At the risk of sounding slightly haughty, I will go on record saying what I learned about myself this year is that authenticity and integrity matter more than being liked. I am a people pleaser and always have been. When I was a child, getting a good grade on a test was a drug to me – I got to go home and tell my parents “I got an A!” and then enjoy the wash of praise lavished over me. As I got older, I learned that I wasn’t going to be the most popular girl, or the most athletic girl, or the most anything girl really, so I tried to be the best at fitting in wherever I was. With this approach I was perceived as a good listener, a good advice giver, whatever the situation required. This all worked rather well when I was responsible only for myself because ultimately, if everyone else was happy I was happy.
This strategy falls apart dramatically when you add people into your life in a permanent way – spouses, children, employers, etc. You learn pretty quickly that you can’t actually please everyone and that in trying you never please yourself. Ultimately people pleasers like me end up with a huge sense of cognitive dissonance – the world does not work the way you have modeled it in your head and you lose track of who you really are, what you really want, what your own personal interests are and ultimately, you end up unhappy, anxious, depressed or worse.
This year I have spent some time focusing on who I am, what I want, and what this might mean to my people-pleasing self and the people I have pleased in the past. I can’t say I have answers to how to reconcile the woman I am becoming with the woman everyone knows, but I at least have a stake in the ground knowing that when I am putting myself last, I am actually doing a disservice to everyone I think I might be trying to please.
Going forward? I can’t honestly say as this evolution of my outlook on life is taking some time to unfold. At a minimum I can say I will include myself on the list of people I try to please.