my life. Growing up in a dysfunctional home i know what it is to want to please and make everyone happy. the moment anyone realized that my home was jacked it was time to make them my best friend to secure that my secret was safe. I have lived my life feeling and thinking this. Make everyone happy because in turn i will somehow earn or buy they’re love because i don’t honestly believe i deserve it. (can anyone tell ive been to therapy lol) i am an adult now finally grasping this idea of “Hey why am i not first priority on my list of priorities” why do i sell myself cheap to please everyone else and no one is in my corner. I was accepted into a college and my spouse is refusing to go with me and now i am at a cross roads. Do I stay and resent or do I go and regret- feel like there is no win in either situation. Life is crazy and i feel like you blogged about my whole life. i am becoming tired of this life and really struggling with the reason to pursue anything. But thanks for writin and being vulnerable, at least i dont feel as alone.

    EJB

    • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org jennyblake

      Hi EJB — thank you so much for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful comment. I’m so glad to hear that this posted landed at just the right time for you. I admire your resilience, awareness and commitment to moving forward in a way that feels GREAT for you. You are already turning things around in a major way!

  • test

    Thank you so much for this article. I am going through this and no matter how much I try I am not able to get out of it. I feel the need to make friends and then I talk to people. Then I feel I ve said something wrong. So i talk again and tell them about all my life!! and my problems and my mistakes!! Then I start worrying if they will discuss my stuff with others lol.. I feel like I wont be able to live if I do not get approval from others. I do not know why I am behaving like this. Its really hurting me to the point that I had to leave my job because of the overthinking and fears. I am really losing out on the fun during this beautiful phase of my life.. Oh how I wish I could change.. :'(
    People do not understand why i am behaving this way. they say I am making a big issue out of small things. I am really glad I read your blog and I now know that people do undersatnd. thank you Jenny..

  • TheMaleAvenger

    No wonder I’ve been so shy, quiet, and passive-aggressive–I worry about everyone else’s wants, needs, and feelings but my own, and it only took me until this morning to realize that, and your post has confirmed it for me.

    I feel as though a giant burden has been lifted off my shoulders. I promise to make myself happy and work hard at it.

    I thank you so much. =D

  • Asim Mehmood

    Never commented on any blog before but this is wonderful. Was searching for the same and found the best in the first shot….very nice Jenny

    • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org jennyblake

      Welcome, Asim! Honored to be your first blog comment — so thrilled that you found the post and it resonated with you!

  • Gabby

    Thank you so much for these resources! I have recently discovered that I am trying so hard to live for others more than myself and it’s come to a head in a major way. I just got Byron Katie’s book on cd so I will be listening to it on my work commutes! Thanks again :)

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    • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org jennyblake

      Spam.

  • Kaynara

    Such a great help… I am sooo tired of carrying everyone elses needs

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