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The Liberating Truth About People Pleasing

Knowing the truth about people-pleasing can set you free!

When I was in college, I did something that I had been longing to do since I was a kid, and that was to grow my hair out.

Once I grew my hair, it was interesting how almost everyone had an opinion about my hair and felt the need to express it.

I mean, after all, it was just my hair, but apparently, the way my hair looked was enough to evoke strong reactions from people.

My intention in growing my hair was certainly not to stand out or make a statement. I did it because for some inexplicable reason it just felt so right to me and it was a childhood desire of mine.

In school, I couldn’t grow out my hair, and fortunately, in college, there were no rules against it, and this allowed me the freedom to finally do it.

Anyway, why do I bring up this up now?

If people can have a strong opinion on such an insignificant thing such as someone’s hair and what it should look like, you can be sure they are going to have an opinion about pretty much everything.

But you can’t live your life trying to please people. Well, of course, you could try, but ultimately, it’s a game you can’t win. As the English poet, John Lydgate said,

“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”

These words ring true even today, as it did when he said it over 600 years ago.

Nobody has been able to do that, not even people who lived exalted lives like Buddha or Jesus. However, if you try to do so, you are eventually going to feel resentment towards yourself.

In the book The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying authored by Bronnie Ware, who spent many years working as a palliative care nurse, the most common regret the dying shared with her was,

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

Now, this is not the easiest thing for us to do because our brain is primarily motivated to seek pleasure and avoid pain. It equates positive social feedback with pleasure, and therefore our natural tendency is to seek approval and validation from others.

On the other hand, doing what you feel is right can sometimes be difficult because it is not always going to be a popular option and need not resonate with other people. But the truth is we are under no obligation to please other people.

When we try to please people we become inauthentic and less of ourselves, because the tendency to please people does not come out of our love for them, but rather arises from our fears.

Accepting the fact that you won’t be able to please everyone all the time can be liberating because you won't be hard on yourself when you aren't able to, and neither will you take it as your responsibility to do so. This realisation can help you stay true to yourself.

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