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  • Writer's pictureAmber

Who am I doing that for?

Sometimes I like to ask myself some big life questions. Like, why has my train been sat at Northampton station for the last 10 minutes? When will I get to Euston? Will I get lost trying to find the hotel? Will everyone else be wearing a suit?

I never considered myself a socially anxious person, but when I think about how much time I spend trying to make sure I don't get anything wrong - even the things outside of my control - I have to wonder. Who am I doing that for? Who do I think is bothered?

I suspect the answer most of the time is, just me.

Recently I got to interview my mum about her life. One of the things she said has been playing in my mind since: "I think I’m not so much of a people pleaser anymore."

It sticks with me because I still am; at least, it's a trait I'm still unlearning.

I guess 'people pleaser' has the same ring to it as 'yes man' - someone who says or does whatever they need to in order to keep someone happy. It reminds me of this exchange between Glenn Close's Cruella De Vil and one of her henchmen:

Cruella: "What kind of sycophant are you?"

Henchman: "What kind of sycophant would you like me to be?"

Wanting to keep people happy isn't all bad - the problem is the why, and the how. Is it because I need external validation that I was such a teacher's pet? It is because I wanted to fit in and be liked that I started swearing around my classmates at 10, that I became a thief that year so I could flash some cash like them? Is it because I'm still afraid of being seen as a flake or a let down that I tend to over-commit myself and burn out, because heaven forbid I say no to anyone who wants me to do something?

Reasons aren't excuses, and I'm not giving these to justify myself. I just want to be honest about something I struggle with.

The way I see it, a yes man either has or offers no opinions or goals of their own. They exist solely to bolster others, playing to ego and refusing to do or say anything that may offend. They might get something out of it, but none of that success is their own.

When I'm a people pleaser, I let the fear of others' displeasure derail my own valid and valuable thoughts, feelings and ideas. I waste energy and time on things I'm not best suited for, or that are just a good thing at the wrong time. I let opinion rather than merit become the ultimate decider of what I do, and I neglect my own goals to pursue someone else's, or just have no goals at all.

Having a desire to make people happy is one thing. Being a people pleaser is quite another.

The great thing with learning to let go of my people pleasing tendencies is finding that those friendships which are genuine are not damaged by my saying 'no' a bit more often, or sometimes dropping the ball. If anything they're stronger for the honesty it represents. After all, you kind of need to trust someone to be able to say, ''I don't have this together right now'.

It's a belated lesson too that keeping people happy and doing what's right aren't always on the same track. As long as I know my own mind, that's fine. Disagreement doesn't necessitate lack of respect.

I am a woman of my word, but I don't give my word so lightly anymore.

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