Why People Pleasing Doesn’t Work

by Dan on August 26, 2009

Most articles on this topic will tell you something along the lines of “Be yourself; it doesn’t matter what other people think.”

Maybe you’ll hear “If you put others before yourself, you’ll never be happy.”

I’m here to tell you something new.  Stop people-pleasing because it doesn’t work.

You don’t please people by trying to please them.  You don’t get people’s approval by seeking their approval.

This is because you can’t attempt to win over someone without exposing that the other person is more important or valuable than you.  It’s possible to trick someone for a short period of time, but it always comes out eventually that you’re dependent on that other person’s responses to feel good about yourself.

In general, people would rather hang out with someone they respect than someone who will agree with them or do them favors, even if this means that certain shared commonalities and benefits are lost along the way.

The paradox is that once you realize that people-pleasing doesn’t really “please” anybody, you seeking approval by not seeking it.

This is natural, and the paradox resolves itself.

The quickest way to balance this contradiction out is to recognize that you don’t actually need anyone in particular to like you. This may be hard to swallow at first, but absolutely everyone in your life is replaceable.

Whatever you’re getting from someone, be it love, comfort, a decent social life, or sex, you can find it elsewhere.  When you’re confident that you are dependent on no one, then two things happen.  First, opportunities open up for you to meet more people, get better business results, and get invited to more places.

Secondly, the people you were previously trying to please will automatically pick up on the fact that you’re a man or woman of many options, and that if they want to continue to hang out with you, they will have to treat you in the way you expect.

Another thing to recognize is that there will always be people who dislike you no matter what you do.  Pick your favorite self-improvement speaker, and enter into Google “<speaker’s name> and rick ross.”  You’ll see a bunch of forum posts declaring the speaker or author to be the leader of a cult who must be stopped.

Even on the smallest personal level, these critics exist, so don’t think you can escape criticism by not sticking your head out.  If you’re friendly, some people will call you fake or slutty.  If you’re shy, some people will call you rude and creepy.  There’s no way out of it, and that’s fine.

Once you accept that being disliked (as well as unconditionally loved), is a constant of life, you are much more liberated to be yourself.  There will always be people who love you, and people who hate you.  Too often we assume the people who love us “don’t count,” and that it’s our critics who are important to win over.

If you’re a people-pleaser, try this exercise.  Next time you go to a party, a bar, or even a mall, look around you.  Ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that would happen if everyone here hated me?”

Then ask yourself, “What would happen if everyone here really liked me?”

Then consider what tomorrow morning would be like for you in either case.  Both scenarios are very likely to be the same.  If your Starbucks barista loves you, your life will go on.  If a lady on the freeway flips you off, your life will go on.

Similarly, if you make an amazing impression at a party, it’s just one night, and your standing with the crowd is not solidified whatsoever.  Things could change overnight.  If you make a total joke out of yourself, people will forget the incident if you forget it.  It sounds like a leap of faith, but try it out in your own life.  You’ll be amazed with the results.

Even with friends, if you lose one, you still have the rest.  If you lose all of them, you’ll get more.  If you put out a positive and confident vibe out, there will always be people who want to hang out with you.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Alex September 25, 2009 at 2:21 pm


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