In self-help/therapy circles, the term ‘people pleasing’ is a common topic of discussion. ‘People pleasing’ is when a person adopts a persona of always being agreeable, calm, and stable on the surface, and always putting others before themselves. It’s like they want to please people but in reality, they’re just trying to appease people so those people won’t hurt them more than they already have or will if given the opportunity to.
When the term ‘people appeasing’ came to me recently I went, “Whoa, that’s seriously hard-hitting stuff.” Because appeasing, root word ‘appeasement’, is not a good thing. It doesn’t accomplish anything and it sure as hell doesn’t change anyone who needs to pull their head out of their ass and not be an asshole to other people. So why engage in appeasement and not stand up for yourself? For me, it started as a survival tactic: try to do everything possible to keep people from treating me like shit. I kept my mouth shut and my thoughts and feelings to myself because I was told to my face that no one wanted to hear what I had to say or deal with my feelings. Yes, I got told in a polite way to ‘fuck my feelings’.
Then I began to put up walls around myself, to hide my true thoughts and feelings and that didn’t go over well either because then I was told I was a cold, unemotional bitch. So I couldn’t win for losing as the old saying goes. But the worst thing about this was I believed that lying shit so much that I silenced my own thoughts and feelings inside myself. For so many years, I honestly thought I had NO right to think my thoughts or feel my feelings much less express them out loud. I thought if I did people would land on me and try to destroy me and any life I built for myself.
In the Summer of 2018, during my ‘dark night of the soul’ as I call it, I was screaming in my mind every single day all day long, “I am sorry for my entire fucking existence!” I felt like I couldn’t do anything right or that if I tried that it would never be good enough. Finally, during a moment of calm, another thought came to my mind:
“You have every right to your thoughts and feelings no matter what they are, good, bad, ugly, or anything in between. And you have every right to deal with them in any way you choose.”
I believe this for every person regardless of what they’ve said or done, good, bad, or ugly. Now my job in life is not to pull someone’s head out of their ass because everyone has to figure things out for themselves. But I believe everyone has a responsibility to deal with their own shit and respect other’s right to do the same for themselves.
Another way I tried to appease people was a living a life I thought everyone else wanted me to live. I thought in my thirties if I just lived a certain way everything would work out for me and that I wouldn’t have to deal with the trauma from my twenties. But after forty that façade began to crumble, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to live for myself ever since.
Appeasement doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because no matter what you do, it will never be enough for a person who won’t accept you as the person you are and not force to be someone you’re not or live in a certain way of their choice and not yours. Most people who are ‘appeased’ don’t even know that’s what people are trying to do to them. It’s like they may sense something is off but refuse to question why that is.
My father once told me, “Don’t let people inside your head, and don’t let them live there rent-free.” He was right (as he often was) and I will add that NO ONE can take away knowledge from you. No one can get inside your head and fuck you up unless you let them.
As I work on my ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ project, I realize that I will be saying things that not necessarily go against the grain, but are just my interpretation of common topics of discussion, such as ‘people pleasing’. It’s not that I don’t care about people’s feelings or wanting to make people happy. It’s doing that out of my own free will and not in the fear that if I don’t bury my own thoughts and feelings people will hurt me more than they already have.
Finally, if anyone reading this is feeling their back come up and thinking that I must want people to walk around on eggshells around me, or that they can’t talk freely in front of me, that’s bullshit and you damn well know it. If someone says your words and actions are hurtful or cruel, listen to them and think about what you’ve said and done. I’ve said and done things I’m not proud of and I take full responsibility for that. But I don’t want anyone to feel like they have to live in a very narrow, very strictly-defined way. I’m much more open and accepting and I believe everyone has to figure things out for themselves. And as long as someone is living in a way that’s not hurtful, cruel, thoughtless, or insensitive, they’re fine.
Appeasement doesn’t work. Living your own truth does.
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