By Doreen Virtue, Ph.D.
Your need for others’ approval puts them in control of your happiness. No one deserves that power over you.
When you seek approval to avoid conflict, you have an uncanny sense about what other people want to hear, and you know how to feed it to them in heaping spoonfuls! Meanwhile, the other person believes that you’re the nicest person on the planet—which you are, except there’s an authentic and real version of your nice self that is masked behind “people-pleasing.”
“People-pleasing” takes the phrase “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” to a whole new twisted level. It means that you’re pretending to be someone different from who you really are, in order to control how another person reacts to you.
You try to prevent the other person from being angry with you, leaving you, or firing you by being extra-compliant and phony-nice. Or, the flip side is that you try to control them into liking you, marrying you, promoting you in the company . . . all by pretending to believe what they believe and laughing at their jokes and having a false front.
So people-pleasing in this way is really a dysfunctional and ultimately manipulative and dishonest way of relating to other people. Ultimately there’s nothing pleasing about this kind of people-pleasing!
You can be pleasant and very kind, thoughtful, and nice while still being genuine and honest with others. In fact, the most charming people are those who tell you the truth in a loving way. This is the combination to aspire to: being real, loving, and honest.
Everyone can relate to real human emotions. So when you admit how you really feel, it’s a relief to people to know that you feel the same way they do. In this way, by being honest with others, you’re being a teacher to them about how to live an authentic life.
Many people confuse being honest with being aggressive. That’s likely because for so many years, the average nice person was passive and silent. But that has all changed. These days, it’s essential for nice people to speak up about the issues that are near and dear to their hearts.
For instance, if your child is having a difficulty with a teacher, it’s very appropriate for you to hold meetings with either that teacher or the principal. This is an example of you taking action because you love your child. You speak up and are honest because that’s the best way to raise a child.
In personal situations, being genuine can bring blessings, too. For example, let’s say that you and a group of friends go to see a movie. The movie is awful, and you don’t want to see any more of it. You look over at your friends and they’re squirming in their seats and seem to not be enjoying themselves either.
So, you whisper to the friend next to you: “I’m not enjoying this movie . . . are you?” Your girlfriend smiles with an expression of relief that you’ve put into words exactly how she feels. It turns out that none of your friends like the movie, but they’re afraid to say anything and ruin everyone else’s time. Because you had the courage to speak up, the evening is saved! You leave the movie early and go to a restaurant and enjoy a nice meal together instead.
If you were people-pleasing, you’d endure that movie because you wouldn’t want to spoil other people’s fun. But because you had the courage to speak up, you actually helped your friends.
And you’ll find that this is the case in nearly every situation where you speak up. Again, speaking up doesn’t mean aggression. Speaking up simply means that you own your feelings and state them clearly without blaming anyone else and without anger or sarcasm in your statements.
People-pleasing is a form of being controlling and manipulative. It stems from fear, not from love. People-pleasing comes from a place of unworthiness and undeserving feelings. You’re convinced that other people won’t like or love you if you show them who you really are.
It sounds counterintuitive, but you’ll like yourself more when you’re genuine with others. The more that you can embrace your unique self and trust your passions and interests to guide you upon the path of your purpose, the more that you’ll find like-minded friends.
If you’ve been teased for being weird or odd, that’s a sign that you have special qualities and uniqueness that the world needs. How drab and boring would it be if everyone were alike? And in some circles of people, it’s an insult to be called “normal.”
If you people-please other people will know it. People-pleasers never get away with their act. Others know that you’re faking your feelings, laughter, and smile, and they’ll doubt your sincerity and your integrity. They won’t trust you, and they’ll wonder what else you might be dishonest about. So people-pleasing can sabotage your credibility in business, and your trustworthiness in relationships.
Pretending in order to be liked or to fit in with others never works! For one thing, it’s exhausting to put on a front for very long. You’ll find that you’re absolutely drained of energy and enthusiasm from pretending to be someone other than who you really are. Plus, pretending detaches you from your real feelings. You’ll forget who you really are after a while. You’ll give up your true interests. And no matter how many friends you’ve attracted as your false self, you’ll still feel lonely and unloved because they don’t love you for your true self.
The only way to fill your heart is to take the risk of being your authentic self publicly, and then let nature take its course. The people who don’t respect you aren’t allowed to be in your life anymore. The people who are attracted to your uniqueness are possible friends, provided that you’re also attracted to the idea of being friends with them…and they treat you with respect.
Remember that there’s never been a person in history who was universally loved by everyone, so don’t waste your time with this impossible goal. Be yourself and you’ll attract like-minded people.
Other people can feel when you’re being genuine and sincere. They’ll relax around you and respect you more when you let go of trying to control their opinions about you and allow your true feelings and natural reactions to shine. And you’ll know that the real you is loved and appreciated by you and them, which will increase your self-confidence and self-esteem!
This article is adapted & reprinted by permission from Assertiveness for Earth Angels: How To Be Loving Instead of “Too Nice,” by Doreen Virtue, published by Hay House (November, 2013), available at bookstores or online at www.HayHouse.com.
Doreen Virtue holds B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees in counseling psychology, and is a lifelong clairvoyant who works with the angelic realm. She’s the author of Archangels 101, Earth Angels, and Healing with the Angels, among other works. Doreen has appeared on Oprah, The View, Good Morning America, CNN, and other programs and presents workshops around the world; she also has a weekly call-in talk show on HayHouseRadio.com.