Wanting to be liked is a biological imperative. Our bodies are wired to warn us if we aren’t being likable, because in the times of the wandering tribes of hunter/gatherers, being ostracized from your group could mean dying alone in the wilderness. Today, clearly no one is going to die alone in the wilderness due to the rejection of our peers. However, those fail safes are biologically encoded, which is what makes people-pleasing feel so good at the moment (less and less so later).
People-pleasing was something that I struggled with, particularly in my late teens. While it definitely includes the behaviors that immediately come to mind, like always saying ‘yes’ or always putting the needs of others before your own, it can be more insidious. For example, I like people to feel comfortable; most of us do. So, when a colleague felt threatened by me and started acting in ways not usual to her natural behavior, I made myself smaller to make her feel okay. My thinking process was, I’m clear. If this person feels so threatened, my making her feel bigger didn’t change who I was or how I felt about myself.
Or so I thought at the time anyway.
My people-pleasing resurfaced years after I thought that I’d successfully overcome the tendency. I know how it happened – I felt very judged by several people in my life simultaneously. I was aware of what I was doing and at the time I thought the sacrifice that I was making was beneficial in the big picture. Maybe if they didn’t notice me they would stop talking about me. What I didn’t anticipate was waking up most days feeling sad and depressed. Certainly there were more factors involved, but making myself small and hiding my true self was making me lose sight of who I was. I realized when you stop manifesting and trying to discover what your potential is, you start to lose sight of it all together.
When people feel envy it’s an uncomfortable feeling and to dispel this they have two options:
- They can change.
- Decide the person they envy needs to change.
It’s so much easier to decide that other people need to change. By deciding there is something wrong with that person, then I can feel better about myself. Awful sounding, isn’t it? We don’t do this because we are bad people, in fact most people don’t realize they are doing it at all. Our judgments don’t feel all that powerful when we make them about other people, but I know each of us can vividly recall instances of feeling judgment from others. And it is distinctly unpleasant. My coping response was to make myself smaller, to elicit less judgment. Not only did it not work, it left me feeling sad and lost.
I had a major paradigm shift and here is what I’ve come to know:
- I will create my life on my own terms.
- If people are uncomfortable with who I am, that’s not on me, and how they choose to behave because of their feelings is on them.
- I will speak the truth, my truth.
- If I need to talk about something, I will.
Thought Into Action
Think of someone that you’ve judged in the past. Now analyze that emotion, did it come from a place of envy and did judging them make you feel better? I know it’s an uncomfortable exercise, but until we can look our worst characteristics in the eye, they will persist.