What happens when someone tells you something hurtful? Are you able to accept it and move on? Or do you spend hours, or even days wrecking your mind over the thought of someone disliking you? Sadly, I’m the latter. I’ve spent far too many days and sleepless nights worrying about what others thought of me. I’ve reimagined just about every social interaction in my life multiple times, going through to check if I did my best to be kind and amiable. I have a strong desire to be liked and have gone to many lengths to get there.
From a young age, I have been known to be a little oversensitive of criticism and opinions from others. When I was around four, I took ballet on the weekends with some girls from my preschool. I remember this was one of the first times I got my feelings hurt by others. All of the girls in the class had nude-colored ballet flats, while I was the only one with white ones. I remember a girl telling me I wouldn’t be invited to her birthday party because I had the “weird ugly shoes.” I mentioned this to my parents and they giggled while telling me that it wasn’t a big deal; it is certainly laughable looking back. I recall my father telling me that some people aren’t going to like you, and that this is ok.
My dad was right on his advice years ago, however I still do not have the ability to handle criticism in the manner he can. He is the type of person that can be called any name in the book, yet walk away unscathed and ready to move forward. While I understand logically that it is okay for people to dislike me, I still struggle hearing and accepting these comments to this day. When someone has ever mentioned they didn’t like something about me, I have done my best to try to shift their view.
Today, a classmate of mine told me I had a poor work ethic. Immediately, I got upset and felt the need to prove to her that I had a wonderful work ethic, high grades, and was doing fantastic in my internship. While my mind began spinning, palms sweating, I let myself get worked up over an ignorant comment. After a few moments of revving myself up, I realized what was going on. I cared so much about what others thought of me that I was willing to do anything to change her mind.
This got me thinking, why do we allow ourselves to endure so much stress just to keep others in our good graces? As a people pleaser, I’ve gone to many lengths to be liked and accepted by others; I’ve gone to parties I didn’t want to attend, said “yes” far too many times when I needed to say “no,” and went along with plans to simply keep others content. I have such a desire to be viewed positively by others that I have said and done things I didn’t agree with just to make them happy in the moment.
While my people-pleasing tactics work for a lot of the time, what happens when they stop working? Today, for example, I knew I couldn’t have said or done anything to change this individual’s opinion on me. I became anxious and spent the majority of my afternoon fixated on this tiny comment. While it is disheartening that someone does not approve of me, I have to remind myself that only I know who I really am at the end of the day. This statement might’ve hurt my feelings, but I allowed it to spiral out of control, giving a near-stranger the reign to my emotions for the day.
I’d love to say some wise words along the lines of “be who you want, you should never care what others think of you,” but I would be lying to you all. I have been struggling with the need to feel accepted by others since my pre-k ballet class. This is a thought pattern that has been engrained in my mind for the majority of my life, so kicking this habit is a slow process that has and will take many more years to make progress.
What I can say about people pleasing is the mere acknowledgement of the pattern is a huge step in moving forward. I am aware that the more I spend time pleasing classmates, coworkers, roommates, etc., the less time I have at the end of the day to spend on myself. I am sanguine that I can continue to develop the ability to let more things roll off my back over time. Until then, I am leaving as a people pleaser in recovery (Is that ok?!).