There is a form of behavior called “people pleasing”. According to pop psychologists, people pleasing is the desire and habit to avoid conflict by submitting to the wishes of others. This behavior pattern is discussed frequently by both amateur and licensed professional Internet narcissism experts.
I do not worry about being a people pleaser anymore, but this is a subject that comes to mind sometimes during quiet, contemplative moments. If you’re all about sacrificing your wishes and time in favor of others just to avoid conflict with everybody you have become everyone’s slave. When life and learning is done mostly to please others, you don’t have time and energy to live your own life. Everyone appears contented, but they’re really not, especially yourself.
At the other extreme are the self-styled experts who advise us to “Don’t give a f**k”. If one follows this advise to the letter, life will be all about oneself. You do what you please and only what you please within legal bounds. Following this advice means you do not yield one iota of one’s own comfort and desires. Such behavior leads to becoming overly self-reliant and only having one’s own back. Such people only help others when it is convenient or when helping others advances one’s own agenda.
There seems to be a problem with both of these behavioral modes. Taken to their extremes, such behaviors would grow old quickly and such people would be quite unpleasant to be around. There is something tyrannical about either way. The people pleaser submits to the tyranny of the narcissistic person; while the “Don’t give a f**k” person wants her/his own way all the time.
Evidently, people pleasers wish to belong to and satisfy others and the overly independent people want others to kowtow to them. These patterns can apply to people of any status, gender, or stage of life. Each of these behaviors might be the extremes of a spectrum. It seems to me that a better approach is to finding a healthy balance between wanting to belong to everyone and wanting to belong to nobody. It is the process of finding balance between my hopes to belong to a group and my suspicions about actually belonging to a group.
Experts tell us that we have biologically, cognitively, mentally, and physically evolved to belong in social groups. This loving, mutual situation is what brings equilibrium to life. When we fall short of satisfying these needs and having others reciprocate, we become numb, ill, hurt and hurt others. So it’s good to be in a situation where we feel mutual trust, stability, and a sense of belonging.
Many of us have spent much of our lives trying to outwit our personal vulnerabilities. This has historically been a male issue, but has become one for females as well. The modern world encourages us not to be vulnerable. Independence is held up as a very high virtue. Armchair behavioral experts proclaim “Don’t give a f**k” as the best way to find fulfillment. In my mind, that sort of lifestyle choice appears cold-hearted, and empty of compassion.
I posit that it is in discovering the always variable balance between not giving a f**k and being a people pleaser. There are admirable beneficial nuggets to each of these extremes. It is a matter of discovering which aspects of each are helpful to us. Being mindful of the delicate balance can enable a satisfying life.
Careful observers of life understand that oftentimes, whenever people seek advice and help from us, the others are not interested in being allies, but are seeking advantage over us. This is not always the case. This is why it is important to employ discernment regarding potential friends and associates. It is wise to understand when we are being used and when we are using others. Both instances lead to frustration and ill-will.
Meantime, true allies belong to each other, equally.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the entertainer, Goldie Hawn. “To me, it’s that incredible sense of belonging and peace within your own self and heart that really is joy.”