The Disease of “People Pleasing”
Do you worry? Walk away from a conversation, wondering if something you said at some point somehow hurt the other person’s feelings or gave him or her the wrong impression? How about speaking up to share your opinion? Does that give you a case of going-to-be-sick-to-my-stomachitis?
If you said yes to any of the above, join the club — that is, if you feel like it and it doesn’t interfere with anything you are doing and if I didn’t say anything that hurt your feelings. …
People pleasing: It’s an issue that has affected my life in countless ways. On the positive, it has made me able to get along with a multitude of personality types. (All those leaders out there need some followers, after all.) But the desire to please people has sometimes prevented me from being safe or taking care of myself.
Case in point:
A year ago, I had surgery to remove a melanoma spot on my leg as well as the nearby lymph nodes. The surgeon told me I’d be back to my normal self in a few days. Things didn’t go that way. I experienced terrible pain, but I didn’t want to complain. I mentioned pain in one of my incisions at an appointment, but he looked it over and said I was fine. I didn’t want to argue with him. He was the expert, after all, and I certainly didn’t want to make him mad. I was at his mercy for healing, wasn’t I? So, even though I could hardly walk because of the excruciating pain, I went home — and nearly died.
A few days later, after I was hospitalized and had been through numerous procedures to remove the infection from my barely-alive body, my surgeon came into the room to examine me. I was motionless and quiet, so he thought I was still knocked out from whatever procedure I’d endured that morning. He didn’t like the way one of my wounds looked, so he decided to clean it out. Right then. With scissors and other pointy-ended, sharp things. While I was awake. I didn’t say anything, though. I gripped the sides of my bed, clamped my mouth shut, and wept silently. I wasn’t a whiner, and I didn’t want to bother him.
At some point during the excruciating process, the surgeon glanced at my face. His mouth gaped open. “You’re awake?” he asked. At the same moment, he smacked the call button for the nurse and told them to bring me pain medicine immediately. He shook his head in disbelief. “Why didn’t you tell me you woke up?”
I muttered something about not wanting to bother him.
The look on his face was priceless. That, thankfully, was a turning point in my relationship with him. I gained the courage to speak up and be a bit more of what I would have previously thought as demanding and difficult. In truth, I was merely advocating for myself.
My above experience is just one of many mistakes I have made in the past while dealing with others. I’m sure many of you share similar stories. Or worse …
What have I learned from this?
I can advocate for myself and others I love, including my children, without being what I would consider a “pain.” It is okay to speak up for myself and what is right and true. BUT, there are positive and negative ways to go about this. I can blast people into oblivion and leave a trail of wreckage behind me, or I can be kind, considerate, and even compassionate while not being a doormat at the same time. I think the manner of the message is often what is important.
So, my friends, don’t waste your time worrying about what you might have possibly said to offend someone. Believe it or not, very few people spend time dwelling on you (or me) and what was said. Don’t hesitate to speak up when you need to. It can even be done in a positive manner. As in my example above, I learned being forthright wasn’t an insult. It was in my best interest. Not wanting to bother people almost cost me my life. Since then, I’ve made an effort to be more upfront with people. And anytime I see my surgeon, I make sure to ask if he has any sharp objects in his possession.