The need to be liked and the fear of rejection shouldn’t determine your reality.
Being kind, generous, and flexible are wonderful qualities. But sometimes we’re too accommodating, too eager to please, and too afraid of saying “no.” There is a price to be paid for being “too nice.”
Ryan is a classic people-pleaser.
He’s been dating Jessie for two years and hopes to marry her. From the beginning, Jessie has been clear that she wants Ryan to attend church with her and finish college. Ryan isn’t particularly interested in church and isn’t even sure he believes in God, but be attends every week.
He failed his first semester of college and knows he doesn’t want to go back. Instead of telling Jessie, he makes excuses for not enrolling in classes. He’s content working construction, but exhausted with the extra weight of helping in his dad’s restaurant every weekend. Ryan’s father has always talked about wanting Ryan to take over the restaurant someday.
Ryan’s lost himself in his people-pleasing. He’s afraid to tell his dad and girlfriend what he really wants. In fact, most of the time he doesn’t even know what he really wants. So, instead of trying to figure it out, it’s easier to make his Dad and Jessie happy rather than risk their anger or disappointment.
Fear of rejection and abandonment are powerful for people-pleasers. You imagine that being less than perfect, “difficult,” or different in any way will cause people to not like you, to reject you, and prove once and for all that there is something wrong with you.
Here’s how to tell if you’re being too nice for your own good:
- You take care of everyone else’s needs before your own. You neglect yourself and put your needs last. You cancel, or don’t even plan, things that would actually replenish and make you happy like hanging out with your friends or going for a hike.
- You’re always busy. You rush from one thing to the next. You’re over committed. You’re always doing something for someone else.
- You’re overly responsible. You work hard. You don’t want to let anyone down. You drive your cousin to work when his car breaks down and cover your coworker’s shift when no one else volunteers. You pride yourself on being the “go-to guy.”
- You apologize for everything. It’s admirable to apologize when you’ve actually done something wrong. But you’re apologizing because it’s raining or because your wife didn’t put gas in the car—clearly things that you didn’t cause.
- You worry that people won’t like you. Your need to be liked is intense. The fear of rejection drives all these people-pleasing behaviors.
- You can’t say “no.” You agree to do things that you don’t really want to do, which makes you angry and fatigued.
- You judge yourself harshly. You expect perfection and nothing else will do. When you fall short, you’re degrading and mean to yourself.
- You don’t voice your own opinion, especially if it’s different than someone else’s. You’re often saying “I don’t know” because you don’t want to disagree or because you’re not even sure what you want, need, or believe.
- You feel resentful. Even though you volunteer and agree to all these commitments, you resent doing a lot of things. You do things out of obligation rather than true desire.
- You avoid conflict at all costs. Nothing makes you more uncomfortable than a potential argument. So, you stuff your feelings down inside. But problems build up (and so does anger, depression and anxiety) when you don’t address them.
- You act like a martyr. You play the victim: “My job’s so demanding. My wife has a honey-do list a mile long. My kids can’t do anything for themselves.” But you don’t do anything to change it. You crave validation and secretly want people to feel sorry for you.
- You’re tired. Really tired. It’s no surprise you’re tired with all the extra work you’re doing. But you’re also tired because you’re eating crap, staying up too late, and don’t make time to exercise.
If you’re like Ryan, your people-pleasing has gone too far. You’re a chameleon, always trying to blend in. Living in fear. Living for someone else. It’s time to take charge of your life and start finding out who you are and what you really want. It’s not selfish to dial back the people-pleasing a bit.
In the process, you just may find yourself again.
Photo: Neal Fowler/Flickr