Like many people, I spent most of my life focused on making other people happy. Although I didn’t do it consciously, I tried to change myself so they would like me. I was basically a human chameleon–matching whatever expectation I thought was needed or wanted. After many years of trying to be the perfect kid for my parents, I tried to be the perfect wife, the perfect housekeeper, the perfect mom and of course, the perfect employee.
I would be crushed if someone criticized me. My internal interpretation (not consciously) was that translated to they didn’t like me–meaning–I was a failure. I’m no good. If I said something that my boss disagreed with, I would quickly think, “Why did I say that, what a stupid thing to say.” I often found myself reviewing my words before I would speak–I must say the perfect thing so “they” will like me.
After years of attempting to please everyone else, I realized I didn’t know what pleased me. Although my friends probably never noticed, I didn’t have opinions about controversial topics and more often than not, I would simply go with the flow. I was actually pretty successful at people pleasing, but eventually, I met my match–someone I felt just didn’t like me. Unfortunately, it was a person I reported to, so it put me in a downward spiral.
Eventually I got low enough to start my climb back up. One of the first things I did was simply watch and listen to others around me. I became an observer–paying attention to what was happening while withholding judgment. I gradually started listening to my own voice–even though at first, I may not have said the words out loud, I was aware of what I wanted– “What movie did I want to see?” “What do I think the answer is?”
I became aware that the question I was afraid to ask was THE question everyone in the room wanted to know (when someone else asked that very question). Eventually, I got brave and spoke up. Sometimes what I said or asked changed the whole decision or discussion and I got more courage to try it again.
I learned to share the compliment or thank a person–instead of just thinking it. Many times the individual would comment how much they appreciated what I said and I was so grateful that I didn’t keep that compliment to myself.
I admit I sometimes slip and get back into my people pleasing mode. But I’m kinder to myself because I realize I’m doing the best I can at this moment. And when decisions need to be made, I am aware of my preferences and can make a choice how to proceed from there.
So for the latter part of my life, I am perfecting being the most real, authentic me I can be.
“Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” Author Unknown