Making everyone happy will make you miserable

Posted: 19 June, 2012 in Staying positive
Tags: , ,

I have spent the majority of my life as a people pleaser. I could put it down to being the oldest child and being expected to be there for my younger siblings or parents any time they needed me. I’m sure there is some kind of psychoanalytic theory that has the perfect explanation as to why people work so hard to please others. But the bottom line is this: I like doing things that make other people happy.

However, lately I’ve noticed I do have my limits. There is only so much I can give before starting to ask, “when am I going to start getting something back?”  Does that make me selfish? Probably.  But what’s so wrong with being selfish once in a while?

I have lived my life by other people’s standards, someone else’s rules, putting other people’s ideas into action, praising other people’s success and getting no credit for my role at the end of it all.  I have had to bite my tongue when giving opinions because they may be “too offensive” while listening to everyone around me freely voice their opinions on whatever comes to mind.  I am usually the first to arrive and the last to leave, just so I’m sure I get everything done.

While this part of my personality has always annoyed me it’s come up again today because I hit a landmark last night: I said “no” to a work request.  And it was wonderful!  Usually, no matter what is on my plate, I’ll say yes.   Because I can do the job asked of me. Because I want to help out.  Because I always say yes.  Last night, I said no.  I said it politely and with a smile, I didn’t make up any excuse, I just said no.  It was so liberating!

Yet you can’t imagine how guilty I have felt since.  I know that will pass because, as well as guilty, I feel so happy for taking that stand.  It was a small stand, yes, but for a people-pleaser like me it was huge.

It was also a reminder that it’s not wrong to want to want to look out for myself once in a while.  I still love helping people, and hopefully that love will never leave me, but I’ve got to help myself once in a while too.  I’m useless to everyone if I’m busy wallowing in my own little pity party because I’ve taken on too much and have no-one to help me out.

Which brings me to the second problem with us people pleasers – we never ask for help!  Even when we need it.  Especially when we need it.  So as well as taking on too much, we also feel like we have to do it all ourselves when we become snowed under.  No wonder I was so miserable for so long.

Yes, it’s definitely a good feeling to put myself first for once and really act on what I want to do, not what I think I should do. That’s my lesson for today: striving to make everyone happy will only make me miserable because it can’t be done.  I can’t please everyone.  I can, however, make a difference to my own life by recognising that pearl of wisdom.

And, trust me, the guilt for saying no doesn’t last anywhere near as long as you think.  🙂

  1. Lucia Soqui says:

    I know exactly what you mean! I’ve spent many years of my life going out of my way to help others. But eventually I got to a point where I needed to take care of myself over pleasing everyone. Thanks for posting! I love what you write about and how you articulate your thoughts.

    • RickyB says:

      Thanks so much for reading! And I agree, there is a point we get to where we have to start choosing ourselves over others. It’s like the steps you follow during a plane crash – they emphasise getting your own gas mask on as soon as possible because you’re of no use to anyone if you don’t take care of yourself first. Only then can you can start helping other people. It’s the same with us. Thank you for your kind comment.

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