Author’s Message: Trainwrecks, thank you for being a part of this Blog. Recently I released a blog post about Camp Bucca, Iraq that was difficult for me write and took almost a year but I finally did it. Sharing my story morphed into sharing the stories of others who were still struggling, which then morphed into closure for some and that is just awesome. Thank you for the support I have received since opening up about a life I tried to forget but have found true purpose within. I have found the courage to move forward.
People pleasing. If you’ve ever heard of dangerous behavior, then you have likely heard someone mention the trouble with trying to please others:
- I used to think it was my responsibility for everyone to be happy
- I used to think it was my fault if someone was unhappy
- I used to allow others to control my happiness by chasing their validation
- I used to care what other people thought about me
Well Trainwrecks, people liking us is something others ultimately decide, not us. I used to engage in the behaviors above because I wanted people to like me and I didn’t know the mistakes I was making. People who genuinely like and trust us will do so because of the person we are and not what they believe we can provide to them. What this means is we can’t do things to make others prefer our company such as wave a magic wand or chant a magic spell. In all honesty there is very little we can do to “make” someone prefer our company or our point of view (although we often fantasize about it). We cannot buy something for someone or shower them with attention to create an interpersonal relationship.
However, there are plenty of things we can do that will make people NOT like us or want to be around us, such as mistakenly believing whatever it is we want is the same thing everyone else wants as well (usually a common case with narcissists). This causes us to turn others off and prevents us from achieving our goals. We should do absolutely everything in our power to avoid narcissistic people, especially narcissistic family. That is a topic we will explore further another time.
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So what does this mean to the average person? Well Trainwrecks, people make decisions based off the information they have decided is best for THEM, not US. The issue with this is we often desire validation and acceptance to assure us the actions we are taking are best. As a result of this desire for acceptance we may seek the approval of others as a means of achieving validation. As human beings who love one another we often turn to our friends and our family to give us that validation because they are both familiar and comfortable to us. We trust the opinions of others because it’s comforting to know another person has validated our response (told us we are correct or good), and no one would ever lead us astray, right? Wrong. So, what REALLY happens when we turn to others to give us the confidence we would do better displaying on our own?
Well Trainwrecks, the problem with seeking validation from others is we may unintentionally inflate the other person’s ego (person believes their opinion and validation is now more valuable to us then our own opinion) which ultimately creates a phantom social contract no one ever wanted. Or maybe this person wants to be honest with us but not hurt our feelings because they fear it might jeopardize our friendship? Again, we are creating a phantom social contract by trying to do things to please others rather than simply being honest with ourselves and others. I like to use the term “phantom social contract” because I feel it truly embodies the essence of what is taking place. Erroneously, our phantom social contracts often attempt to dictate we are entitled to receive what it is we desire from the other person once we have been “nice” to them. Trainwrecks, that is not how this works at all.
Another example of this is when a man buys a woman a drink at a bar when he first meets her. Technically, he has been “nice” to her by providing something she might want; but this does not obligate the woman to reciprocate or even to pay attention to him despite what his logical processing tells him. She may not have wanted a drink. She may not have wanted to talk to him. He simply didn’t give her what she wanted because he didn’t ask or try. The more appropriate action would have been for the man to instead focus on what kind of fun adventure or interesting conversation he could engage in with her to create that mutual environment both the man and woman were looking for to begin with. After all, they are both in a bar and that is literally why people go to a bar. To engage in conversation.
So how do we stop incorrect activity? First, we must identify the people-pleasing behavior and understand where it is coming from. Then we can identify what it is we actually want and begin to implement those behavior patterns instead. In order to identify people-pleasing behavior, lets ask ourselves three questions:
- What is the difference between what we want and what we allow? What are we accepting in our lives thinking if we “tolerate” something now, we will be rewarded with something else eventually?
- What are we trying to get? What are we attempting to introduce into our lives without being upfront and honestly asking for? A lack of honesty is often due to the fear of upsetting the other person. Unfortunately, this lack of honesty can introduce artificial viewpoints and phantom social contracts which only make the problem worse due to misdirection and dishonesty.
- What is leading us toward our goals and desires? What is pulling us away from our goals and desires? As human beings we have a strong connection to others we feel are both like us and to people we would like to be more like. When we marginalize our own desires and instead pursue things that only please others, we move away from what it is we want and toward what others want.
Once we have identified behavior that is not congruent with what we truly want, we can adjust it and even eliminate it. Breaking people-pleasing behavior is not something that occurs overnight, but it is possible and is something that can be done through deliberate adjustments to our future actions. Typically, people-pleasing behaviors are habit based and may be a result of years of social conditioning through environmental factors such as a dysfunctional family or relationship, depression and even a fear of failure that remains to be overcome. Eliminating these people-pleasing and often self-deprecating behaviors can ultimately raise the level of our self-esteem and awareness.
- Breath and slow down. Often, we get overwhelmed when we try to muscle our way through an uncomfortable situation. What we really need most often is to pause momentarily, take a deep breath and decide if the action we are taking is designed to satisfy us or someone else.
- STOP GIVING A FUCK WHAT OTHERS THINK ABOUT YOU. When we look in the mirror it us looking back. When we receive our paycheck, it is our name on the pay stub. When we put our pants on in the morning, it is our butt that looks big in the mirror. When we realize we cannot control what others think or do, we have so much freedom to concentrate on what we want most. I will never get tired of telling people my most valuable piece of advice: “Stop giving a fuck what others think about you.” I really should get a plaque made at some point.
- Think about how the honest you, the real you would react to situations. Do you really want to feel like a slave or a doormat? No, but just like I have, many individuals will make excuses for other people to reframe their own inadequacies or inability to say no. What this means is the sooner we learn to stop being a doormat and allowing others to walk all over us, the sooner it will cease if it is occurring. We don’t owe another person anything. The least of all, our valuable time.
- Be honest with ourselves and others. In concert with understanding how to be honest with ourselves, we must develop honest responses when we interact with others. A part of that is understanding what is “actually” socially acceptable regarding honesty. While it’s important to be honest and let a friend know they may have had too much to drink and might need a ride home, it’s probably not as good an idea to be as honest when asked “do these jeans make my butt look big?” Situational awareness is something that is developed through time and conditioning.
- Be more accepting of others around us. When we people-please we tend to want something from someone and do not always provide them the opportunity to decide if we should have it. This could be asking our boss for a raise, making new friends, even asking a girl out on a date. Rather than focusing on what we want to “get from another person,” it is easier and more advantageous to focus on what we can “do-with or-make with another person.” Rather than trying to convince others our journey is better; we can create the ultimate journey by brainstorming with others about what is best for us both and going from there
Eliminating people-pleasing behavior is often difficult but it can be done with some patience and the willingness to please ourselves before anyone else. When we can stop our people-pleasing behaviors we are able to become a more honest person. A more authentic person with nothing to hide and that is ultimately who people like having in their lives. We should never be “nice.” No one gets respect by being nice. We should instead focus on being polite and being respectful. We can do this.
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