Aiming to Please Can Be Our Downfall
Close your eyes and imagine the country of Neverland. Wendy is a girl who takes care of the story’s characters in that fantasy world. She is able to do what Peter Pan doesn’t dare to, who takes on risks and responsibilities trying to please but is always in the background. Open your eyes again; this reminds you of something, doesn’t it?
It’s a metaphor that shows how often we try to please others forgetting ourselves and what we really wish for. In that way, it’s very common to say yes to requests that are apparently trivial, like having coffee with a person when we don’t feel like it or more important proposals such as getting married, studying for a certain career or having children.
We choose the path that in the short term looks easier, avoiding conflicts and ignoring what we want. We prefer to pay the price instead of adding an argument or worry to our already stressful days. However, what we are really doing is underestimating the price we have to pay in the long run because we gave in.
“He had only to touch me to turn my tears into sighs and my anger to desire. How accommodating love is; it forgives everything.”
We are afraid to say no and choose to please, so as not to be rejected or outside the group or not to disappoint someone. But what happens to us?
An irrational belief: I need love and approval
The psychologist Albert Ellis, who created rational emotional therapy, talks about eleven common irrational beliefs that spread and isolate all other thoughts and emotions that usually live in our mind. They turn the horizon into a dark place and open the door to a feeling of weightless discomfort.
One of the beliefs is this: “I need the love and approval of all who surround me” or “I must be loved and have the approval of all the important people around me.” To different degrees, this belief is established in almost every head and is the one that leads us to want to please other people.
It is an irrational belief because being approved by everybody is impossible. If we need others to constantly approve of us, we will always be worried about whether they accept us or not and to what degree do people like us.
It is not realistic to think that everyone in the world will think we’re nice. On the other hand, having all others approve us would require such a great effort that we’d need to leave behind our own needs.
“Hopefully we’ll have the power to be alone and the courage to risk being together.”
We need to eliminate our excessive need for approval and love. In that sense, it is more appropriate for you to look for approval of your deeds and behaviors than for yourself.
People who try to please
A pleasing person tends to satisfy or give pleasure to someone else. In other words, he or she expresses a more or less constant inclination to fulfill other people’s desires even at a personal cost.
But if someone always gives in to others’ requirements they do not assert their own position nor defend their own interests. They rather simply give in to others’ preferences without caring for their own. Some risks that distinguish pleasing persons are the following:
- Perfectionism. Wanting to do things perfectly leads to guilt when things do not turn out as expected, especially if it’s about pleasing others. An accommodating person tends to be a perfectionist and does not realize that that very perfectionism is what leads them to feel frustrated.
- They feel indispensable. A person who is constantly pleasing others wants to feel indispensable, for the people around them to depend on them because that is what makes them feel accepted, respected, and loved.
- Love is sacrifice. They understand that love means sacrifice and resign themselves to romantic and family relationships where they feel discomfort and accept it as a normal consequence of the relationship and love towards another person.
- Avoids conflicts. Trying to constantly please means avoiding conflicts. That is why a pleasing person avoids arguments, tells others they are right and apologizes for anything as long as they are accepted.
- These are people who sacrifice for the happiness of others to the point that they don’t know what makes them really happy because they are always thinking about what will make another person happy. They do not express feelings and close up so much that they end up not having their own ideas or expressing them.
“It doesn’t matter how much they love you, but how they do so.”