Do You Discard Your Own Needs In Order To Please Others?

I’m an enormous people pleaser. And yet I didn’t realise until last week, that I am planning my entire wedding around what will satisfy the tastes of every one of my different guests. As last weeks’ events came to a head, I had to force myself to stop and think, “Is this actually what I want or am I just doing what will make everyone else happy? Do I recognise the difference?” Making people happy makes me happy, so how can I break this pattern and truly know what would satisfy me, away from others’ judgments?

I really dislike that I have this need to appeal to everyone’s expectations of me. It feeds my anxiety like miracle grow to a weed. Usually this habit is self-contained purely due to the small number of people coming together at one time. Keeping just one or two people happy is easy.

But Plan a wedding and you either have to learn that there is no way of organising something that appeals to everyone’s tastes; that inevitably there’ll be disappointments, raised eyebrows and the ‘well I wouldn’t have done it that way’ comments, or you will make yourself ill in trying to achieve the impossible ‘perfect’ wedding.

Like with all my emotions, I wanted to try to understand why I feel or behave in this way.

I have spoken before about my constant need for perfection in order to feel successful, and I think this links up in big way to my people pleasing nature. People’s reactions to me reflect the success or failure of whatever it is I have presented. It is feedback, and I use it as a barometer to how I am doing. If my wedding is perfect, if I am perfect, then that means there can be nothing to criticise. And surely it then follows that I have achieved perfection i.e. success.

If I am completely honest with myself, the thought of people being dissatisfied, or that I will be thought of in a negative way, heightens my anxiety. It is the worst thing about myself because my rational brain knows, that those who matter don’t care, and those who care don’t matter. 

But I don’t think it is as simple as that.

It seems that I strongly identify with how I make others feel, not with how they make me feel. When I make the people around me happy, I give myself permission to be happy also – I have succeeded. If they are disappointed, then I see that as failure and a need to try harder. But is there more to this than first thought?

From the day we are born, we are told by our parents that our successes, be it walking, talking or using the potty for the first time, ‘makes them feel happy’. We learn very early on that making our parents and others happy is what we should strive for.

I wonder; is there room in our society for imperfection and for that to be good enough so long as we’re happy? Do our parents, our teachers and our peers, somehow put pressure on us to satisfy their expectations of us, instead of looking at just achieving the goals we have set for ourselves?

How can we stop a lifetime of conditioning?

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