Why Selflessness Never Works…
“You can’t please all the people all the time,” goes the old saying. And this year I have come full circle in a people pleasing journey that has played out my entire life. I *think* I have finally learnt my lesson. But I know I am not alone. I see it all the time. Not only has this been one of MY biggest life lessons, but it is all of our life lessons to become, drum roll… Selfish. Much, much, much more of the time.
You did hear me correctly. It’s not a figment of your imagination. The word was and very much is SELFISH. With a capital ‘S’.
When you are a martyr to others’ needs.
It is the falsest of economies. So often we sign ourselves up to do things because we allow others to manipulate, beg and plead with puppy dog eyes, guilt trip us and make us believe that we are the only ones who can save the day (their day). We get roped into all sorts of scenarios and situations, doing things ‘out of love’, because that’s just the way it is, because someone has asked and we just don’t know how to say no… plus we really don’t want to offend or upset them. Because we want them to ‘respect’ us. We want their approval.
Frankly, when we’re running around after others as they click their fingers on that kind of a basis, there’s more chance of it snowing in The Seychelles than us garnering any kind of respect. In fact just about the only status we are achieving for ourselves is the one of Doormat.
People pleasing has become an affliction.
And this audio below taken from an Abraham Hicks seminar, illustrates perfectly how misconstrued selflessness versus selfishness has become. Esther Hicks (who channels Abraham) speaks with a man who has spent much of his life spinning plates to keep people happy. At the expense of his own happiness. It is such a flawed premise and one of the ridiculous modern myths of society that thou shalt put others’ needs before thine own… Like always.
If we don’t tend to our own life jacket first…
What have we to give anybody else anyway? We aren’t here on this glorious planet Earth to postpone our joy for the ‘service’ of others and skip to their tune. No good will ever come from sacrificing our desires for our kids/parents/spouse/friends/complete strangers or work colleagues. Ever.
1: We are teaching them that they are dependent on another person for their personal well-being – and helping deprive them of their innate power to create their own solutions.
2: We are sending a signal out there to the Universe that we are a general dogsbody. And so because the Universe is obedient like that… it showers us with yet more of the same set-ups, scenarios and people.
Until we learn the lesson.
Which is Self-Love. Putting our needs first… and then.
We can still care for others when they genuinely need a helping hand. This is not to say we become mean and nasty and egotistical and stingy by driving past the person who has broken down on the motorway, or cutting off the purse strings as we pass the homeless guy we’d normally gave our coins to.
This is to say we make sure we are in a good place first, that we have eaten our breakfast before we agree to the kids dragging us to the park/that we help that friend out who is looking for tips with her CV… only after we have done the other things on our personal To Do list… which might mean several days down the line/that we say an assertive but nice NO when we don’t really want to go to the hen do… instead of feeling we have no choice and enduring the most miserable weekend of our lives/that we insist to our partner who is a chef and will not let us in the kitchen that we’re damn well hogging the oven once a week to cook what WE want to eat.
And the list goes on.
People pleasing comes in so many shapes and sizes.
It’s a bit of a sneak like that. It catches us when we’re unawares. We do just one more favour… then another… then another.
-We keep sending those birthday cards (even though we’ve had none in return for the past 5 years) because we don’t want our friend to think badly of us – not that I encourage anybody to give to receive, but at some point we have to draw the line in our relationships when it only us sending the text messages, making the calls, driving miles to visit that friend – making all the goddamn effort. A relationship of any kind should be an equal exchange of energy. Preferably good energy!
-We keep deferring that dream trip to Outer Mongolia because our other half refuses to fly long haul… putting yet another of our dreams on ice since it doesn’t fit in with somebody else’s plans.
-We keep saying ‘yes’ when the boss asks us to stay late… even though others have put their foot down and gone home. Better to be the reliable one and all that.
Give an inch and a People Pleasing Pest will take a mile.
Over the past few years I have:
-‘Babysat’ a friend’s daughter for weeks on end through the holidays (putting my own writing projects on hold) in return for no financial gain (because none was offered and I was too embarrassed to ask… assuming my friend’s gratitude would magically happen at the end of those 6 weeks… it didn’t!) And then of course I set myself up for being asked again and again and again (because she had ‘nobody else’ to turn to). Don’t get me wrong. My kids loved the extra playmate. But I was suddenly running a full time creche. For free. All because I hadn’t had enough self-respect to put up some boundaries.
-Done favours for friends of friends – as well as friends – in a work related capacity. Again, all for free (a service they’d usually have to shell out £££/££££s for) only to have abuse hurled at me by said ‘friend(s)’ because it still wasn’t good enough.
