Who hasn’t wanted to be liked by others at least once in their life?
Think about when you are preparing for a new job interview or meeting your partner’s family for the first time and you want to make a good impression on those who will be assessing you.
Or when you go out with the person you feel attracted to and would like to start a relationship with and hope that they will also find you interesting and attractive.
We constantly receive feedback from others, so it is normal that in some circumstances we need social approval. This makes us feel more secure; it reassures us that we are going in the right direction. Also, if we are honest, we all love to receive words of praise and appreciation—it makes us feel good. However, when we subject all our decisions and behavior to the judgement of others, then there is a problem.
The moment we become dependent on the judgement of others, it is as if we are handing over the reins of our lives. This means that when someone approves of us, we feel good, but when we are disapproved of, our lives fall apart. We feel discouraged because we have placed our emotional value in the hands of others.
Need to please or desire to please?
There is a difference between the two, because while desires guide us towards a state of well-being and freedom, also acting as a push to find what we need to achieve it (and then enjoy it), the latter immediately puts us into a state of need, making us feel imprisoned and obliged.
If the need in question, then, is to be liked and accepted by others, the feeling of constraint and fatigue increases considerably.
I imagine those moments when you would like to say No and instead find yourself saying Yes, or when you make others choose so as not to be alone.
When you accept the opinions of others, even if they are light-years away from your own desires and thoughts…
When you keep your own point of view to yourself for fear that it will not match that of another person…
When you constantly seek approval, validation or recognition from others…
When you smile and are kind, when you have the right to be angry…
…and all this happens even though you know very well that this is not what you want for yourself (your desire for well-being and freedom), and yet you relapse every time and realize it when it is too late.
It is your need to please others all the time, at all costs, that drives your choices. Have you ever thought about that?
And as you struggle to satisfy this need, you risk losing sight of yourself (as you are able to guess the needs of others before they even tell you), what you really want (you this time, not others) and what is best for you (while you are focused on what is best for someone else).
Why is it so vital for you to please others?
If you are tired of hiding behind a mask that doesn’t belong to you and would like to change course, you can start to think about why it is so vital for you to please others. What do you risk if they don’t like you or don’t like you enough? What are you afraid of?
You probably grew up believing that in order to be safe, protected, and loved, it was necessary to please your environment by not defining yourself, your desires, your emotions.
Basically, it is as if the message you received was “Only if you do (feel, think, choose), only if you are good enough, skilled enough, pretty enough, intelligent enough, thin enough…you can finally be worthy of love and be accepted by those around you (mum, dad, grandparents, friends, partner…).”
The result? You have learned that defining yourself carries the great risk of being not worthy of love and your own needs became smaller and smaller, more and more buried until they became “almost imperceptible” to your consciousness.
But the catch is that even though you do everything by the book, managing to please a good portion of the people in your life (or all of them?), you often question your worth and fear being alone. In short, you give up a lot (or all of you?) in exchange for little or nothing.
Change is possible, and two ingredients are needed: curiosity and trust. Curiosity to discover yourself, and trust that it is possible to change.
Because in reality, by healing your wounds and listening to yourself, the missed self-acceptance can be restored, and your true self that you have buried somewhere can come back to flourish.
So, I want to invite you to focus on something that you would love to do for yourself but so far abandoned for fear of being criticized by your loved ones, or even worse, losing their love and relationship with them.
And rather than thinking about what you might lose, if you follow your desire by choosing to embrace yourself, I suggest you take this time to dwell on what piece of you you are losing.
Wouldn’t it be nice if, at least for once, you gave yourself permission to validate, like, and accept yourself instead of expecting it from others?
And then slowly realize that you already have all the acceptance you need.