As Abraham Hicks often say, you just cannot stand on your head enough to people please another!
And of course, this was another set-up which was completely my doing. My gut had said NO. But I felt sorry for each individual who had requested my guidance and input. Make no bones about it, People Pleasing Pests are experts at wrapping you around their little finger.
-Worked for free more times than I have had hot dinners (on projects others in my former industry would have demanded a monthly retainer for!)
Hmm, so many of my People Pleasing lessons seem to centre around money… or lack thereof!
-Put plans on hold waiting for others to fit me and my family into their diary… only to be cancelled out on again and again and again. Yet still I would go back for more!
Anyway, to make me feel less alone on the subject, here are a few stories I have gathered from friends of mine, of their recent and past people pleasing adventures… and what they learnt:
The Duchess: “I spent most of my life constantly searching for approval. From my teachers, my parents, my friends and even strangers. I would always be the first to offer a hand but constantly the last person to receive help in times of need. When I hit 30, I took the Alice in Wonderland Pill and stopped caring about what other people thought, and at the same time decided to stop being a people pleaser. But in the same breath I don’t ever want to change my helpful nature simply because other people are more selfish. So these day’s I follow my gut. If it feels right I do it, if it doesn’t… well then I chose the selfish route.
Since changing my attitude to people, their attitudes have changed towards me. I have less people in my life that abuse my kind nature and have surrounded myself with 2am friends. The ones you know would always return the favour.
If I spent my whole life pleasing others, I would not have the business I have today or the dreams I am working towards – pleasing yourself is the only way you can ensure you reach your dreams and not the dreams of those around you. Life is simply too short!”
Lady Lolita: “I’m a girl who likes to say YES, I love the opportunities that saying ‘yes’ brings and the new directions that your life can go in when you embrace change. But I should stress that saying ‘yes’ to opportunities and gut instinct has nothing to do with saying ‘yes’ to people. From a young age we are taught that ‘no’ is rude and unhelpful and that it’s okay for our parents to say ‘no’ to us but we really should be a lot more appeasing to others. Especially if you are a girl.
Nothing changes if nothing changes.
The first time you say a resounding NO to pleasing somebody else, remember you are also saying a resounding YES to pleasing yourself, to putting YOU first. It will feel mighty uncomfortable at first. Turning people’s requests down (especially when they are accustomed to you dropping everything on a dime) will feel really strange, like you are negotiating an alien territory never before explored. Which for many of us is true.
Some of us have spent our lives putting the needs of others before our own… on a daily basis. Yes, of course I understand that is par for the course when you have children. Or if you are a full-time carer either via your career or a personal situation. I am not for one minute suggesting abandoning those around you who are too young or poorly to look after themselves. Although even in those circumstances it is of utmost importance that you tend to you as much as possible. It is all too easy for resentment and depression to set in when we aren’t carving out adequate ‘me’ time.
Then of course we are often in group situations where we simply have to compromise. I am also not suggesting we stand on the table, stamp our feet and declare ‘It’s my way or the highway!’ That might raise a few eyebrows in the board meeting…
Rather I am talking about the importance of fine tuning ourselves to spot a PPP (People Pleasing Pest) a mile off. And to be ready with our answers. Or just a short and sweet, ‘NO!’
And don’t forget to bless them in the process. Yes, genuinely. For as irritating as you have let them become with your hospitable and accommodating nature, they have acted nothing less than Spiritual Change Agents, nudging you – and yep, some pushing you – ever closer toward self-love.
Granted, it’s not always easy. They come in many guises, often masking as genuine, charming and full of compliments for the unique gifts you can offer them. Mine struck most recently when I let down my personal guard. 7 years ago my daughter died at birth. Whilst I received huge support during the initial months and years from others in my life, equally, because I wasn’t spiritually in tune with myself, I made a plethora of rash decisions, going completely against my intuition (which wasn’t quite loud enough to be heard), letting myself be taken advantage of – particularly career-wise – again and again and again. This is why I am now such an advocate for us practising Good Grief.
But when we really start to consistently say YES to only the things things that chime with us, when we develop a healthier respect and love for ourselves, what we will find is… not only do we feel on top of the world for being true to who we are and honouring our own needs and desires above others and their demands… but we will also magically attract far less of the PPPs and far more of the Shiny Happy People who bring out the best in us, who root for us, and who compliment our lives.
And so we become a phoenix rising from the flames. A brand new person, in every sense of the word. And with such eagle vision, PPPs beware, we really can see you coming for us that mile off!